Brendan Gillis capitalized on a two-on-one chance 9:38 into the second overtime to lift the top-ranked Thunder Bay North Stars to a dramatic 3-2 win over the fourth-ranked Dryden GM Ice Dogs on Monday night in Game 4 of their best-of-seven semi-final playoff series in Dryden.
The North Stars now lead the series 3-1 heading into Game 5 tonight at the Fort William Gardens.
There has been no shortage of drama in the series as three of the four contests have gone to overtime, with the North Stars taking the opener 4-3 in the first overtime on Thursday before outlasting the Ice Dogs 3-2 in double-OT in Game 2 the following night.
Dryden fought back to claim Game 3 by a 5-3 count on Sunday in the only contest that hasn’t needed extra time.
This also marks the first time a SIJHL playoff series has featured three overtime games since back in 2009, when the North Stars and Schreiber Diesels featured a trio of OTs in a semifinal match-up that went the distance.
Thunder Bay took the first one by a 4-3 score in Game 1 while Schreiber did likewise on home ice in Game 3 before the North Stars prevailed at the Gardens in Game 7 on a Keith Mason marker at 17:30 of extra time.
After a scoreless first period in Monday’s game, the Ice Dogs–who were 4-13 on the power play in the series entering the contest–connected again with the man advantage in the second as Braden Shea sent one over to Tyler Browning.
Browning then backpedaled down to the top of the left face-off circle and snapped home his third man advantage effort of the playoffs, and fourth goal overall, at 9:03 to put the Ice Dogs in front.
The visitors countered to tie it late in the session thanks to a Joel Willan power play effort at 18:07 that knotted it at 1-1 after 40 minutes.
Thunder Bay took the lead with 8:20 to go in the third as Josh Bryant sent a cross-ice pass from the corner that found Keighan Gerrie, who promptly buried a one-timer from close range past Ice Dogs’ goalie Jacob Anthony.
It stayed 2-1 until late in regulation, when–with their goalkeeper on the bench for an extra attacker–Dryden struck for the equalizer with 47 seconds remaining as Rayman Bassi powered his way past a Thunder Bay defender and forced extra time by stuffing the puck past the outstretched pad of Brock Aiken.
Action in the first extra frame saw both netminders make key saves that kept it 2-2 after four periods.
Then near the halfway point in the second extra frame, and with a face-off deep in North Stars’ territory, Thunder Bay chipped one out that resulted in Willan and Gillis going in on the two-on-one where Willan put a perfect pass on the tape on a hard-charging Gillis, who quickly buried the game-winner to end it.
Once again, both goalies were outstanding for their respective clubs in the contest that finished with the North Stars holding a 59-54 edge in shots.
Game 6, if necessary, is set for Friday night in Dryden.
If the Ice Dogs can mount a comeback and the series ends up going the distance, Game 7 would go on Sunday night back in Thunder Bay.