North Stars face off with Bombers in SIJHL semifinals

By Kevin Jeffrey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

THUNDER BAY – It’s been 13 years since Thunder Bay and Sioux Lookout skated in the Superior International Junior Hockey League playoffs.

That drought ends on Friday night as the North Stars and Bombers begin their best of seven semifinal at the Sioux Lookout Memorial Arena.

The North Stars are in the semi-finals for the seventh straight post-season as they swept the Wisconsin Lumberjacks in the quarterfinals, outscoring them 24-8.

“One moment that stands out for me in the series was a big save in Game 1 by Keenan Marks,” said Thunder Bay forward Alex Remenda. “We were up by a goal at that point, and having that save on the penalty kill was huge.”

Remenda is back with the North Stars after being picked up in a trade with the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL).

The Thunder Bay native collected six points in the opening round win against the Lumberjacks.

The Bombers are into the second round for the first time in their early franchise history as they knocked out the Fort Frances Lakers in four games. They collected 23 goals in the series while surrendering just four.

Forward Tait Howell said last year’s playoff result against the Wisconsin Lumberjacks wasn’t on their mind this year.

“It wasn’t something that we focused on,” Howell said “Our team was looking at being a different team and a new identity in a way. Accepting any challenges as they rise and play to our capabilities.”

The regular season series went in favour of the North Stars (4-3) however all four of those victories came at the Fort William Gardens.

Back in the 2011 SIJHL quarterfinal the North Stars defeated the former Sioux Lookout Flyers 3-1 in the best-of-five series.

The Flyers franchise dropped out of the league after just three games in 2012-2013.

“The Bombers play a similar game to us,” Remenda said. “They can put the puck in the net and draw lots of penalties. We need to stay disciplined and not give them the chance to get on the power play.”

“We need to play smart hockey and take advantage of our chances when they arise.”

Howell knows that the bigger ice surface of the Fort William Gardens will be a challenge but one for which his team is ready.

“Our coach has this approach called ducks on the water; everything looks calm and smooth on the surface, we all know what the goal is and how to get there. Underneath the water, our feet are moving fast,” Howell said.

“We need to make sure that we’re focused on the goal and doing all the little things right in the game.”

Head to Head

Sept. 22: North Stars 1 at Bombers 3

Sept. 23: North Stars 4 at Bombers 5

Oct. 27: Bombers 2 at North Stars 3

Oct. 28: Bombers 4 at North Stars 5

Oct. 29: Bombers 2 at North Stars 4

Nov. 9: Bombers 4 at North Stars 5

Dec. 9: North Stars 2 at Bombers 5

North Stars won four of seven head-to-head contests, but the Bombers held a 25-24 goal advantage

Series schedule

Friday, April 5: North Stars at Bombers 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 6: North Stars at Bombers 8:30 p.m.

Monday, April 8: Bombers at North Stars 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, April 9: Bombers at North Stars 7:30 p.m.

Thurs April 11: North Stars at Bombers 8 p.m.

Saturday, April 13: Bombers at North Stars 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Apr 16: North Stars at Bombers 8 p.m.