Stars shine at Atom tourney here

Lucas Punkari

Earning a bye straight to the final was one of the keys for the Norwest Stars of Thunder Bay on Sunday afternoon at the Ice For Kids Arena as they cruised to a convincing 5-1 win over the Baudette Bears in the final of the annual local Atom ‘AA’ tournament.
Thanks to a perfect 4-0 record in round-robin play, the Stars finished first in the seven-team event and earned a berth in the final.
The Bears, meanwhile, had to hit the ice Sunday morning for a semi-final tilt against the KC Sportop Sabres.
“Being able to rest up was a key advantage,” said Stars’ head coach Ted Kaemingh.
“The Bears played strong and hard, but they had less players than us and they also had to play earlier in the day,” he noted.
“And I think by the end of the game that really started to show.”
The Stars jumped into the lead near the midway part of the first period when Keighan Gerrie scored on the power play—a feat he would repeat early in the second frame.
Jackson Arpin replied for the Bears later on in the period as they tried to repeat their tournament crown from last year.
But Andy Prystanski restored the two-goal cushion for the Stars in the dying stages of the second, with Gerrie and Jackson Buffone lighting the lamp in the third to seal the victory.
“We pretty much had all three lines rolling out there at the end,” Kaemingh remarked.
“Everyone played great and it was a super effort by the entire team to accomplish our main goal, which was to win the tournament here in Fort Frances,” he added.
Earlier in the afternoon, the Dryden Paper Kings won a dramatic third-place game over the Sabres when Cale Oberg hit the twine with just 8.1 seconds to go in overtime to give his team a 3-2 triumph.
“It was just a hard-fought battle the whole game,” Paper Kings’ coach Bill Brunton exhaled afterwards.
“This was the third time that we’ve played that team this year, and we had lost the previous two games and the kids wanted to win this one really bad,” he noted.
“They’ve been working hard all year long, and the kids deserved to win this one here today,” Brunton smiled.
Early that morning, the Paper Kings blanked the host Fort Frances Canadians 3-0 in the fourth-place game, which allowed them to advance to the overtime thriller against the Sabres.
“Fort Frances put up a really good fight this morning,” Brunton noted.
“The biggest thing for us in that game was our forecheck as we kept our feet moving the whole time and we put a lot of puck pressure on Fort Frances, which allowed us to come away with the win.”
That loss left the Canadians, who had finished fourth in the round-robin, with a fifth-place result and an overall record of 1-3-1.
“We were plagued by sickness throughout the lineup this weekend, and that makes things kind of tough when you are trying to win your home tournament,” Canadians’ head coach Blake Bodnar lamented.
“We were able to beat the second-place team [Baudette] on Friday night, which was a really good game.
“And both of our goaltenders [Spencer Murphy and Aidan Tom] played strong when we needed them to,” he added.
Next up for the Canadians is a 128-team Atom tournament in Fargo, N.D. on Feb. 24-26.