Thunder earn split against North Stars

The last time they played the Fort William First Nation North Stars, Thunder goalie Tyler Gordon allowed 13 goals over a span of four periods—and the product of Hudson, Ont. was taking things personally.
“Before the game, I have this little ritual where I hang up my jersey in front of my stall and look at the logo,” said Gordon. “Tonight [Friday], I flipped it around and I looked at the number because I took it personal tonight.”
The whole team took it personal. The Thunder had been embarrassed 18-1 over that two-game series with the first-place North Stars back in November—and they were craving payback.
“It’s just a big rivalry and guys are trying to step up, and the North Stars are pretty cocky so we really wanted to get it going,” said forward Scott Bridgemen.
And get on track they did as they sought—and found—redemption by blasting the North Stars 7-3 in a game that should warrant an asterisk on the game sheet footnoting “biggest win for the Thunder this season.”
The North Stars scored on their first shot five minutes into the game, but forward Andrew Dault got things going for the Thunder on a timely shorthanded breakaway goal with seven minutes left in the first period.
“We were on the penalty kill and I fronted the guy, and I got caught up in his feet, and just pushed the puck ahead,” Dault recalled. “He was hooking me, and there was a guy on me the whole way and he dove for the puck.
“I thought either I was gong to hit the puck away or I was going to get tripped, but it didn’t happen and I just took a shot on net and it went in,” he added.
The second period saw the North Stars take advantage of a two-man power play early on, but Bridgeman answered back three minutes later with a 30-foot screened wrist shot assisted by Tyler Barker.
The Thunder then started to implement their pre-game strategy of “patience with pace,” which rattled the North Stars, who amassed 14 minutes worth of penalties in the second period alone.
And it was on the power play where the Thunder capitalized as Dault scored from the slot on a net set-up from Josh McAndrew and Aaron Boyer with 10 minutes left in the second to give the Thunder a 3-2 lead.
A Bridgeman goal (unassisted) and a gorgeous one-timer by Clayton Windigo (Riley Dudar/Dault) added to the Thunder’s lead in the first 10 minutes of the third period.
The North Stars scored shortly afterwards, but two more Thunder goals from Boyer (Barker/Kurt Hogard) and defenceman David Gooch (breakaway) sealed the victory.
“Undefeated my [butt],” shouted Ryan Mayman, in reference to the North Stars’ first loss of the season, as he walked into the Thunder’s dressing room.
“We just wanted to show them that when they beat us, it was more of a fluke,” said Gooch.
What the Thunder had was a game plan that threw the North Stars off their game as they collected 60 minutes worth of penalties while the Thunder were handed only half as much.
“We sort of saw that if we play a certain style that we’d by okay. Match patience with pace, patience with pace,” said Allison, who saw both teams take 45 shots.
Another positive for the Thunder was the dynamic play of newcomer Dudar, who made his presence felt with an exceptional display of skating and stick handling ability, which made him an instant hit with fans.
“I think he’s going to improve everybody because everyone can see what he does,” said Allison.
“He brings great vision. He’s unbelievable out there, and I think that he [Ian] Lockman and Dault are going to be a great combination,” Allison added.
And after the game, Gordon, who was superb between the pipes to boost his record to 12-3-1 and distinguish him as the second-best goalie in the SIJHL, was feeling (how do you say?) liberated.
“They aren’t going to go out and embarrass me, and then come back into my house and do it again,” he stressed.
“And I wanted to have a big game, because I could see right off the hop the guys were clicking and I didn’t wanted to let them down,” Gordon added.
< *c>Saturday—5:12 p.m.
Different day; different story.
After sleeping with a smile on their collective faces the night before, the Thunder awoke refreshed, spirited, and focused on the task at hand.
They won the night before, they wanted another win today.
“We’ll feel trepidation tomorrow, but we can enjoy it today,” Allison said after Friday night’s win, which he called the “biggest of the season.”
“We got to let people know that [Friday] wasn’t a fluke and come out with the same intensity,” Dault said.
It wasn’t that the Thunder did anything differently from the night before, it’s just the North Stars adjusted accordingly after they slept (if they slept at all) with scowls on their beaten faces and won by a margin of 6-2.
Goals for the Thunder, who managed just 20 shots all game, including an incredible zero in the second period, came by way of Barker (Bridgeman/Boyer) and Dennis Morrison (unassisted).
Tim Higbee started in goal for the Thunder (he and Gordon have alternated starts all season long). And though allowing six goals on 41 shots, he played an exceptional game as five of those goals came off scrambles in front of the net.
But the story of the game focused on (or in) the penalty box.
A score sheet for a SIJHL game has 20 slots set aside in the “penalty section” for each team and when all was said and done, only four slots were empty on the North Stars’ side (37 minutes and three game misconducts).
The Thunder, meanwhile, needed an extra two lines to fill in their infractions (48 minutes and four game misconducts).
“If guys are going to come and spear us and chop you from behind and two-hand you when you’re skating down the ice and [the refs] don’t call it, then eventually it’s just going to be martial law out there and the players are going to take the game into their own hands,” said Allison.
The Thunder will be looking to improve their 17-4-1 record, which puts them in second place behind the North Stars (17-1-1), this weekend in Thunder Bay when they face the KC Bulldogs (1-15-1).