North Stars even SIJHL final with Miners


The Thunder Bay North Stars’ trio of Jacob Brown, Keighan Gerrie, and Ryan Mignault collected a combined nine points to help their sqaud upend the Red Lake Miners 5-2 on Sunday night in Game 2 of the SIJHL’s Bill Salonen Cup Final at the Fort William Gardens.
With the win, the North Stars evened the best-of-seven set at 1-1 heading into Game 3 tonight at the Cochenour Arena.
Thunder Bay opened the scoring nearly 15 minutes into the first period in Sunday’s game on a delayed penalty as Brown wheeled out of the corner and put one top shelf on Red Lake goalie Zach Willms.
The Miners were quick to strike early in the second frame as Matt Krawiec’s harmless looking shot from the left-point sailed past North Stars’ goalie Brock Aiken just 37 seconds in.
But the hosts forged back ahaed at 6:53 as Joel Willan left one for Michael Stubbs, who came down the middle and wired one blocker-side on Willms.
Thunder Bay tacked on another before the period was complete with Kyle Auger putting one on net that bounced right to Brown, who buried his second of night.
The North Stars kept coming and went up 4-1 two-and-a-half minutes into the third during a man advantage as Mignault let one go from the blueline that clipped Brown, then bounced off of Jonathan Kilby and in for his first SIJHL playoff goal.
Answering back, the Miners’ forecheck generated their second marker of the night that resulted in Ryan Patterson picking up his initial postseason effort with assists going to Connor Jacobs and Ethan Stuckless to trim it to 4-2.
But the North Stars answered once more as they capitalized on a two-man advantage hat saw Keighan Gerrie notch his fifth of the playoffs to put Thunder Bay back up by three.
Mignualt also picked up his third helper of the game on what proved to be the evening’s final marker.
With his one-goal, two-assist night, Gerrie has now picked up at least one point in seven-straight playoff games.
The North Stars held a big edge in the shots by a 57-23 margin, with Aiken earning the win and Willms suffering the defeat.
It was a much different story for the Miners on Saturday night as they stormed out to an early three-goal lead and never looked back in a convincing 6-1 win over the North Stars in the opener at the Gardens.
Red Lake opened the scoring early in the first period after breaking out of their own zone with a long stretch pass from Michael Di Lullo that found Stratton Pickett, who in turn waited for Morgan Venne to outrace a backchecking North Stars’ forward before feeding him for a quick release that beat Aiken seven minutes into the contest.
The Miners then used the long breakout feed to add another as Krawiec sent one up to Kyle Uzelman, who came in and used a North Stars’ defender as a screen and whipped home a high-rising attempt that eluded Aiken.
It was more Miners on the quick transition as they extended their early lead to three, with Pickett finishing off a two-on-one chance with Venne.
They then chased Aiken 4:30 into the second stanza as they outworked a couple of North Stars that resulted in Liam Stalwick knocking in the rebound off a Tucker Evans’ opportunity to push it to 4-0.
With Dougie Newhouse entering in relief, the North Stars did get one back later in the session as Maxime Fortin lifted one airborne towards the goal that saw Mignault eventually stuff one in from close range past Willms to trim it to 4-1.
But the Miners put the game away in the third with two more tallies to finish off the one-sided result.
Stuckless found defenceman Dante Tisi coming in undetected via the back door as he buried a cross-crease pass at 5:12.
Liam Stalwick then scooped up a giveaway by a Thunder Bay defender and skated in untouched and put in a second attempt past Newhouse at 12:24 to round out the scoring.
Red Lake captain Di Lullo dished out a pair of assists to aid the Miners’ onslaught.
Willms was solid when called upon in the Miners net in finishing with 45 stops to earn the win.
Aiken was saddled with the loss for the North Stars in allowing four against on 20 attempts, while Newhouse stopped eight-of-10 shots in nearly 34 minutes of work.
Game 4 is set for tomorrow night also in Red Lake, with Game 5 to go on Saturday night back in Thunder Bay.
Game 6, if necessary, would be played on Monday night (April 22) in Red Lake.
Should the series go the distance, Game 7 would be held back in Thunder Bay next Wednesday night (April 24) at a venue still to be determined.
The winner of the SIJHL final advances to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Jr. ‘A’ Championship slated for April 30-May 4 in Cochrane.