O’Neill’s OT winner sends English River to first-ever SIJHL final



Release Date: Saturday, April 8, 2017

Photo credit: Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch

O’Neill’s OT winner sends English River to first-ever SIJHL final

THUNDER BAY, Ont. – A Matt O’Neill goal 16:33 into the first overtime gave the English River Miners a thrilling 5-4 victory over the Thunder Bay North Stars Saturday in Game 5 of their Superior International Junior Hockey League semifinal series at the Fort William Gardens.

By virtue of the triumph, English River wins the series 4-1 and will now advance to their first-ever SIJHL Bill Salonen Cup finals appearance in franchise history where they’ll take on the No. 1 seeded Dryden GM Ice Dogs.

That best-of-seven set is slated to begin Friday and Saturday in Dryden with Games 1 & 2 at Memorial Arena in a pair of 7:30 p.m. starts.

Thunder Bay did get off to a good start notching the night’s opening tally seven and a half minutes into the contest as a Joe Newhouse left point shot trickled past Miners’ starter Michael Lenko just prior to the expiration of the English River penalty.

The visitors drew level later in the period as Colton Johnson, parked in front, got a piece of a Terix Fischer-Nobes blast from the left side.

English River took the lead 5:24 into the middle session when Michael Di Lullo converted during a man advantage opportunity as he corralled the rebound off a Jamie Driedger shot and beat Thunder Bay netminder Nathaniel Dupuis.

The Miners’ power play helped them go up 3-1 four minutes later when Sidney Gladue ripped one past Dupuis from the left face-off dot during a two-man advantage.

The North Stars got an important power play marker of their own while up two skaters with just five seconds left in the stanza as Ryan Walsh jammed one in from in close off a Nicholas Nigro high slot shot.

A furious start to the third period saw the two sides combine for a trio of tallies in a span of two minutes and 27 seconds to knot the affair at 4-4.

Still on the power play to begin the frame, Jonathon Masters tied it for Thunder Bay 47 seconds in while the North Stars were up two men.

The home side then added another man advantage marker at 1:28 as Brad Arabia picked up his six of the series.

Coming right back the Miners drew level a couple shifts later on Dwayne Auger’s initial postseason effort.

Things tightened up from there as the remainder of regulation was scoreless as the clubs went to extra time.

In the latter stages of OT it was O’Neill who started off the the heroics by winning a face-off over to Gladue, who got it back to Auger at the left point where he let loose a low shot that was stopped by Dupuis, but the rebound went back to O’Neill who fired the puck back on target from a sharp angle that founds its way in to finish things off.

Driedger and Auger chipped in with two assists each in the decision as did Brad Thrower for the North Stars.

Shots on goal in the contest were 53-52 in favour of the Miners with Lenko picking up the win and Dupuis the season-ending loss.

SIJHL semifinal (Series C)
No. 2 Thunder Bay North Stars vs. No. 3 English River Miners
English River wins best-of-seven series 4-1
Game 1: English River 5 Thunder Bay 3
Game 2: Thunder Bay 9 English River 2
Game 3: English River 5 Thunder Bay 2
Game 4: English River 5 Thunder Bay 4 (OT)
Game 5: English River 5 Thunder Bay 4 (OT)