By Gary Moskalyk
Game 1 April 8
Jamie Fuchs snatched a win from Dryden’s jaws of victory with a dramatic 2-1 win in Dryden. Jamie Fuch’s scored at 19:40 of the third with Thunder Bay’s Keenan Marks on the bench, and then scored 6:31 of overtime on a spinorama pass from Edison Weeks to give the Stars a hard fought series opening win before 658 fans at Dryden Memorial Arena.
Landen Stromme got the best-of-seven series ice-breaker at 11:26 of the first on an assist for Ben Hackl. Stromme’s shot hit a skate and deflected past Marks on a Dryden Powerplay.
There was no scoring for the duration of the game with Marks and Eric Clark manning the pipes. Final shots were 31-27 in favour of the Ice Dogs, but despite the modest totals there were a number of great chances on both sides.
In the first, Clark made a 10-bell stop on Fuchs and Marks made a blocker save later in the frame to keep Thunder Bay down by just one.
In the second, Landen Stromme was put in the clear after a Dryden penalty kill and was denied by Marks. Marks stymied Max Roby on a pair of grade-A’s about four minutes in. Clark shunted aside a Fuch’s effort mid-period to keep it 1-0 for Dryden.
In the third, Dimitri Trahiotis was stopped by Clark’s toe on a Thunder Bay shorthanded opportunity, and Marks robbed Roby with a terrific glove save with six minutes left on the clock.
The Stars pulled Marks with 1:40 to go. Fuchs’ game-tying backhander with 20 seconds left stunned the crowd.
In overtime, EJ Paddington had Thunder Bay’s best chance before Fuchs’ game winner. An ill-advised Dryden pinch had Weeks and Fuchs barreling in on a two-on-one. Weeks was able to spin a pass to Fuchs who deposited the disc past Clark for the Thunder Bay win.
Fuchs had a lone goal in the Red Lake series but had four good looks in this game, converting two of them.
Dryden was 1-5 on the powerplay. Thunder Bay was 0-5.
Both teams took five minor penalties each. Game two is an Easter Sunday 1:00 p.m. tilt in Dryden.
Game 2 April 9
Dryden overcame a 2-0 deficit and goaltender Eric Clark stopped a penalty shot early in the third period as the Ice Dogs defeated the North Stars 4-2 to even the series at one apiece.
Colby Feist beat Clark with a wrist shot blocker side at 12:42 of the first to give the visiting Stars a 1-0 edge. Matthew Halushak doubled the lead with a powerplay effort early in the second. Landen Stromme replied at 3:26 of the second, picking up a loose puck after multiple saves by Keenan Marks, on a five-on-three Dryden power play to pull the Dogs to within one.
Dryden fired 25 second period shots at Marks.
In the third period, Dimitri Trahiotis was awarded a penalty shot under a minute in. Clark held his ground making a key save.
Ondrej Bardos kept the puck in the Thunder Bay zone and Kaden Bandura eventually went high blocker side at 2:12 to tie the game. James Hooton scored the game-winner at 5:29 of the third on assists from Stromme and Jordan Pfoh for Dryden’s first lead of the game.
Clark made a highlight reel save off Colby Feist with Marks on the bench for an extra attacker with time running down. Garrett Hrechka’s empty netter sealed the deal with 40 seconds left.
Dryden’s potent powerplay was 2-7 while Thunder Bay was 1-6. Both teams drew nine minors each. The Ice Dogs pelted Marks with 46 shots to the Stars 25. Clark stopped 23 while Marks shunted aside 42 of 45.
Attendance was 453.
Dryden travels to Thunder Bay for a Tuesday night game, followed by a return engagement on Saturday. The Thunder Bay Kings U13 Provincials will take over the Fort William Gardens from Wednesday through Saturday afternoon.
Game 3 April 11
Ryland Maier, James Hooton and Ben Hackl scored first period goals for Dryden as the Ice Dogs defeated Thunder Bay 4-3 to take the series lead two games to one.
Stars’ starting goalie Keenan Marks was replaced by Connor Lemieux to start the second.
The teams traded goals in the second, and the Stars got two in the third but fell short.
Maier opened the scoring, picking up the loose change in Marks’ crease and firing home his third of the playoffs. Hooton tipped home a Landen Stromme shot at 15:07, and Hackl did the same on a Jordan Pfoh drive with 21 ticks left in the period. Both goals came on Ice Dog power plays.
Nikolas Campbell converted a tic-tac-toe with Colby Feist and EJ Paddington to get the Stars on the board. Hooton scored late in the period for a 4-1 Dryden lead heading into the third.
Thunder Bay responded with two powerplay markers in the third.
Feist’s powerplay shot through traffic beat Eric Clark with just 26 seconds gone. Jamie Fuchs collected his own rebound at 6:40. Clark stayed the course from there on in. Dryden took a late penalty and Lemieux got pulled for an extra attacker but Thunder Bay couldn’t tie it despite the 6-on-4 man advantage.
Dryden was 2-5 and Thunder Bay was 2-9 on the powerplay.
Stromme had three assists and Pfoh two helpers along with Hooton’s two goals.
Feist had two assists and Campbell had one for Thunder Bay.
The Ice Dogs spent 28 minutes in the bin. The Stars were whistled by refs Scott Wrigley and Jason Begin for five minors.
Attendance was 692.
Game 4 April 15
After a scoreless first Dryden erupted for five second period goals and hung on for a 5-4 win before 867 fans at the Gardens. The Ice Dogs went 4-4 on the powerplay, chased Stars goalie Conner Lemieux after taking a 3-0 lead, and took a 3-1 stranglehold on the series. Game 5 is Monday night in Dryden.
Landen Stromme pulled off a ‘Michigan’, tucking the puck under Lemieux’ cross-bar for a 1-0 Dryden lead at 1:42 of the first. Max Roby went blocker side for Dryden’s second power play goal at 4:19. Tyler Earl scored even strength to up the ante to 3-0 before Easton Glousher bulged the twine at 6:47 to get Thunder Bay on the board.
The Stars pulled Lemieux at this point. Keenan Marks went in.
Nikolas Campbell scored his first of the game at 9:09 on a slapshot misfire that plinko’d it’s way past Eric Clark to make it 3-2.
Easton Debray and Bryce Benfield scored two more Dryden powerplay markers to re-up the three goal Thunder Bay deficit.
Nikolas Campbell scored his 7th of the playoffs at 15:22 of the third to claw the lead down to two. Colby Feist’s backhander with 35 seconds left with the net empty and Dryden in the penalty box got the Stars to within one. Dryden controlled the play from there, running down the clock for the win.
Stromme had a goal and assist for Dryden. Feist and Campbell had three points each for the Stars.
Clark made 39 saves in the Dryden cage for his 7th win of the playoffs. Lemieux was 17 for 20 and Marks 14 for 16 in the saves department. Marks was tagged with the loss.
Thunder Bay took four minor penalties and paid the price for each one, while Dryden took three minors and killed off one of them.
Game 5 Apr 18
Old Man Winter pushed game five back one day to Tuesday. Matt Halushak scored a pair and Keenan Marks made 33 saves as Thunder Bay staved off elimination with a 3-2 road win before 365 fans in Dryden.
Nikolas Campbell dished out three assists.
Thunder Bay scored all three of their goals on the powerplay.
Thunder Bay took a 2-0 lead in a feisty first period. Halushak scored his first with a wrister from the point at 13:45. Defenceman Sam Skillestad ventured deep into the Dryden zone and converted on a scramble in front of the net to give the Stars a 2-0 lead heading into period two.
Seventeen of the 20 game infractions were called in the first.
After a scoreless second Dryden forced a Thunder Bay turnover and Brady Frattinger found a wide open Kaden Bandura at 2:44 to make it 2-1.
Halushak’s blocker side shot added some insurance for the Stars at 7:09. Thunder Bay got into penalty trouble late in the game. James Hooton scored his 7th on a tip with 100 seconds left with Eric Clark on the bench, for a 6-4 powerplay marker to make it a one-goal game.
Thunder Bay’s Colby Feist missed an empty net, but Marks was able to keep the Dogs at bay and secure the win.
Thunder Bay took 30 of the 58 penalty minutes meted out by refs Chris Stoiber and Steve Anderson.
Clark stopped 24 of 27 in the Ice Dogs’ net.
Game 6 April 20
Thunder Bay tied up the series with five unanswered goals in the second period to defeat Dryden 5-2. Dryden’s Max Roby scored the opening goal at 14:49 of the first, snapping a shot past Keenan Marks for his 4th of the playoffs.
Sam Skillestad bookended Nikolas Campbell’s natural hat trick as the Stars shot into a 5-1 lead by the end of the second.
Skillestad’s first goal was an unassisted snipe over Eric Clark’s blocker at 3:32. Campbell got the next three, upping his playoff goal total to 10 in the process.
Campbell and Colby Feist closed in on a two-on-one and Campbell fired high blocker at 7:42. Feist collected his 9th assist on the play, with Skillestad drawing his 6th assist.
The Stars upped their lead to 3-1 on the powerplay. Dryden blocked Campbell’s original shot but the Thunder Bay native picked up his own rebound and beat Clark at 11:06.
Campbell beat Clark short-side for a 4-1 North Star lead at 17:37, and Skillestad clicked on a one-timer with 31 seconds left in the middle frame to open up a four-goal differential with Dryden’s McLaren Paulsen serving a five-minute major for spearing.
Max Roby rounded out the scoring with his second of the game, playing a carom off the end boards to beat Marks with his 4th of the playoffs.
The teams decide their series in the next 21 hours, both busing back to Dryden with another winter storm brewing out West.
The Stars were 2-7 with the man advantage while Dryden was 0-2. The Ice Dogs drew 19 penalty minutes to Thunder Bay’s six.
Marks made 25 saves for his 5th win of the playoffs. Clark was pulled after Campbell’s hat trick goal at 17:37 of the second. He made 26 saves facing 30 shots. Zac MacDonald got into his first game and stopped 11 of 12.
Jamie Fuchs had three assists and Feist had a pair of helpers for Thunder Bay.
The Gardens welcomed 701 fans for the contest.
Game 7 April 20
Nikolas Campbell scored at 14:31 of double overtime as the Thunder Bay North Stars defeated the Dryden Ice Dogs 3-2.
The game will go down in SIJHL history as an absolute classic.
The Stars overcame a 3-1 series deficit with three straight wins and will now face the Kam River Fighting Walleye for the Bill Salonen Cup.
Thunder Bay outshot Dryden 43-31 in regulation, but the Ice Dogs carried the play in extra time, outshooting the Stars 14-8 in overtime one, and 13-5 in the second extra period.
Keenan Marks stopped two penalty shots among his 56 saves, saving the series on multiple occasions. Dryden goaltender Eric Clark did much the same, shunting aside 55 of 58.
The teams exchanged powerplay goals in the first. Max Rath’s slapshot at 4:08 of the first got Dryden on the board on an Ice Dogs power play. Jamie Fuchs replied for Thunder Bay, picking up a loose puck and putting it through Clark’s legs at 8:22.
Ryland Maier was awarded a penalty shot with two minutes left in the first frame. Marks used a poke check to thwart the effort.
In the second period, Marks robbed Kaden Bandura on a Dryden two-on-one, and Clark stymied Nolan Desjardins on a prime Thunder Bay scoring chance. Thunder Bay’s Edison Weeks rang one off the post with two minutes left and Rath laid out Jamie Fuchs with a pair of solid hits.
Weeks put Thunder Bay ahead at 8:53 of the third. His wrist shot glove side was his 3rd of the postseason. Max Roby connected from the slot for Dryden three minutes later for his 5th of the playoffs.
Marks made a blocker save on Roby with 2:30 left and Campbell rang one off the post with 24 seconds remaining.
Marks and Clark combined for several huge stops in overtime one. James Hooton and Bryce Benfield had great chances for Dryden, and Campbell and Weeks were denied by Clark on notable Thunder Bay opportunities. Dryden failed to cash on a three-on-one with 2:30 to go.
In overtime two, Dryden’s Easton Debray was robbed four minutes in. Roby was awarded a penalty shot for Dryden at 5:51 as the Stars froze the puck in Marks’ crease with a hand. Marks made a glove save on that try to preserve the series.
Colby Feist’s foiled breakaway attempt at 11:00 resulted in Thunder Bay’s first shot of double overtime. Dryden held a 13-0 shot advantage at that juncture.
Mason Wesley drew a tripping penalty from Dryden’s Rath at 14:00 of the second overtime. Campbell made a little circle route deep in the Dryden zone, then wristed in his 11th playoff marker past Clark 31 seconds later for the series winner.
Sam Skillestad picked up his second assist of the game and 8th of the playoffs on the play.
Dryden took seven minor penalties to Thunder Bay’s four. The Stars clicked on two of seven powerplay chances. Dryden was 1-4. The 610 fans in attendance enjoyed an epic battle between two valiant teams.