Kings U18 Forward Zach Biniaris (14) eyes a rebound near the net of U16 Kings goalie Kolton Bourret in SIJHL Guest team action Saturday night. Photo by Gary Moskalyk.

Elder Kings Continue Roll

SIJHL Sat Dec 19 2020

By: Gary Moskalyk, Special to the SIJHL.

Juoni Kempainen batted home a loose puck at 11:22 of the third period for a badly needed insurance marker as the U-18 Thunder Bay Kings defeated the U-16 squad 6-2 at the Gardens. A similar score to Friday’s 7-1 contest, but a much different game.

The U-16’s overcame a 3-0 first period deficit to make it 3-2 in the second and had a couple called back. They outshot the U-18’s 13-9 in the frame.

Despite the loss, U-16 head coach Jeff Ricciardi was pumped.

“The reality for me is we started a little bit slow, we got a little bit behind the 8-ball,” said Ricciardi. “Boys (then) started to do some of the things we’re asking them to do. I thought we had a fantastic second period. Outside of a couple breakdowns I thought we played well in the third as well. That’s a long way to come for a young team in six periods. I couldn’t be happier with the result. The 6-2 means nothing.”

The U-16’s started the third with a 96 second two-man powerplay but couldn’t capitalize.

Kempainen, Colton Crysler and Ryan Doucette notched first period markers for the U-18’s, but Brady Butvin and EJ Paddington countered in the second–Paddington’s on the power play–to make it a one-goal game.

“Tonight was a little bit more of a rollercoaster for us,” conceded Gary Ricciardi, bench boss of the U-18’s. “I think we had a decent start to the game. We had a hiccup there in the middle, lots of penalties. We have to work on that. Then we came back in the third. That goal was big. Big turnaround for our guys. We came to compete in the third period, and that changed the face of the game.”

Doucette fired one to top shelf at 13:26 after Kolton Bourret made a blocker save to make it 5-2, and Jeremy Dunmore’s empty-netter and shorthanded effort at 17:17 accounted for the final score.

“I think what they (U-16’s) did tonight is what we’ll probably end up doing playing the junior clubs,” continued Ricciardi, who will eventually see his team play the SIJHL’s Fighting Walleye and North Stars. “The idea is to compete and be advantageous and opportunistic. Stay in the game as long as you can and they did that. We got a lead but they clawed their way back, and hung around. One shot changes the dynamic of how the game plays out. We talked to our guys between the second and third periods. ‘How are you going to change this back in our favour?’ And they came out and responded in a good way.”

Ryan Doucette had a pair of goals and the game winner for the U-18’s. Kempainen’s second tally changed the complexion of the game.

“Mike (Sheare) won the draw back to (Jacob) Sargent. He shot it. The goalie fumbled it. Just came out and I put it in,” explained Kempainen. “It was probably one of the biggest goals of the game. Just got us back in there, got us rolling again.”

Keenan Marks picked up his second win in as many starts, stopping 24 of 26. Bourret turned aside 32 of 37. Jeff Ricciardi pulled Bourret for much of the last 3:06 of the game.

The U-18’s took eight minor penalties–seven for body checking–while the U-16’s served eight minutes in the bin.

Next game is Tuesday at 8:15 p.m. at the Gardens.