Fighting Walleye Joe McCollum (77) snaps the overtime winner over a sprawled Jacob Stone (30).

Fighting Walleye Win the Battle, North Stars Win the War

December 5, 2020

By Gary Moskalyk, Special to the SIJHL.

Bill Mosienko would be proud.

The Thunder Bay North Stars scored three goals in 25 seconds to tie up the score 5-5 in the third, but Joe McCollum scored with 1.2 seconds left in overtime to give the Kam River Fighting Walleye a 6-5 overtime win.

Walleye goaltender Eric Vanska faced seven shots North Stars shots in the overtime–54 in all–to secure the win. Jacob Stone stopped 29 of 35 in a losing effort.

McCollum was wearing the team cowboy hat and carrying a foam walleye under his arm as game MVP, but Vanska was stellar all evening, especially in the overtime session.

“Great game to watch, eh?,” said McCollum. “I love that. Saturday night. 1.2 seconds left? Wow! That works I guess. Good little push by them (North Stars to score three quick ones). I know most of them. Pretty much all of them except the guys they got from out of town.

“I was just happy we could pull that off,” he continued. “It was close there at the end. They had a good push. The boys showed up there at the end even better than (Thunder Bay) were showing. We bore down in the last period and pulled it off.”

For the record, Mosienko scored three goals in 21 seconds in 1952 for the Chicago Blackhawks, setting the NHL standard for fastest three goals by a player.

Kyle Swerhun went shelf glove side on North Stars goalie Jacob Stone to give the Walleye a 1-0 lead.

Christian Veneruzzo made it 2-0 firing a loose puck through Stone’s legs at 2:23 of the  second. Leeam Tivers connected for Thunder Bay and McCollum for Kam River to round out the scoring in the middle frame.

Jacob Anttonen narrowed the lead, but Carson Gorst and Alex Enegren’s shorthanded marker at 9:44 had the Walleye up by three.

Cue the barrage.

Michael Stubbs scored at 10:06, Tivers at 10:20 and Stubbs again at 10:31 to tie the game.

With the game knotted at 5-all both goalies held steady until McCollum’s heroics.

“Wild doesn’t begin to describe it,” said winning coach Matt Valley. “They dominated us in the first. We got a really, really solid goaltending performance from Eric (Vanska) in the first. What a proud moment for me to see Eric stand on his head in his first junior game and hold us in it.

“We responded in the second and the first half of the third,” he continued. “And then, sure as heck, (Thunder Bay) poured it on, too. They came flying. That’s a good skilled team. . . Seemed like an eternity, honestly. I’m thinking of calling a time out, maybe, maybe not. Just proud of the guys.”

The Walleye took six of the eight available regular season points. However, by virtue of four exhibition game wins, and three points in four regulation games, the North Stars won the inaugural Teleco cup 7 points to 6.

“As much as this Teleco Cup is something I’m really looking forward to every year at the end of the day for us season standings mean more to our team, especially our young team, with a shortened season where points are so huge,” added Valley.

Tivers had a three point night for Thunder Bay, as did Enegren and Veneruzzo for Kam River.

“We played a great first period,” said North Stars head coach Rob DeGagne. “We played okay in the second. We had a decent third. I think that we got beat a goaltender tonight. I think their goalie played really good. Two games in this series a goalie won the game for them. . . We have to get the timely save. It’s not like we didn’t work hard. What did we have, 60 shots or whatever it was? We played pretty decent. We just fell a little bit short.”