By Mike Ebbeling
Dryden, ON – Four powerplay goals and some key saves in the second period were the difference as the Kam River Fighting Walleye held on for a 6-4 victory over Dryden GM at the Memorial Arena Friday evening.
The game opened with both teams showcasing their new acquisitions as Dryden GM opted for goalie Liam Vanderkooi and the visitors going with Easton Debray on the starting defence. Vanderkooi was brought to the team this past week in a deal with Swan Valley adding some 20-year-old depth, while Debray was picked up from the Melville Millionaires. The 19-year-old from Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan is no stranger to Dryden as he amassed 9-goals and 23-assists in 49-games last year. It was a torrid start to the contest with both teams using their speed to go end to end. Vanderkooi immediately made an impact showing his athleticism at 6’7 as he went post-to-post to rob Kam River of an opening goal. However, things quickly changed at 3:15 when newcomer Luc Fortier got tied up with a Fighting Walleye player, getting his stick high, resulting in a 2 minute minor. The number one powerplay in the SIJHL wasted little time as veteran Jeremy Dunmore got open on the far side and buried a perfect feed from Nikolas Fagnilli to open the scoring. Ryan Doucette, playing the point, started things earning the second assist. Play would settle down for a bit as both teams amped up the physical play with several bone crunching hits, contact that eventually resulted in some wear and tear on the Ice Dogs side. That resulted in a high-sticking call against Geoff Bjarnason. On the ensuing face-off the Fighting Walleye moved the puck around and seconds later a point shot incidentally went off of Dryden’s Tag Bryson right to a waiting Fagnilli who had an easy tap in for his 6th power-play goal of the season. The Fighting Walleye would end up outshooting Dryden GM 13-11.
Whatever was said during the intermission by Coach Kurt Walsten and coaching staff worked as the home team came out flying to start the second, cycling the puck and throwing everything they had on goalie Ashton Sadauskas with Dryden GM outshooting the Fighting Walleye 10-3 in the first 7 minutes, however the 19-year-old from Parksville, B.C. was brilliant keeping the Ice Dogs off the board. That’s when Dryden GM was victimized by another bad bounce as two defenders got tied up in front of the Liam Vanderkooi. The puck ended up on the stick of Carter Poddubny and the exciting rookie made no mistake as he buried his 10th of the year. The 16-year-old from Thunder Bay continued his streak of points-per-game with 16 in 16 contests. Jeremy Dunmore was credited with an assist. After that special teams once again took over with four straight man advantage goals. Thunder Bay would make it 4-0 with McLaren Paulsen and Bryce Benefield both in the penalty box. An offensive zone win resulted in the goal only 10 seconds after the second penalty. Defence partners Edwin Liang and Brydon Bell switched sides using motion and Liang got open on the near wing firing the puck past Vanderkooi, who was screened on the play by his own man. Carter Nailen recorded the second assist. Dryden GM carved into the deficit two minutes later on a 5-4 advantage and a clean face-off win. The puck landed on the stick of Tag Bryson who found Geoff Bjarnason and the hulking defenceman fired one towards the net with Benefield there to collect his 7th of the season and spoil the shutout for Sadauskas. Another 5-3 due to a boarding major and a minor slashing call resulted in the restoration of Kam River’s four goal lead and once again the visitors used high motion to fool the Ice Dogs. With Jett Mintenko playing high between Ryan Doucette and Jack Clancy and the three players moving the puck swiftly, Doucette finally found a sweet spot to score his 6th of the year. Matteo Salvatore picked up a helper on the play. Dryden GM would have a two-man advantage of their own and only 5 seconds into the 5-3 Benefield cleanly won the draw back to Bjarnason who fired a shot before the defence could set-up. A rebound allowed by Sadauskas was kicked right to Paulsen who easily recorded his 8th goal of the campaign. Despite the Ice Dogs outshooting Kam River 25-14 the Fighting Walleye would carry a 5-2 lead into the third.
Jeremy Dunmore continued his hot play to start the period as he was left wide open on the hashmarks, used an opposition defender as a screen, to score a goal that was eerily similar to his first of the game. Edwin Liang set-up Dunmore for his 10th assist of the year. That spelled the end for Liam Vanderkooi who finished with 24 saves in the his debut as he was replaced by Ewan Soutar. The Ice Dogs refused to throw in the towel and capitalized on a bad break for Kam River. Jack Clancy, trying to move the puck in his own zone, ran into the side of the net dislodging the puck. A mad scramble ensued and a Fighting Walleye defender, diving to prevent an open shot, put his hand over the puck in the crease resulting in a penalty shot. It was no surprise as Bryce Benefield was selected to take the shot and he carried plenty of speed into the zone and fired a bullet past Ashton Sadauskas for his 8th goal in 10 games. Just over two minutes later the Ice Dogs gave the visitors something more to think about as Sean Smith executed a beautiful tip-in near the crease area on the power-play to score his 6th of the year, making it a 6-4 hockey game. Eli Antoine and Tag Bryson were awarded assists. After continuing to attack the Ice Dogs once again ran into penalty trouble putting them behind the eight ball. Adam Zimmerman would be called for interference with 3:37 to play and McKale Paul followed with a hold with 2:26 left in regulation putting the Fighting Walleye in a favourable position to win it and they did skating out the remaining time resulting in a two-goal victory. The Kam River victory was the first in Dryden this season. Final shots were 47-38 in favour of the Ice Dogs. The two teams will be back at it Saturday, November 18 in Dryden. (7:30 CST/8:30 EST)
- Jeremy Dunmore (KAM): 2 goals and 1 assist
- Nikolas Fagnilli (KAM): 1 goal and 1 assist
- Bryce Benefield (DRY): 2 goals and 1 assist