By Mike Ebbeling
Dryden, ON – It was an emotional Saturday evening at the Memorial Arena as the Dryden GM Ice Dogs held their annual “Pink the Rink” cancer awareness and fundraising game for the local oncology unit. After both teams took a moment to honour and celebrate those, whose lives have been touched by cancer, the crowd of 649, most of whom were decked out in pink shirts and jerseys, were treated to a classic hockey game.
The start was a mirror image of Friday night as both teams came flying out of the gate using speed and physical play to dictate the pace of the contest. Like game 1 penalty trouble landed Dryden GM in hot water early. Carson Devine and Geoff Bjarnason were sent to the box in a nine second span only three minutes into the game and the lethal Fighting Walleye powerplay responded. A point shot by Ryan Doucette ricocheted off a couple of players and eventually off the stick of Nikolas Fagnilli, over the glove of starter Ewan Soutar for the games first goal. Matteo Salvatore was credited with an assist. Things didn’t look any better for the home team as Kam River went on the man advantage a couple of minutes later, one of four consecutive advantages, but Soutar was splendid making some big stops, aided by a patient penalty kill unit and blocked shots. The early aggressive play by the Ice Dogs finally paid off just over 11 minutes into the game as they forced a turnover outside the Kam River zone. Max Roby went down the near wing on a two-on-one, fed a perfect pass to Sean Smith who buried his seventh of the year past a helpless Travis Vanderzwaag. More penalties late in the period eventually led to a 4-on-4 goal for Dryden GM. Kam River captain Jeremy Dunmore fell into Vanderzwaag knocking the stick out of the goalies hand and the Ice Dogs jumped quickly on the opportunity as quick passes between Roby and Bjarnason resulted in a McLaren Paulsen redirect to give Dryden GM their first lead of the weekend. It was a back and forth affair with both teams registering 11 shots.
Things tightened up a bit in the second frame with a feel of playoff hockey. Ewan Soutar and Travis Vanderzwaag stole the show making some spectacular saves as shots were 12-8 in favour of Kam River when all was said and done. Both goalies did receive some help as Dryden GM hit a post on the powerplay and the Fighting Walleye hopes of a third shorthanded goal on the year were denied by the iron. The lone mistake came on a four-on-three only 56 seconds into the period as a shot careened off of Soutar, landing right on the stick of Carter Poddubny, who notched his 11th of the campaign and keeping his points-per-game streak going at 17.
The intensity of Dryden GM hit a whole new level in the third as the team produced what was likely their best period of the season. The home club came after the opposition in waves right at puck drop and did not let up, forcing turnovers and rare mistakes, catching Kam River off guard throughout the final frame. Max Roby continued his hot play in his first game from an absence as he forced a neutral zone turnover and went in side-by-side with Bryce Benefield feeding him the puck resulting in what ended up being the game winning goal. For Benefield that was his ninth of the season. The public address announcer didn’t have time to even announce the goal when 1:08 later a miscue by Vanderzwaag resulted in the 4th goal for the Ice Dogs. The young 16-year-old netminder had the puck go off his stick at the side of the net into the hands of the Dryden GM forecheck. Sean Smith found a wide open Eli Antoine who buried his 7th of the season. Antoine then used his speed in the offensive zone to draw a holding penalty allowing Dryden GM to maintain momentum and slow the number one offense in the league. When the Fighting Walleye were able to generate chances it was Ewan Soutar who slammed the door shut for his eventual 5th win of the year. He also leads the SIJHL in goals against average (1.21) and save percentage (.957). Max Roby would add icing to the cake with a strip and empty net goal from the centre circle, his fourth point of the night. Final shots were 32-31 in favour of the Fighting Walleye, who dropped to second in the standings, following a win by Thunder Bay. That sets up a first place showdown Wednesday at the Gardens. Dryden GM kept pace with the top 3 and prepares for a one game battle with Red Lake Friday in Cochenour.
- McLaren Paulsen (DRY): 1 goal
- Eli Antoine (DRY): 1 goal
- Bryce Benefield (DRY): 1 goal