Fighting Walleye goaltender Austin Madge fights through a screen from North Stars' Jett Leishman (11) in SIJHL action Friday December 4, 2020.

North Stars top Fighting Walleye in Home Opener

December 4, 2020

Photo and article by Gary Moskalyk, Special to SIJHL

The Thunder Bay North Stars played their first game in the Fort William Gardens in nine months. Judging from the score, they missed the place.

Leeam Tivers scored two first period goals and Seth McKay stymied Kam River’s Christian Veneruzzo on a breakaway late in the first with the game close to help the North Stars defeat the Kam River Fighting Walleye 7-3 before a code-orange crowd of 50 at FWG.

It was Thunder Bay’s first win of the season and Kam River’s first loss.

Tivers’ goals sandwiched Ryley Cardinal’s powerplay effort at 18:05 on assists from Hunter Foreshew and Matthew Halushak to hand Thunder Bay a 3-0 lead after 20.

“We knew tonight we had to come out strong,” said Tivers, who had a goal called off along with the two that counted. “Two big games this weekend. We’ve got to get four points. It’s a shortened season this year. Every game counts, every two points counts. We got a couple goals off the bat in the first period and get a lead. That’s how we’re going to get up on teams.”

Thunder Bay killed off a 1:55 two-man disadvantage to start the second period–another key juncture. Michael Vecchio’s one-timer beat Austin Madge at 5:35 of the second. Austin Hall seemed to run out of runway, but a last second dangle and a goalmouth feed to Dawson Lampi put the North Stars up 5-0.

Kam River killed off an extended North Stars two-man powerplay of their own later in the period.

Two Walleye players got tangled up at the North Star blue line and Jett Leishman cashed in on a 150-foot shorthanded breakaway to make it 6-0 North Stars.

Thunder Bay outshot Kam River 30-22 through two frames, but the Walleye fired 25 in the third period–scoring on shots 41 and 42 to break McKay’s shutout, and added the game’s final tally with less than three minutes to go.

Alex Enegren, Christian Veneruzzo and Calvin Morrow did the damage for Kam River to make it respectable. Jacob Anttonen scored on a powerplay for Thunder Bay’s seventh goal.

“It was nice to play in an arena that’s a little bit bigger in surface,” said North Star head coach Rob DeGagne. “Makes a difference. You’re used to the big ice surface. We built our team around that. It gives us a little more time and space, it paid dividends earlier on in the game that’s for sure.”

McKay stopped 44 of 47 shots in the North Star goal to garner the win. Madge, in his third consecutive start, handled 35 of 42. The Walleye had a 14-1 shot advantage well into the third period.

“It’s a hard game you know,” added DeGagne. “There’s so many penalties. Some are good, some are bad, doesn’t really matter. They’re penalties, right. We took lots, they took lots. It’s hard to get a flow to your game. What happens is it’s hard to get guys into the game. We kind of let Seth out to dry in the third period. We stopped playing when we were up five or six goals. The guys stopped playing. . . It is what it is. Seth played a good game tonight.”

Thunder Bay finished 2-9 on the power play, while Kam River was 2-8.

Enegren, Veneruzzo and Ethan Lang had two points for the Walleye, while Ryley Cardinal and Foreshew joined Tivers with two-point nights for Thunder Bay.

Game eight of the Teleco Cup goes Saturday at the Gardens at 7:30.