By Gary Moskalyk
Game 1 April 8
Defenceman Jack Cook scored two and Kam River exploded for six goals in the second period to defeat the visiting Wisconsin Lumberjacks 10-2 in the semi-final series opener at Norwest Arena. Kam River concerns of not having played in 20 days disappeared by 5:09 of the first, as Max Leduc went glove side at 1:59 and Cook got his first unassisted just over five minutes in.
Kam River outshot Wisconsin 16-7 through 20 minutes, 49-33 overall.
The lead was 6-0 by 7:11 of the second, chasing Wisconsin starter Kyler Lowden. Leduc notched his second, Braeden Duchesne, Noah Kramps and Cook on the powerplay put the contest away.
Simon Davidson scored his first of two for Wisconsin unassisted at 8:59, but Jeremy Dunmore and Euan Morrison greeted William Forrester with a pair for an 8-1 Walleye lead. Davidson scored his second of the game at 12:52 of the second.
Riley Borody and Ethan Lang added goals in the third to put an exclamation point on the game-one Kam River win.
Wisconsin will have a day off to recalibrate and then travel back to Norwest for game two on Monday.
Eric Vanska turned aside 31 of 33 shots for the win. Lowden saved 20 of 26 and Forrester 19 of 23 for Wisconsin.
The Walleye went 3-6 with the man advantage. Wisconsin was 0-2.
A major dust up occurred at the end of the second. Wisconsin’s Simon Davidson was called for hitting from behind. Teammate Axel Wyatt, and Ryan Doucette and Kyle Lamoureux of Kam River were involved in the ensuing fracas. The Lumberjacks took 24 of 40 penalty minutes assessed.
Jeremy Dunmore had a goal and three assists, Kramps added two assists, Borody and Lang added assists and Lamoureux had two assists for the Walleye.
A robust crowd of 745 fans were in attendance.
Game 2 Monday April 10
Jack Cook scored two goals on the same powerplay–one of them a ‘Michigan’– and Eric Vanska made 29 saves as the Fighting Walleye took a 4-2 decision over the Lumberjacks before 705 fans at Norwest Arena. Kam River takes a 2-0 series lead stateside for a pair in Spooner, WI Wednesday and Thursday.
Ethan Lang scored his second of the playoffs on assists from Isiah Kinnavanthong and Josh Morton at 7:30 of the first. Lang bounced a puck off Kyler Lowden on the Wisconsin doorstep.
Kam River’s Eric Vanska lost a skate blade in the first frame and Jack Orchard came on for 3:36 in relief.
Wisconsin tied the game on a Ryder McMillen snapper from the left dot at 7:04 of the second, setting off a series of four powerplay goals in a row. Cook got the next two, going top shelf on Lowden at 8:01. With Connor McClure off for a five-minute major, Cook picked up a loose puck along the end boards, went behind the Wisconsin net, and loaded up a lacrosse-style special over Lowden’s shoulder for a 3-1 Walleye lead. The tally was Cook’s 4th of the playoffs.
Sal Poggiali tipped in a Brandon McDonald pass for his 6th of the playoffs at 3:57 of the third on a Wisconsin powerplay to tighten the score. Braeden Duchesne snuck one through the pads at 7:58 to finish off the scoring.
Vanska got the win, his 6th of the playoffs. Lowden stopped 35 of 39 in the Wisconsin net.
Kam River was 2-4 on the powerplay. Wisconsin connected on two of their five chances. Wisconsin had 11 penalty minutes, Kam River, 12.
Lang added an assist for a two-point night for Kam. Poggiali also had an assist for Wisconsin and McDonald added a pair of assists.
Game 3 April 12
Kam River took a 3-0 stranglehold on the series with a 10-2 drubbing of Wisconsin in Spooner, WI.
Jack Cook scored a hat trick, making it seven goals in three games for the young defenceman. The Walleye scored four powerplay goals and a shorthanded marker in the game.
Noah Kramps began the dismantling with a powerplay marker at 7:57 of the first. Just over eight minutes later the lead had ballooned to 4-0. Cook’s slap shot from the point on the powerplay doubled the lead. Jeremy Dunmore notched his second of the playoffs on a shorthanded breakaway and Ethan Lang got his third at 16:01 from a tough angle.
Kam River scored three of the four goals in the second stanza.
Riley Borody clicked on a rebound on yet another Walleye powerplay effort at 13:21 of the second. Cook’s wrister from the point made it 6-0. Sal Poggiali broke Eric Vanska’s shutout with a snipe from the high slot on a Lumberjacks’ powerplay.
Max Leduc made it 7-1 with 11 seconds left in the second for Kam River’s fourth goal with a man advantage.
In the third Noah Kramps scored unassisted, Simon Davidson notched his 5th for Wisconsin, and Dunmore and Cook made it 10-2 before the period was half done.
All of those goals were even strength.
Cook added an assist for four points. Dunmore had two goals and two assists. Kramps had a pair of goals, Leduc added two helpers and Kyle Lamoureux had three assists for Kam River. Poggiali added an assist for a two-point night for Wisconsin.
Kyler Lowden was in net for Wisconsin for all 10, stopping 29. Vanska shunting aside 33 shots for his third win.
The Walleye clicked on four of six man advantage opportunities. Wisconsin was 1-7. Kam River can wrap up the series in four with a win on Thursday.
Game 4 April 13
There’ll be a game five.
Ryder McMillen scored at 5:46 of double overtime as Wisconsin defeated Kam River 3-2 in a classic goalie duel between Kyler Lowden and Eric Vanska. It was unclear how anyone was going to beat either one.
McMillen deflected Connor Hacker’s point shot over Vanska’s glove to send the series back to Norwest Arena.
Lowden bounced back from yesterday’s shelling with 52 saves, and Vanska shunted aside 56.
After a scoreless first Jack Cook broke the ice with his 8th in four games at 3:20 of the second. Cook picked up the puck at centre ice, weaved past a couple of Wisconsin defenders and went blocker side on Lowden. Noah Kramps garnered the assist.
Dillon Phillips maintained the zone and Sal Poggiali notched his 8th of the playoffs moments later beating Vanska from five feet out. Hacker collected the secondary assist at 16:06 of the second.
Ethan Lang’s wrist shot blocker side gave the Walleye their second lead of the game at 3:08 of the third. Cook collected his third playoff helper.
Dylan Jouppi’s powerplay one-timer from 15 feet out tied the game at two-all with Poggiali and Brandon McDonald assisting at 7:58.
Wisconsin and Kam River killed off penalty a penalty each in the first overtime session.
On the game winner, Hacker shot a knuckler from the point that McMillen deflected into the top of the net.
Both teams took 21 minutes in penalties. Wisconsin was 1-3 on the powerplay and killed off all three of Kam River’s chances.
Game 5 April 15
Wisconsin shut down Jack Cook, but Kobe Braham and Antony Oviedo scored two goals each and Eric Vanska made 21 stops as Kam River wrapped up the series with a 4-1 win at Norwest Arena before 868 fans. The Fighting Walleye await the winner of the Thunder Bay/Dryden series, advancing to the SIJHL finals for the second straight year.
Wisconsin made strides as a franchise as well, winning their first playoff series against Sioux Lookout, and taking a game against the top regular season club in the SIJHL in double overtime to extend the series.
Oviedo and Braham both scored their first and second goals of the playoffs.
Oviedo opened the scoring at 4:21 of the first with a shorthanded backhander that beat Kyler Lowden low glove side. Braham wristed in his first of the playoffs at 16:30 for a 2-0 Kam River lead.
Braham made it 3-0 with an over-the-shoulder snipe at 11:00 of the second. Kaden Postal scored from the right dot for Wisconsin to tighten the score. That was Postal’s first of the second season, and Caden Sutter collected his first assist of the post-season as well. Sal Poggiali got the secondary assist.
Kam River held Wisconsin to three shots in the third frame. Oviedo struck at 26 seconds of the third with a backhand goal on Lowden’s doorstep. The Walleye shutdown Wisconsin for the remainder of the game.
Kam River was 1-5 on the powerplay. Wisconsin was 0-3. The Lumberjacks took 17 penalty minutes to 12 for Kam River.
Josh Pufahl dished out a pair of assists for the Walleye.