Thunder Bay vs Wisconsin 1st Round Recap

Before we look ahead to Round 2 of the SIJHL Playoffs here is everything you may have missed from the North Stars 1st round series.

Game 1 Thunder Bay 6 Wisconsin 4

Thunder Bay saw a 4-1 lead slip away but defenceman Max Buffone broke a 4-4 tie in the third and Beau Helmeczi added an empty netter for his second of the game as the North Stars defeated Wisconsin 6-4 in game one of the best-of-seven quarterfinal series.

Keenan Marks made 38 stops for Thunder Bay, none more clutch than his point-blank robbery of Nolan Fowler with five minutes left in the third. Marks stretched out and made a glove save with Fowler on the doorstep. Marks rose from the ice after the whistle, and waved off the apparent goal himself, to the delight of the 527 fans in attendance.

Up 5-4, the Stars killed off Sam Skillestad’s cross-checking major with 2:14 left. With Wisconsin’s net empty, Helmeczi buried his second of the playoffs with 14 seconds left to seal the deal.

William Forrester made 41 saves in the Wisconsin net.

Alex Remenda at 31 seconds, Easton Mikus and Helmeczi scored for Thunder Bay in the opening frame. Simon Davidson briefly tied it at 1-1 for Wisconsin.

Drew Caddo’s point shot snuck past Forrester at 12:20 of the second to give the Stars a 4-1 edge. But Wisconsin’s trademark explosive offence kicked into gear, scoring three in a span of 3:24. Marshall Thomas went blocker side high, Nolan Fowler converted Dillon Phillips’ nice feed and Sutton Majeske capped off the uprising on a rebound past Marks at 18:21 on a Wisconsin powerplay to knot the score at 4-4.

Buffone blocker side snipe at 12:06 gave the Stars a 5-4 lead, Marks made a 10-bell save on Fowler with five minutes to go to preserve it, and Helmeczi split the uprights with a shorthanded empty net goal to ensure the win.

Thunder Bay took 19 penalty minutes. Wisconsin had four minors. The Lumberjacks were 1-7 on the powerplay and killed off four Thunder Bay chances.

Game 2 Thunder Bay 9 Wisconsin 0

Alex Remenda had two goals and an assist, Tyler Jordan and Easton Mikus sniped a pair each, Edison Weeks had a goal and three assists, and Ben Laurette made 38 saves as the North Stars defeated Wisconsin 9-0 in game two to take a 2-0 series lead over the Lumberjacks. Connor Larrett had a goal and helper, and EJ Paddington and Cameron Dial had a pair of assists to aid the offence.

Shots were surprisingly close. Thunder Bay had 42 shots against William Forrester, who surrendered all nine in his second loss of the series.

Thunder Bay took a 2-0 lead after one, scored four in the second and added three more in the third. Laurette’s biggest test, other than Ryan Kayser ringing one off the post in the first period, came with six seconds left on the clock. The Lumberjacks swarmed the North Stars’ net. The puck scooted past the near post and somehow stayed out, preserving Laurette’s shutout bid in a mad scramble.

Easton Mikus opened the scoring 19 seconds in, and Jordan doubled the lead 1:46 later. In the second, Beau Helmeczi, Larrett, Weeks, and Jordan all scored. Jordan’s second goal of the game and third of the playoffs was on a Thunder Bay power play. Larrett and Weeks struck just 22 seconds apart at 12:17 and 12:39.

Mikus got his second of the game and third of the playoffs on a Thunder Bay powerplay at 1:51 of the third. Remenda got his first of two, shorthanded, on a feed from Weeks. Remenda rounded out the scoring at 14:36. Weeks collected the primary assists on both efforts. Thunder Bay had to kill off three minor penalties in the last 4:27 to keep the zero intact.

The Stars were 2-3 on the power play while killing off six Wisconsin power plays. Thunder Bay took 22 of the 37 penalty minutes assessed. 

Dillon Phillips, who was rocked in game one and had to leave the ice and not return, was back in the line-up in game two.

Weather permitting, games three and four are Monday and Tuesday at Rice Lake Arena. 

A total of 467 fans attended Saturday’s game.

Game 3 Thunder Bay 5 Wisconsin 2

The Thunder Bay North Stars were able to pull away from a scrappy but overmatched Wisconsin Lumberjacks team to take a 3-0 series lead on Thursday night in Rice Lake. 

The North Stars were able to control the game throughout, outshooting the Lumberjacks in every period and by a total of 59-26. Despite the pressure it was actually Wisconsin who opened the scoring courtesy of Koen Burkholder 7 minutes into the game. He was assisted by Jack Carruthers and Kaden Postal. With less than 5 minutes to play in the 1st Thunder Bay would answer back with a goal scored by Tyler Jordan his 3rd of the playoffs. 

The game went into the 1st intermission tied at 1 and it would stay that way for a majority of the 2nd period. It took 15 minutes before Tisten Bear found the back of the net to give Thunder Bay the lead. 30 seconds later Tyler Jordan once again scored, this time on the powerplay to give his side a 3-1 lead. Refusing to go away quietly the Lumberjacks would answer back with just over 2 minutes remaining. Will McDonnel beat the North Stars goaltender making the score 3-2 heading into the final break.

Both teams battled in the 3rd period but it was only Thunder Bay who found success as halfway through the frame Tyler Jordan secured his hat trick with another power play goal giving his team a 4-2 lead. Edison Weeks would add an insurance marker a few minutes later and the North Stars would finish the game with a 5-2 scoreline. 

Riley Burnett had a great game in goal making 54 saves for Wisconsin but picking up the loss. Ben Laurette got the win thanks to 24 saves of 36 shots. The teams will face off again Friday night, giving the North Stars a chance to bring out the brooms and sweep the Lumberjacks from the playoffs. 

1st Star – Tyler Jordan, 3 goals

2nd Star – Edison Weeks, 1 goal and 2 assists

3rd Star – Koen Burkholder, 1 goal and 1 assist 

Game 4 Thunder Bay 4 Wisconsin 2

Special teams proved to be the difference on Friday night in Rice Lake as the North Stars secured a sweep of the Lumberjacks in their 1st round playoff series.

The two teams played most of the 1st period to a standstill, it took over 16 minutes to find the game’s first goal and it went to Thunder Bay. On the power play Edison Weeks found the back of the net with assists going to Cameron Dial and Sam Skillestad. 

The North Stars would enter the 2nd period with the lead but it would be short lived as Lumberjacks Captain Dillon Phillips scored 3 and half minutes in. He was assisted by Will McDonnel and Axel Wyatt. With the game tied it was again the man advantage coming through for the North Stars as another 3 minutes later Easton Mikus scored. Cameron Dial picked up the lone assist on the go ahead tally. The intensity stayed high throughout but neither team could find a goal for the rest of the period and the game went to the 3rd with a 2-1 North Stars lead on  the scoreboard. 

8 minutes into the final frame the game winner was found courtesy of EJ Paddington again on the powerplay. Thunder Bay would take a 3 goal lead late in the game thanks to the efforts of Eric Sheriff. Finally with just over a minute to go Axel Wyatt would claw one back but it wouldn’t be enough to save the Lumberjacks season as they fell 4-2. 

Keenan Marks was difference maker in net for Thunder Bay as he made 37 saves on 39 shots and got the win. Veteran netminder Will Forrester made 35 saves in the loss for Wisconsin.

Special teams proved to be a problem too difficult for the Wisconsin coaching staff to solve all series as The Lumberjacks were 1/22 on the power play with a percentage of just 4.5. Meanwhile the North Stars were deadly with the man advantage having far less opportunity but firing at a 58.3% clip on 12 chances. Thunder Bay will move on to play the 2 seed Sioux Lookout who wrapped up a sweep of Fort Frances on Friday night.

1st Star – Keenan Marks, 37 saves

2nd Star – Dillon Phillips, 1 goal and 1 assist

3rd Star – Axel Wyatt, 1 goal and 1 assist