Willan pots OT winner as Thunder Bay out lasts Dryden in series opener

THUNDER BAY, Ont. – A Joel Willan marker midway through the first overtime was the difference as the Thunder Bay North Stars outlasted the Dryden GM Ice Dogs 4-3 Thursday evening in Game 1 of their Superior International Junior Hockey League semifinal match-up at the Fort William Gardens.

It was Thunder Bay that opened the scoring in the series as Keighan Gerrie redirected a left point shot from Logan Mihalcin near the six-minute mark of the first period to put the home side up by one after one.

Dryden countered with the equalizer early in the second stanza as Kyle Sargent fired a pass up to Jacob Siebenga who corralled the puck after a shot block then quickly whipped a shot from the high slot that beat North Stars starter Brock Aiken at 2:19.

Thunder Bay had a tremendous opportunity to regain the lead later in the frame only to be denied by Anthony, who made a great save on a two-on-one.

They did capitalize though midway through the contest as Gerrie darted in, made a quick fake then fired a cross-ice feed to Jacob Brown, who buried it at 10:10.

Skating four aside half way through the third, the GM Ice Dogs drove hard into the North Stars zone then worked it over to Rayman Bassi who slammed in his third of the playoffs with 9:47 left in regulation.

Thunder Bay came back though with Ryan Mignault knocking down a Dryden clearing attempt who then finished off a give-and-go with Brendan Gillis to put the hosts back in front.

Countering once more, the two-time defending SIJHL champion GM Ice Dogs came back to force extra time, on a late power play, as Tyler Browning fired one through a maze from the point with 2:16 remaining.

The North Stars had a couple of glorious chances to end it in the opening minutes of the first OT, but Anthony stymied Gerrie on a breakaway then promptly stopped a Brown one-timer seconds later.

However later in the extra session, with a face-off deep in Dryden territory, Gerrie scooped up the puck off a scramble then put a perfect pass on the stick of William, who quickly wired in the game-winner into the open left side at 10:12 to end it.

Gerrie finished with two assists to go with his goal while Sargent and Siebenga had a pair of helpers apiece for the GM Ice Dogs.

Shots on goal favoured Thunder Bay by a 48-39 count with Aiken picking up the win while Anthony was stellar for Dryden, despite the narrow defeat.

Game 2 in this best-of-seven affair goes Friday at 7:30 p.m. back at the Gardens.

All SIJHL playoff contests are streamed live, and on demand, via HockeyTV.com.

SIJHL Playoffs
Series C
Semifinal A
No. 1 Thunder Bay North Stars vs. 4 Dryden GM Ice Dogs
Thunder Bay leads best-of-seven series 1-0
Game 1: Thunder Bay 4 Dryden 3 (OT)
Game 2: Friday, March 29 @ Thunder Bay 7:30 p.m. (Fort William Gardens)
Game 3: Sunday, March 31 @ Dryden 3:30 p.m. (Memorial Arena)
Game 4: Monday, April 1 @ Dryden 7:30 p.m. (Memorial Arena)
Game 5*: Wednesday, April 3 @ Thunder Bay 7:30 p.m. (Fort William Gardens)
Game 6*: Friday, April 5 @ Dryden 7:30 p.m. (Memorial Arena)
Game 7*: Sunday, April 7 @ Thunder Bay 7:30 p.m. (Fort William Gardens)
*-if necessary

Photo credit: Rick Baraniuk