THUNDER BAY, Ont. – A Josh Bryant power play goal, 12:55 into the second overtime, lifted the Thunder Bay North Stars to a dramatic 3-2 victory over the Dryden GM Ice Dogs Friday evening in Game 2 of their Superior International Junior Hockey League semifinal series in front of a North Stars’ season-high crowd of 1,163 spectators at the Fort William Gardens.
With the result, the North Stars now lead the best-of-seven matchup 2-0, heading into Game 3 Sunday afternoon at Dryden Memorial Arena at 3:30 p.m. CT.
A fast-paced first period saw both teams come out skating with Dryden generating the first quality scoring chance, only to see Braden Shea stymied by Thunder Bay goaltender Brock Aiken in the first minute.
The North Stars applied the pressure with a couple of man advantage opportunities later in the frame, but GM Ice Dogs netminder Jacob Anthony continued his stellar play by handling all 12 shots he faced in the session.
Taken down on a partial break, Thunder Bay’s Keighan Gerrie was awarded a penalty shot where the highly-touted prospect made no mistake as he skated in, moved to his left, and lifted a backhand into the top corner six minutes into the second stanza.
Dryden came right back though to notch the equalizer, on a power play chance, as Braden Shea buried one from the slot to knot the affair at 1-1.
Going right back to the man advantage, the visitors struck again to take the lead with Curtis Magas firing a shot from a similar spot as Shea as his effort got a piece of Aiken, but slid into the net to put the guests up by one after 40 minutes.
Thunder Bay countered early in the third to knot the score with Thomas Brassard’s wrister from the left point hitting a GM Ice Dogs defender and skipping over the shoulder of Anthony at 1:48.
It remained without another goal through the rest of the frame as they went to OT for second straight night.
Dryden produced a number of quality chances in his first half of the initial extra session, including a crazy bounce off the end boards that caromed right through the crease, as well as pair of point-blank chances that were denied by Aiken.
The North Stars had a number of opportunities of their own later in the stanza, but were foiled by Anthony along with a couple of key blocks by GM Ice Dogs defencemen to keep the score knotted at 2-2 after 80 minutes.
After handling a bench minor for too many men, the home side went to the power play on a boarding call and collected the game-winner while up a skater, as Bryant shoveled in the decider into the open side off a Kyle Auger attempt that was put over by Jacob Brown from in close to give Thunder Bay a second-straight OT triumph to begin the series.
Aiken was stellar in goal for the North Stars making 54 saves, including making multiple key stops in OT, in picking up the win while Anthony was equally as solid, finishing with 55 stops in the narrow setback that has been a netminders duel through 170 minutes of action.
The contest finished as the second-longest SIJHL playoff game in the past decade.
Back on March 20, 2010, Dryden edged the Fort Frances Lakers 4-3 at Ice for Kids Arena in Game 3 of their semifinal series, which saw the Ice Dogs’ Kevin Burton score at the 15:49 mark of the 2nd OT with assists going to Mike Lennon and Kyle Heck.
Prior to that the Lakers slipped past the Minnesota Iron Rangers 1-0 in Game 1 of the Bill Salonen Cup final at 10:37 of the 2nd overtime on April 11, 2014 on a Miles Nolan marker.
All SIJHL playoff contests are streamed live, and on demand, via HockeyTV.com.
No. 1 Thunder Bay North Stars vs. 4 Dryden GM Ice Dogs
Thunder Bay leads best-of-seven series 2-0
Game 1: Thunder Bay 4 Dryden 3 (OT)
Game 2: Thunder Bay 3 Dryden 2 (2OT)
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)
Photo credit: Rick Baraniuk