DRYDEN, Ont. – Brendan Gillis capped off a two-on-one 9:38 into the second overtime with his first goal of the playoffs to lift the Thunder Bay North Stars to a dramatic 3-2 victory over the Dryden GM Ice Dogs Monday evening in a thrilling Game 4 of their Superior International Junior Hockey League semifinal at Memorial Arena.
In picking up the win, the North Stars now lead this best-of-seven series 3-1 heading in Game 5 Wednesday night at the Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay at 7:30 p.m.
After a scoreless opening frame, Dryden, who were 4-13 on the power play in the series entering the contest, connected again with the man advantage in the second stanza as Braden Shea sent one over to Tyler Browning who backpedaled down to the top of the left faceoff circle and snapped in his third man advantage effort of the playoffs, and fourth goal overall, at 9:03 to put the home side in front.
The visitors countered to tie it late in the session thanks to a Joel Willan power play effort at 18:07.
Heading into the third, the North Stars took the lead with 8:20 to go as Josh Bryant sent a cross-ice pass from the corner that found Keighan Gerrie, who promptly buried a one-timer from close range past GM Ice Dogs netminder Jacob Anthony.
It stayed 2-1 until late in regulation, when, with their goalkeeper on the bench for an extra attacker, Dryden struck for the equalizer with 47 seconds remaining as Browning powered his way past a Thunder Bay defender and forced extra time by stuffing the puck past the outstretched pad of Brock Aiken.
Action in the first OT saw both netminders make key saves that kept it 2-2 after four periods.
Then near the halfway point on the second extra stanza and with a faceoff deep in North Stars territory, Thunder Bay chipped one out that resulted in Willan and Gillis going in on the two on one where Willan put a perfect pass on the tape on a hard-charging Gillis, who quickly buried the game-winner to end it.
Once again, both netminders were outstanding for their respective clubs in the contest that finished with the North Stars holding a 59-54 edge in shots on goal.
Of note, this marks the first time a SIJHL playoff series has featured three overtime games since back in 2009, when the North Stars and Schreiber Diesels featured a trio of OTs in a semifinal match-up that went the distance.
Thunder Bay took the first one by a 4-3 score in Game 1 while Schreiber did likewise on home ice in Game 3 before the North Stars prevailed at the Gardens in Game 7 on a Keith Mason marker at 17:30 of extra time.
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 3-1
Game 1: Thunder Bay 4 Dryden 3 (OT)
Game 2: Thunder Bay 3 Dryden 2 (2OT)
Game 3: Dryden 5 Thunder Bay 3
Game 4: Thunder Bay 3 Dryden 2 (2OT)
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: Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com