GALLERY: North Stars force a Game #6

Photos: Kerri-Ann Kanceruk
Dryden, ON – There will still be playoff hockey at the Fort William Gardens following a gutsy win away from home Tuesday evening.
It was a feisty start to Game #5 of the SIJHL Semi-Final between Dryden GM and Thunder Bay with penalties and after the whistle scrums the main script for the opening frame. A total of 52 minutes in penalties were doled out with stars Nikolas Campbell and Ben Hackl assessed 10 minute misconducts for an altercation following a boarding call against the 20 year old forward from Dryden. That was after the North Stars cashed in on a mental mistake by the Ice Dogs and a bizarre outcome. With Max Roby in the box for a four minute spear the North Stars would give that up taking two penalties of their own, one by Matthew Halushak and one by Colby Feist. Playing 4-on-4 Halushak’s minor would expire putting him back on the ice. With time still on the clock for Roby the 18-year-old Most Improved Player mistakenly jumped on the ice alongside the Thunder Bay defender. Play would continue for about 20 seconds before the officials noticed the extra player on the ice for Dryden GM and the play was whistled dead. The referees would convene and after a lengthy discussion a bench minor for too many men on the ice was called putting Thunder Bay on a 4-3 powerplay. Halushak would make the Ice Dogs pay 30 seconds later as his wrist shot from just inside the point found its way through and past goalie Eric Clark for the games first goal and the second of the playoffs for the veteran defenceman. The North Stars would than use the second half of the bench minor to launch a furious attack 5-on-4. A mad scramble in and around Clark would spill out to the slot area where an opportunistic Sam Skillestad slammed home his second of the postseason. Nikolas Campbell would earn his second consecutive assist along with Colby Feist. Thunder Bay would shut down Dryden for the remainder of the period to outshoot the home team 14-9 and carry a 2-0 lead for a second time this series.
Things settled down in the second with both teams flying up and down the ice. The pace was fast and intense with the same level of physical play. Dryden GM found their groove and started to pepper Keenan Marks, who suffered the Game #4 loss in relief of Connor Lemieux. However, the talented rookie was on his “A” game with several big saves on quality chances. The biggest came midway through the period when Marks robbed SIJHL playoff leading scorer Landen Stromme in-tight with a beautiful glove save. Ben Hackl had the second big chance as he redirected a beautiful feed from James Hooton on a 2-on-1 but couldn’t beat the post. The North Stars would tip the ice n their favour for a bit after that but couldn’t beat Eric Clark. Dryden GM would rebound in the shot department with a  14-7 advantage.
Dryden GM would finally solve Keenan Marks 2:44 inside the third period on a defensive zone turnover. Speed and hustle by Ondrej Bardos forced a Liam Murdoch giveway. Brady Frattinger jumped on a loose puck and found a wide open Kaden Bandura in front of the net for an easy score cutting the North Stars lead to one. Penalties were the story to start the game and they would be the deciding factor in the end with one team looking to advance to the final and one team hoping to extend the Best-of-7 series. At 6:17 Sebastiano Biagi, co-winner of the Top Defenceman Award for the Ice Dogs, tripped up his man at centre ice once the puck was advanced ahead resulting in an interference call. Matthew Halushak would deliver the big blow with his second of the game and third of the playoffs. Some slick passing and all four Ice Dogs defenders sucking over to the strong far side, Halushak slipped wide and buried a Nikolas Campbell pass past a late Eric Clark to regain the two goal lead. Jamie Fuchs would also pick up a helper. Dryden GM refused to stay quiet as they regained the offensive press and at 16:17 an elusive and slippery Ben Hackl drew a Campbell tripping call behind the Thunder Bay net to put Dryden GM on their third powerplay of the game. A mental mistake by the North Stars put them two men down as the visitors had too many men on the ice halfway through the first penalty. With the goalie pulled Dryden GM would go up 6-on-3. With the Campbell penalty expiring  and with a persistent Ice Dogs attack and a two man screen in front of Keenan Marks, James Hooton would tip a Tyler Earl shot over the shoulder of the Thunder Bay goalie to make it a 3-2 game. Rob DeGagne would call a timeout with over a minute remaining in regulation and that seemed to calm his team down. The North Stars would shutdown the Ice Dogs after that thwarting any idea of a comeback and ensuring their would be a Game #6 back in Thunder Bay Wednesday night. Final shots ii the contest were 35-27 in favour of Dryden GM.
    1. Keenan Marks (TBAY): 33 saves
    2. Matthew Halushak (TBAY): 2 goals
    3. James Hooton (DRY): 1 goal