The Thunder Bay North Stars are quite comfortable when Brandon Wolframe has the puck on his stick in overtime.
The 19-year-old scored his third extra time winner in the team’s past six games as the North Stars downed the Dryden Ice Dogs 4-3 in Superior International Junior Hockey League play at the Fort William Gardens on Saturday.
“I just came over the blue line and the defenceman took (linemate Taylor) Santorelli and he laid me the puck. I looked to pass but I saw an opening to the net and I just threw it on and luckily it went over the goalie’s glove,” Wolframe said.
“Playing four-on-four there’s a lot of ice and you just have to create an opportunity to throw it on the net and sometimes lucky things happen.”
Thunder Bay head coach Jeremy Adduono said having strong finishers such as Wolframe is a huge asset to the club when they find themselves in tight situations.
Having the veteran, who recorded 53 points with Thunder Bay two seasons ago, return to play for his hometown team after spending last year with the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Kingston Voyageurs was a goal for Adduono during the recruiting phase of his first year as bench boss.
“Brandon is a skilled player,” Adduono said. “We were happy to get him at the start of the year and we knew what we were getting. He’s a leader on the ice and a leader in the dressing room.”
The North Stars (23-6-4) are shining bright in the early stages of the second half, as they have emerged victorious in all five of their January matchups. Overall, the team is riding a six-game winning streak dating back to December.
Four of those five wins have come at the hands of Dryden (17-20-4) as Thunder Bay looks to solidify their grasp on second place in the league and hunt down the leading Fort Frances Lakers.
“I don’t know if there’s one reason, but one thing I can say about my team is that they have a lot of character,” Adduono said.
“We talk with our guys all the time about finding a way to contribute. We’ve had a different lineup every night with guys injured, sick and coming back. It’s a credit to the young men in the room.”
The visitors held the lead after the first 20 minutes as a result of some unexpected generosity from the North Stars.
Zachary Kercz opened the scoring for Dryden with a shorthanded marker after he stripped Thunder Bay captain Trevor Hynnes at the blue line and went in on a breakaway.
The North Stars tied things up with a power play goal as Zach Grzelewski beat Ice Dogs netminder Joakim Jutras from the wing.
That deadlock lasted for a little more than a minute before Derek McPhail took advantage of another Thunder Bay giveaway and beat North Stars goaltender Nathanial Dupuis one-on-one.
The North Stars were able to knot the contest back up with the lone goal of the second period when affiliated player Josh Reid found the back of the net.
The home side pulled ahead for their first lead of the game early in the third period when Daniel Delpaggio picked up the puck in the neutral zone and streaked in on Jutras and scored Thunder Bay’s second power play tally of the game.
Thunder Bay pressed for more throughout the third frame but Jutras stood tall and came away with 35 saves in the losing effort.
Adam Smith earned Dryden’s point in the standings as he led the Ice Dogs comeback hopes with the equalizer with just three minutes remaining in regulation.
“You have to learn how to win those close ones when you’re tied or up one or down one,” Adduono said. “As time goes on that’s usually how the game gets. It’s good to learn how to win and play in those situations.”
Star gazing: Thunder Bay forward Matthias Gardiman left the game in the opening minute of the first period and did not return after colliding face first into the boards. Adduono said holding him out was a precautionary measure and he will be evaluated on Sunday...Adduono said injuries to Cary Brown and Alex Vaillant are minor and he expects to have them back in the near future. He also expects Kris Kellaway to resume skating on Monday as he recovers from injury...The North Stars take on the first place Fort Frances Lakers (29-4-0) at the Gardens on Tuesday.
Scoring: 1. Dryden, Kercz 19 (unassisted) 7:41 sh. 2. Thunder Bay, Grzelewski 23 (Delpaggio, Bre. Wolframe) 11:44 pp. 3. Dryden, McPhail 11 (unassisted) 12:52. Penalties: Hynnes TB (boarding) 4:13; Smith DRY (hooking) 5:56; Kercz DRY (high-sticking) 10:34; Varrin DRY (slashing) Bre. Wolframe (high-sticking) 14:15; Salazar DRY (boarding) 17:25.
Scoring: 4. Thunder Bay, Reid 1 (Mihalus) 4:54. Penalties: Kaarela TB (elbowing) 1:30; Belhumeur DRY (slashing) Walsh TB (high-sticking) 10:37; Martyn TB (boarding) 11:04; King DRY (holding) Feeney DRY (charging) 12:03; Enns DRY (tripping) 14:33; Bench minor DRY (too many men, served by Smith) 17:46.
Scoring: 5. Thunder Bay, Delpaggio 23 (unassisted) 5:21 pp. 6. Dryden, Smith 3 (Varrin) 16:54 pp. Penalties: Santorelli TB (roughing) 3:15; Sitko DRY (slashing) 5:09; Brower TB (hooking) 6:07; Salazar DRY (holding) 10:40; Kaarela TB (interference) 16:37.
Scoring: 7. Thunder Bay, Bra. Wolframe 12 (Santorelli, Mihalus) 1:14. Penalties: None.
GAME DATA - SOG - Dryden 9-7-4-1-21, Thunder Bay 14-13-11-1-39; Power plays (goals-chances) - Dryden (1-6), Thunder Bay (2-9); Goaltenders - Dryden: Joakim Jutras (35 saves, 39 shots), Thunder Bay: Nathanial Dupuis (18 saves, 21 shots).
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