OLIVER PAIPOONGE – Wayne Gretzky's famous for saying you miss 100 per cent of the shots your don't take.
The adage has been proven true time and time again over the decades. The latest proof positive came on Saturday night.
With the Norwest Arena clock ticking rapidly toward a five-minute overtime, Kam River Fighting Walleye forward Talon Thomas unleashed a blast from just inside the blue-line. The puck, fired into a crowd in front of Thunder Bay North Stars goaltender Seth McKay, careened off the torso of Fighting Walleye forward Carson Gorst and into the net.
The goal proved to be the game-winner in Kam River's 4-3 triumph, a second straight win to start their Superior International Junior Hockey League journey.
“It was a really good effort for out entire team. We all banded together and kind of showed what Walleye hockey is all about, the rough-and-tumble as opposed to a skill game,” said Gorst, a Calgary native in his first SIJHL campaign.
“That's pretty apparent with the last goal there. It wasn't a one-man show, it was a hard forecheck with a shot to a tip in front of the net. I think it's just goes to show it was a really big team win tonight..It went in off my body, just getting in front of the goalie's eyes.”
The two teams were playing for the sixth straight time and it was pretty obvious to see there's no love lost between the two sides – a good sign for the budding rivalry they hope to build.
The Stars took the four pre-season meetings, but the Fighting Walleye took the first two that counted in the standings.
The two wins are icing on the cake, said Kam River coach Matt Valley, who at times in exhibition play expressed frustrations at his team not adhering to hockey fundamentals.
“I'm very happy and proud of our young group here. They battle hard for sure, but there's still lots of room to grow, for sure,” Valley said.
The Stars and Fighting Walleye spent most of the first scoreless, but the Fighting Walleye broke through late in the period, Ethan Lang and Even Enegren scoring 63 seconds apart in the final two minutes before the break.
Nikolas Campbell, who scored both Thunder Bay goals on Friday night, connected again, rifling a high wrist shot past Austin Madge on the power play 3:22 into the second. The Fighting Walleye re-established a two-goal lead midway through the period when Joe McCollum converted a Caleb Resch pass.
The Stars cut the lead to one again when Jacob Anttonen pounced on a rebound with four-and-a-half to go in the middle frame, and tied it up 69 seconds into the third, Campbell picking the pocket of Kam River defender Brad Fortier.
Thunder Bay coach Rob DeGagne said perhaps the two-time defending champion North Stars took their first-year opponent for granted.
“We weren't good enough. They outworked us last night for sure. Tonight I thought they had a very good first period. I thought the second period and third period we outplayed them. Their goaltender played great,” DeGagne said. “He probably won them the hockey game, but goaltenders, that's what they're supposed to do.”
Fish fodder: The Stars were playing without goaltender Jordan Smith, expected back next weekend as he recovers from a foot injury ... North Stars defender Rajvir Sangha was tossed in the second for an intentional hit.
Scoring: 1. Kam River, Lang (Enegren) 18:04. 2. Kam River, Enegren (Thomas, Fortier) 19:07. Penalties: R. Cardinal TB (slashing) 2:08, Anttonen TB (body checking) 7:30.
Scoring: 3. Thunder Bay, Campbell 3 (Anttonen, Stubbs) 3:22 pp. 4. Kam River, McCollum 1 (Resch) 10:46 pp. 5. Thunder Bay, Anttonen 1 (Tivers, R. Cardinal) 15:30. Penalties: McCollum KR (hooking) 2:34, Pitawanakwat KR (body checking) 6:59, Foreshew TB (tripping) 9:46, Anttonen TB (slashing), Veneruzzo KR (holding) 12:00, Fortier KR (hooking) 13:26, Halcrow KR (hooking) 15:59, Sangha TB (hooking, cross checking major, game misconduct) 17:02, Tyska KR (tripping) 20:00.
Scoring: 6. Thunder Bay, Campbell 4 (unassisted) 1:09. Kam River, Gorst (Thomas, Halcrow) 17:09. Penalties: A. Cardinal TB, Enegren KR (unsportsmanlike conduct), Tivers TB, Veneruzzo KR (misconducts) 9:53, Leishman TB (slashing) 12:33, McCollum KR (holding the stick, misconduct) 18:40, Enegren KR (high sticking) 19:40.
GAME DATA – SOG – Thunder Bay 8-14-0-0, Kam River 12-13-0-0; Power plays (goals-chances) – Thunder Bay (1-5), Kam River (1-5); Goaltenders – Thunder Bay: Seth McKay, Kam River: Austin Madge; A: 50.