THUNDER BAY – Facing a familiar foe, the Thunder Bay Kings still can’t find a way to eke out a win against the Tisdale Trojans.
The Saskatchewan squad on Tuesday night doubled up the West Region final opponent 4-2, edging the Kings for the third time this month to pick up their first win of the 2019 TELUS Cup.
The loss dropped tournament host Thunder Bay into a deep hole, the lone team of six at the event yet to record a win after two days of play.
Twice in those two days the Kings battle back to tie their game, but the end result has been the same on both nights.
On Monday they surrendered four goals in the third to drop a 7-4 decision to the Calgary Buffaloes. Against the Trojans they overcame a 2-0 deficit after one, only to have Tisdale’s Trenton Curtis re-establish a one-goal lead just 62 seconds after Nicholas DeGrazia had tied the match on the power play 32 seconds into the third, depositing a Nikolas Campbell rebound past goalie Tanner Martin.
“Obviously coming into this tournament we wanted results early,” said forward Peter Hannula, who got the Kings on the board with six minutes to go in the second, cutting Tisdale’s lead to 2-1.
“I think today was a huge improvement on yesterday, but we still didn’t get the win. A good effort’s not good enough. We made a good push at the end, but we’ve got to play a full 60 minutes.”
The loss greatly endangered Thunder Bay’s hopes of advancing to the four-team playoffs, which start Saturday at Fort William Gardens.
With zero points and four teams tied for second behind the undefeated Magog Cantonniers at 1-1-0, the Kings have to start picking up points in a hurry.
Thunder Bay coach Darrin Nicholas agreed it’s crunch time for his team.
“We’ve been focused on finding a way to navigate through to Saturday. We think two wins gets you into Saturday’s game and we’ve still got three games left to play. We’re quickly running out of runway, but we’re still in a spot where we do control our own destiny. Today was much better than yesterday and we think if we can make that improvement for tomorrow, sooner or later it’s got to be good enough to win a hockey game,” Nicholas said, chuckling slightly.
Mackenzie Carson opened the scoring with 4:44 to go in the first. Less than two minutes later Colby Vranai doubled the lead, beating Vanska on the power play, the Trojans outshooting the Kings 18-3 in the period.
Thunder Bay picked things up in the second, but it took nearly 14 minutes for them to finally solve Martin, Hannula cutting across the middle and whipping a backhand into the twine.
“My linemate, Mason Bazaluk, had a nice recovery down low. He’s a great guy in the corners, gave it to me in the slot and I just fired it on the net and hoped for the best and luckily it went in.”
DeGrazia was given a one-on-one chance to even the score late in the period, awarded a penalty shot after being hauled down by Tisdale’s Blake Samida.
“The nerves were definitely getting to me. I tried to slip it five-hole, but it just didn’t go,” DeGrazia said.
The Kings kept up the pressure throughout the third, but were unable to connect on the equalizer, Jayden Wiens putting it away with an empty netter in the final minute of regulation.
Tisdale coach Darrell Mann said it was a great way to rebound after a 6-0 loss to open the TELUS Cup against the Magog Cantonniers.
“I thought we had a really good start. We got a couple of goals in the first period, but full marks to (Thunder Bay). They battled hard in the second and turned the tides a little bit,” Mann said.
Thunder Bay takes on Toronto on Wednesday night while Tisdale will try their luck against Halifax.
Scoring: 1. Tisdale, Carson 1 (Vranai, Wiens) 15:26. 2. Tisdale, Vranai 1 (Hayes, Carson) 17:19 pp. Penalties: Aegard TB (hit to head, double minor) 3:12, Cataldo TB (boarding) 8:49, Goodman TB (cross checking) 16:42, Rutten TIS (hit to head) 17:36.
Scoring: 3. Thunder Bay, Hannula 1 (Bazaluk) 13:58. Penalties: Kosior TIS (cross checking) 3:55, Ukrainetz TIS (hit to head) 19:05, Veneruzzo TB (slashing) 19:47.
Scoring: 4. Thunder Bay, DeGrazia (Campbell, Biniaris) 0:32. 5. Tisdale, Curtis (Ukrainetz) 1:34. 6. Tisdale, Wiens (Carson) 19:36 en. Penalties: Ashe TIS (tripping) 0:20.
GAME DATA – SOG – Tisdale 18-6-8-32, Thunder Bay 3-12-11-26; Power plays (goals-chances) – Tisdale (1-4), Thunder Bay (0-3); Goaltenders – Tisdale: Tanner Martin, Thunder Bay: Eric Vanska; A: 1,500 (estimated).