THUNDER BAY -- Being back on home ice agrees with the Thunder Bay North Stars.
The Superior International Junior Hockey League club got off to a bit of a slow start on Saturday, surrendering the game's first goal, but poured it on from there and went on to down the visiting Thief River Falls Norskies 6-2 in front of 185 fans at Fort William Gardens.
Nolan Desjardins had a goal and and an assist to help pace the North Stars attack, earning the club its second straight triumph and maintaining its two-point hold on second place, albeit having played more games against the teams chasing them from behind.
"I think we played really hard. We had some really good games last weekend against Kam River, but I'm glad we got the four points this weekend. It was pretty big for us after those tight games," said the Thunder Bay Kings product, who spent last season with the Thunder Bay Falcons of the Lakehead Junior Hockey League, picking up five points in two appearances.
This season the 18-year-old has continued his scoring ways, with eight goals and 17 points in 17 appearances.
He's not willing to take too much credit.
"I think I played pretty good out there, but my teammates they helped me out a lot out there. They give the puck and I just put it away," said Desjardins, who picked up multiple points for the sixth time in his rookie season.
With the Christmas break fast approaching, not to mention a two-week break in their schedule, it's important to keep that winning mindset alive and well to ensure when they do hit the ice again, no bad habits form.
"I think we're just going to take a nice little break from that hard month we had out of town we just had and we're going to regroup and come back and I think we're going to come back better than ever," Desjardins said.
That's what coach Rob DeGagne is looking for moving forward.
His team got off to a hot start this season, but slid back some, playing 10 of 11 on the road, taking a loss in eight of them.
He liked what he saw this weekend.
"I think we played a little better last night than we did tonight. Our third period tonight we played really well. But you know what, it's a start. We've got to win some hockey games, we've got to win some hockey games at home. The guys are excited to play at home. We played one game in 40 or 50 days at home. I'm happy. We're making a few personnel changes and I think we're getting closer to where we want to be. We're not there yet," DeGagne said.
Scott Bugarin scored the lone goal of the first for Thief River Falls, the Norskies defenceman pounding home a rebound surrendered by Thunder Bay goaltender Jordan Smith.
Noah Broughton tied things up at 2:48 of the second and Desjardins put the Stars ahead for good at 13:03 of the middle stanza, the lead growing to two when Hayden Cattani stripped the puck and buried it past Matthew Loney, who made 48 saves on the night.
Alan Yu cut the North Stars lead to one on the power play, 76 seconds into the third, the puck taking a crazy bounce before winding up in the Thunder Bay net. But it was all they could manage. William Demkiw took a breakaway pass from Brad Fortier and made it 4-2, with Hunter Foreshew and Jack Michaelis rounding out the scoring with goals five minutes apart, the latter deposited into an empty net.
The North Stars (13-7-3) host Fort Frances on Dec. 17 and Dec. 18. With the loss, Thief River Falls fell to 3-12-0.
Red Lake 5, Fort Frances 2: Ryan Hunter had a goal and two assists to lead the Miners (12-3-2) to the win.
Scoring: 1. Thief River Falls, Bugarin 8 (Van Gurp, MacKay) 13:26 pp. Penalties: Davis TB (cross checking) 12:45, Desjardins TB (cross checking) 17:54, Davis TB (interference) 20:00.
Scoring: 2. Thunder Bay, Broughton 4 (Desjardins, Wesley) 2:48. 3. Thunder Bay, Desjardins 8 (Wesley) 13:03. 4. Thunder Bay, Cattani 2 (unassisted) 16:10. Penalties: Bellard TB (misconduct), Bertschinger TRF (unsportsmanlike conduct) 7:44, Regina TRF (cross checking), Wesley TB (slashing) 9:40, Glockner TRF, unsportsmanlike conduct, roughing), Vesperini TB (unsportsmanlike conduct), Young TB (unsportsmanlike conduct) 16:10. Kuzenko TB (interference) 19:54.
Scoring: 5. Thief River Falls, Yu 2 (Martin, Van Gurp) 1:16 pp. 6. Thunder Bay, Demkiw 6 (Fortier, Trahiotis) 8:43. 7. Thunder Bay, Foreshew (Weeks, Fortier) 11:35. 8. Thunder Bay, Michaelis 3 (unassisted) 16:43 en. Penalties: None.
GAME DATA – SOG – Thief River Falls 10-10-4-24, Thunder Bay 11-22-20-53; Power plays (goals-chances) – Thief River Falls (2-3), Thunder Bay (0-1); Goaltenders – Thief River Falls: Matthew Loney, Thunder Bay: Jordan Smith; A: 185.