THUNDER BAY – Jonathan Kilby said the wake-up came Saturday night, after the Red Lake Miners scored their sixth goal of the game and the Fort William Gardens crowd began to file out of the aging rink and into the night.
Falling 6-1 in the Bill Salonen Cup opener was troubling, said Kilby, a player who has fought tooth and nail to stay in the Thunder Bay North Stars lineup as the Superior International Junior Hockey League team works its way deeper and deeper into the post-season.
“That was embarrassing to us,” said Kilby, who scored his first of the playoffs in Sunday’s Game 2 rematch, putting his team in front 4-1 on the power play early in the third, en route to a series-tying 5-2 triumph in front of 1,016 fans.
“This is our home barn, so we decided to come together as a team and that’s how we’re going to win.”
It’s a whole new series now, he added, the Stars stopping a rare three-game slide against the Miners on home ice.
“They’re a good team. They battle hard, but now we have that confidence. We’re in full motion. We’re not going stop, we’re going to keep going, get those wins and hopefully bring a championship home,” said the 17-year-old Kilby, who scored 12 times in 37 games in his rookie season with the Stars.
Jacob Brown, who scored a pair of goals for Thunder Bay, said the team couldn't afford another loss that would have put them in a deep 2-0 hole against the second-place Miners.
“We came out with great intensity and it showed throughout the game as we had the lead,” said Brown, who picked up the puck in the corner, made a beeline for the front of the Red Lake net and ripped a wrist shot past goaltender Zach Willms with five minutes to go in the first to open the scoring.
The Miners tied things up in the first minute of the second, Matt Krawiec’s quick shot fooling Aiken, who only saw 22 shots the entire night.
But six minutes later Thunder Bay took the lead for good, Michael Stubbs cutting through the slot and beating Willms with another wrist shot. Brown added his second of the night at 13:58 of the second and the home side took a 3-1 lead into the break.
Kilby added to the lead early in the third, but Red Lake’s Ryan Patterson got it back 77 seconds later, keeping the score in reach.
However, Keighan Gerrie stretched the North Stars lead to three again, just past the midway point of the final stanza, scoring Thunder Bay’s second power-play tally of the night.
“We were resilient tonight. I thought we threw a lot of pucks at the net and we got to the net and used our skill a little bit more tonight. We played much better than we did last night,” said North Stars coach Rob DeGagne.
“I think we played with the intensity we needed to play a playoff game.”
Red Lake coach Derek Sweet-Coulter said it’s about what he expected from the North Stars, the No. 2 team in the Canadian Junior Hockey League.
“They showed a lot more urgency,” he said. “They played like a desperate team today.”
But despite the loss, Sweet-Coulter said he likes his team’s chances.
“This one’s going to burn a bit with the guys, but at the same time our goal was to come in here and get a split and we did that. We take control of the series with that split and we get home-ice advantage now,” Sweet-Coulter said.
Things got physical in the third, a dust-up resulting in the ejection of Shay Sommerfeld for instigating a fight with Thunder Bay’s Kyle Auger, who wasn’t penalized on the play. A little shoving and punching ensued before play resumed.
Game 3 goes Wednesday night in Red Lake.
Scoring: 1. Thunder Bay, Brown (Mignault) 14:44. Penalties: A. Erwin TB (interference) 2:27, Evans RLM (roughing) 5:14, Halushak TB (high sticking), Krawiec RLM (cross checking) 12:52.
Scoring: 2. Red Lake, Krawiec (Evans) 0:37. 3. Thunder Bay, Stubbs 1 (Willan, Mrakic) 6:53. 4. Thunder Bay, Brown (Auger) 13:58. Penalties: Willan TB (roughing) 4:46, Nicholas TB (tripping) 7:47, Uzelman RLM (slashing), served by Patterson) 8:31, Brown TB (slashing) 9:33, Stephens RLM (tripping) 16:09, Nicholas TB (cross checking) 17:41.
Scoring: 5. Thunder Bay, Kilby 1 (Mignault, Brown) 2:27 pp. 6. Red Lake, Patterson 1 (Bohnet, Stuckless) 3:44. Thunder Bay, Gerrie (Auger) 10:43. Penalties: Bohnet RLM (roughing) 1:28, Evans RLM, Anttonen TB (unsportsmanlike conduct) 5:22, Young RLM (slashing) 5:54, Sommerfeld RLM (instigating, fighting major, game misconduct), Willan TB (roughing) 5:59, Venne RLM (slashing) 9:52, Jacobs RLM (slashing) Anttonen TB, Venne RLM (unsportsmanlike conduct) 19:32.
GAME DATA – SOG – Red Lake 8-10-4-22, Thunder Bay 21-16-19-56; Power plays (goals-chances) – Red Lake (0-4), Thunder Bay (2-6); Goaltenders – Red Lake: Zach Willms, Thunder Bay: Brock Aiken; A: 1,016.