THUNDER BAY – No one takes the Fort – not that often anyway.
Certainly not on Friday night.
The Thunder Bay North Stars, playing on home ice for the first time this season, where they won 21 of 27 games last season, scored early and often and picked up their first win in three games to start the 2020-21 Superior International Junior Hockey League campaign, overpowering the visiting Kam River Fighting Walleye 7-3.
Getting back into Fort William Gardens, after six games at Kam River's much smaller Norwest Arena, was a good way to turn things around, said North Stars forward Leeam Tivers, who scored twice in the opening period to stake the Stars to a 3-0 lead, especially after an 0-2-0 start on the road.
“I know it's helping the guys a lot being back on familiar turf,” Tivers said.
The second-year forward, who scored just once in 20 games with the North Stars last season, opened the scoring 91 seconds in, pouncing on a Matthew Halushak shot from the point and slamming it past Austin Madge in the Fighting Walleye net.
It was a case of being in the right place at the right time, he said.
“It was just going to the net hard and tracking the puck. I had a couple of teammates there as well and it just popped out and I was able to find the back of the net,” Tivers said.
He's a jack-of-all trades, said coach Rob DeGagne.
“He's a big man and he can skate. He came in great shape into camp and he wants to be a leader. He's a character guy ... He played very well tonight and he's played well for us all season. We're going to rely on him heavily,” DeGagne said.
The 20-year-old had his hat trick goal taken away early in the second when the on-ice officials ruled the net was off, following a short deliberation.
By then the Stars had more than enough on the score sheet, especially with Seth McKay, filling in for injured starter Jordan Smith, standing tall at the other end of the ice.
McKay stopped all but three of the 47 shots he faced, Alex Enegren and Christian Veneruzzo scoring back-to-back goals on a lengthy two-man Fighting Walleye advantage late in the third. Calvin Morrow buried a quick shot from the slot with 2:53 to go to wrap up the scoring in a 25-shot third.
“We kind of left Seth hung out to dry there in the third period,” said Thunder Bay coach Rob DeGagne. ”We kind of stopped playing when we got up five or six goals.”
Riley Cardinal scored Thunder Bay's second goal with 1:55 to go in the first, firing a quick shot from between the circles. Tivers added to the lead with 25 seconds left in the period, cutting in front of Madge and lifting over the Kam River netminder.
Michael Vecchio and Dawson Lamppi each scored for the Stars in the second and Thunder Bay took a 6-0 lead 1:26 into the third, Jett Leishman scoring a shorthanded goal. Jacob Anntonen ended the Fighting Walleye comeback bid with five to play, netting a power-play marker to make it 7-2.
The Stars killed a pair of two-man disadvantages, including a 1:55 penalty kill to start the second. There were 17 power plays combined between the two teams.
Star gazing: The win clinched the Teleco Cup for the North Stars. The two teams were playing for the first-year trophy, having initially scheduled an eight-game exhibition series before the decision was made to start the regular season on Nov. 27. Thunder Bay has won five of the seven games. The first four games were worth a point apiece.
Scoring: 1. Thunder Bay, Tivers 1 (Halushak) 1:31. 2. Thunder Bay, R. Cardinal 1 (Foreshew, Halushak) 18:05 pp. 3. Thunder Bay, Tivers 2 (Foreshew, Tibishkogijig) 19:35. Penalties: A. Cardinal TB (cross checking) 2:27, Halushak TB (tripping) 6:46, Resch KR (body checking) 7:37, Morrow KR (slashing) 17:11, A. Cardinal TB (cross checking) 19:55, Sangha TB (hooking) 20:00.
Scoring: 4. Thunder Bay, Vecchio 1 (A. Cardinal, R. Cardinal) 5:35. 5. Thunder Bay, Lamppi 1 (Hall Minuz) 10:44. Penalties: Resch KR (slashing) 6:46, Tibishkogijig TB (interference) 11:31, Halcrow KR (slashing) 13:01, Tyska KR (tripping) 13:09, Fortier KR (slashing) 17:51, Forshew TB (high sticking) 19:55.
Scoring: 6. Thunder Bay, Leishman 1 (unassisted) 1:26. 7. Kam River, Enegren 2 (Veneruzzo, Lang) 13:35 pp. 8. Kam River, Veneruzzo 1 (Lang, Enegren) 14:11. 9. Thunder Bay, Anttonen 2 (Campbell, Sangha) 15:07 pp. 10. Kam River, Morrow 1 (Gorst, Morriseau) 17:07. Penalties: A. Cardinal TB (tripping) 3:30, Halushak TB (holding) 7:51, Thomas KR (slashing, unsportsmanlike conduct), Foreshew TB (roughing) 8:31, Goodman KR (cross checking) 9:58, Lampi TB (high sticking), Hall TB (body checking) 12:14, Halcrow KR (tripping) 14:14.
SOG – Kam River 10-12-25-47, Thunder Bay 14-16-12-42; Power plays (goals-chances) – Kam River (2-8), Thunder Bay (2-9); Goaltenders: Kam River: Austin Madge, Thunder Bay: Seth McKay; A: 50.