THUNDER BAY – Ryan Mignault went west last year to seek his hockey fame and fortune.
It didn’t work out as planned.
Now 19, the Red Rock, Ont.-born centre rattled around the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League last season, scoring five goals in 39 games split between three teams.
When he went scoreless in his first 10 games of 2017-18 with the Melville Millionaires, it was time for a change.
Acquired this week for future considerations, Mignault made his Thunder Bay North Stars debut on Friday night at Fort William Gardens.
He quickly made his presence known.
Mignault set up Brendan Gillis’ opening goal with a pinpoint pass across the Minnesota Iron Rangers net midway through the first, then gave the Stars breathing room in the third, collecting his first Superior International Junior Hockey League tally in his debut.
Not a bad way to make an entrance.
“It feels great. I got on the ice three times with the team before, so I was feeling pretty comfortable with the guys and worked up a bit of chemistry. It paid off the first game, for sure,” Mignault said.
It’s just the type of production North Stars first-year coach Rob DeGagne was hoping to get from a player he was familiar with already, having coached him previously with the Thunder Bay Kings.
“Ryan’s a smart kid,” DeGagne said. “He sees the game very well. He works hard and is defensively responsible. I coached him when he was younger and I know what I’m getting. He puts a good effort in every night.
“He didn’t have as much success as I think he thought he would out west. Maybe he just needs a little bit more playing time to get him going and we’ll see where it takes him.”
Forward Dillon Ward, who netted a pair on Iron Rangers goaltender Trevor Thompson, said he liked what he saw from Mignault in his debut.
“He’s definitely a big addition to our team. I think he’s got a lot of experience and it’s good to get him out there. Definitely on the power play, where we’ve kind of been struggling lately,” said Ward, whose first goal at 7:35 of the second gave the North Stars a 3-0 lead at the time.
Troy Sherman had made it 2-0 late in the first, scoring with two Iron Rangers in the box.
The Iron Rangers (1-9-2) fought back in the second, Branden Woodward and Clayton Brown scoring 3:34 apart on Thunder Bay goaltender Brandon Bodnar.
“We kind of fell asleep there for seven minutes in the second,” DeGagne said.
After Mignault doubled the North Stars lead at the 10:43 mark of the third, Ward fired one into an empty net, Keighan Gerrie adding one more in the final minute of play, his team-leading seventh.
The Iron Rangers and North Stars will try it again on Saturday night.
Scoring: 1. Thunder Bay, Gillis 4 (J. Newhouse, Thrower) 11:10. 2. Thunder Bay, Sherman 5 (Gillis, Thrower) 17:35 pp. Penalties: J. Newhouse TB (interference) 2:58, Montague MIN (high sticking) 15:53, Brown MIN (high sticking) 16:58, Hayes TB, Gerrie TB (roughing) 19:18.
Scoring: 3. Thunder Bay, Ward 5 (Roitelman, Belisle) 7:35. 4. Minnesota, Woodward 2 (Emery) 13:07 pp. 5. Minnesota, Brown 3 (Kinsman) 16:41. Penalties: Emery MIN (hooking) 0:41, Belisle TB (high sticking) 8:04, Bench minor TB (too many men, served by McKay) 11:29, Roitelman TB (roughing) 19:59.
Scoring: 6. Thunder Bay, Mignault 1 (Flett) 10:43. 7. Thunder Bay, Ward 6 (Belisle) 18:20 en. 8. Thunder Bay, Gerrie 7 (unassisted) 19:21. Penalties: Butler MIN (tripping) 1:13, Bjorgo MIN (interference) 5:44, Belisle TB (tripping) 8:32, Roitelman (hooking) 12:32.
GAME DATA – SOG – Minnesota 8-11-15-34, Thunder Bay 10-16-12-38; Power plays (goals-chances) – Minnesota (1-6), Thunder Bay (1-5); Goaltenders – Minnesota: Tyler Thompson, Thunder Bay: Brandon Bodnar; A:188.