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North Stars strike first to open SIJHL playoffs

Magnus Pearson scored twice to lead Thunder Bay to a 4-1, Game 1 victory at home on Thursday night.

THUNDER BAY – It's been a while since Magnus Pearson last scored. 

The Thunder Bay North Stars forward last lit the lamp on Jan. 25 and hadn't put up multiple tallies in a game since Sept. 14, the first game of the 2022-23 campaign. 

That's all behind him now. 

The 18-year-old Flin Flon, Man. native scored twice in a 10-minute span in the first period on Thursday night, propelling the North Stars to a 4-1 win over the visiting Red Lake Miners in Game 1 of their best-of-seven Superior International Junior Hockey League quarterfinal match. 

Nikolas Campbell also scored in the first for Thunder Bay, his goal sandwiched between Pearson's. 

"It was great, a good effort by everybody and I'm just glad the boys could win the first game of the playoffs," said Pearson, who finished the regular season with six goals and eight assists in 46 games, also spending time with the Junior B Thunder Bay Northern Hawks. 

"It means everything. These guys are on their heels now. We've just got to step on their throat." 

The North Stars did claim victory six time in seven meetings this season between the two teams, but the Miners managed to bounce back somewhat after their sloppy start, cutting the Thunder Bay lead to 3-1 late in the second when Quintyn Sidaway fired a shot off the crossbar and past Thunder Bay goaltender Conner Lemieux, the goal coming on the power play with 5:41 to go in the middle stanza. 

"We thought we needed a good start," said North Stars coach Rob DeGagne. "We hadn't played in a couple of weeks, and neither had they, really. You don't know what to expect for the first period and they just got off a bus after six hours. We did get a good start, we got a few breaks and some bounces went our way and all of a sudden (we) were up by three. It's hard to come back from three." 

It only took the Stars three minutes to put the puck past Red Lake goaltender Jack Orchard, Pearson grabbing a rebound with a wide-open net to shoot at. 

Campbell doubled the Thunder Bay lead 2:09 later, grabbing a loose puck at his feet and shovelling it into the Red Lake net for a 2-0 Thunder Bay advantage. After Pearson made it 3-0 at the 13:15 mark of the first, the offense dried up. 

That's a bit concerning, DeGagne said. 

"For the most part we played a pretty good game. But we could play better," he said. "For not playing for a couple of weeks, it's not too bad." 

Thunder Bay's Edison Weeks had a chance to restore the three-goal lead late in the second, but rang the puck off the crossbar and the North Stars took a 3-1 lead into the third. 

It was Mason Wesley, who only suited up for 27 games this season because of injury, and only scored once in that span, who ultimately gave the North Stars their three-goal lead back, completing a 2-on-1 at 12:47 of the third. Red Lake's Jonah DesRosiers grazed the post with 1:40 to go in regulation, but the Miners, the second-lowest scoring team in the seven-team circuit, were unable to beat Lemieux a second time. 

Lemieux stopped 37 of 38 shots directed his way, while Osmond was good on 43 of 47. 

The two teams will try it again on Friday night in Game 2 at the Gardens. Puck drop is 7:30 p.m. 

Dryden 7, Fort Frances 4: Ben Hackl had a goal and two assists to lead the Ice Dogs to a Game 1 win over the Lakers, who trailed 6-1 after two periods, but scored three times in the third to keep it interesting. 

: 1. Thunder Bay, Pearson 1 (Paddington, Skillestad) 3:00, 2. Thunder Bay, Campbell 1 (Halushak, Skillestad) 5:09. 3. Thunder Bay, Pearson 2 (Paddington, Glousher) 13:15. Penalties: Halushak TB (cross checking) 16:33.

: 4. Red Lake, Sidaway (Mowat, MacPherson) 14:19 pp. Penalties: Mcintosh RLM, Feist TB (roughing) 11:19, Fuchs TB (roughing) 12:43.

: 5. Thunder Bay, Wesley 1 (Desjardins, Anton) 12:47. Penalties: DeCorby RLM (slashing) 1:17, Pileggi RLM (interference) 17:21.

GAME DATASOG – Red Lake 9-17-12-38, Thunder Bay 15-19-13-47; Power plays (goals-chances) – Red Lake (1-2), Thunder Bay (0-2); Goaltenders – Red Lake: Jack Osmond, Thunder Bay: Conner Lemieux; A: 570.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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