THUNDER BAY – Eight wins in a row was a little too much to ask of the Thunder Bay North Stars on Friday night.
The Superior International Junior Hockey League front-runners out-shot the visiting Wisconsin Lumberjacks by a hefty margin, but were unable to solve the brilliant goaltending of Kyler Lowden, who made 38 stops to end the North Stars winning streak at seven.
Salvatore Poggiali and Caden Sutter led the way offensively for the Lumberjacks, a team that scored just once in being swept at Fort William Gardens last weekend, the duo accounting for a pair of first-period goals that set the Stars on their heels early on in the contest.
It's all the Lumberjacks (3-3-1)needed in the 2-0 victory.
It was a disappointing way to end the winning streak, but sometimes a hot goaltender comes along.
Lowden was just that goaltender
He showed early on he was going to be a tough foe, stopping Thunder Bay captain Hunter Foreshew from point-blank range in the opening two minutes, robbing him again later in the first with a huge pad save.
“My D, my forwards, they helped me out a lot tonight. They were taking away lanes, they were letting me see the puck, they were having my back. It was a team effort tonight. Obviously I have to do my part, but I couldn't have done it without them,” Lowden said.
Wisconsin coach Doug Lein said Lowden had a couple rough starts earlier in the young SIJHL season, but showed what he's capable of in stopping the Stars.
“I thought tonight was a night where it probably would have been a good spot for him and he comes in and responds and kind of gets his mind cleared, resets, manages and comes out and puts up what I think probably will end up being as good a showing over the course of the season that you're going to find in our league,” Lein said.
North Stars coach Rob DeGagne said all good things must come to an end. Unlike last weekend, when the Lumberjacks were plagued with a short bench due to vaccination statuses for some players, their bench was lined with players on Friday night.
It made a difference.
“Do I think we played bad? No, I don't think we played a bad game. Their goalie played very well. When you win seven games, you get some breaks. You get a bounce here, a bounce there. We didn't get any breaks tonight,” DeGagne said.
Lein might disagree slightly, saying the score could have been a lot more lopsided had one of several Wisconsin shots that rang off the iron gone in instead.
“But they got a couple of good opportunities and they capitalized and they scored,” DeGagne said. “It's hockey. We're not going to go 52-2. It's a good close league, the teams are good and they just came out on the winning end of it tonight.”
DeGagne, in search of goals, pulled rookie goaltender Trennis Riley, making his first start for the Stars (7-2-0), with three minutes to go in regulation, but it was the Lumberjacks that capitalized, Jack Eckholm scoring while seated, having been hauled down on his way to the empty net.
Kam River 5, Dryden 2: Alex Enegren had a goal and two assists to pace the Fighting Walleye (2-1-1) to the victory.
Scoring: 1. Wisconsin, Poggiali 1 (McCall, Juppi). 2. Wisconsin, Sutter 1 (Rezac) 16:24. Penalties: Michaelis TB (boarding) 8:57.
Scoring: None. Penalties: Kuzenko TB (roughing) 7:29, Rezac WIS (interference) 11:08.
Scoring: Wisconsin, Eckholm (unassisted) 18:47 en. Penalties: Bertrand TB (cross checking) 2:42, Bench minor WIS (too many men on the ice, served by Rezac) 5:00.
GAME DATA – SOG – Wisconsin 14-6-10-30; Thunder Bay 15-14-10-38; Power plays (goals-chances) – Wisconsin (0-3), Thunder Bay (0-2); Goaltenders – Wisconsin: Kyler Lowden, Thunder Bay: Trennis Riley; A: 300.