THUNDER BAY – The Thunder Bay North Stars twice found themselves down a goal on Friday night, but battled back to win a chippy Game 2 over the visiting Red Lake Miners to take a commanding 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven SIJHL opening-round series.
Rookie E.J. Paddington was the third-period hero for the home side, potting the game-winning tally 19 seconds into the final frame to earn the Stars a 4-3 win, their second straight win to open the post-season.
“It’s definitely good that we got the win,” said Paddington, who scored 12 times in 47 games as a rookie, still eligible to play midget hockey.
“That’s what we wanted at the end of the day.”
Scoring the winner was a great confidence boost for the youngster, who turned 18 on Monday.
“Obviously I want to contribute as much as I can, to help us win, but everybody in there did their part,’ Paddington said.
“We can’t get a head of ourselves. We just have to keep playing how we’ve been playing and hopefully get the next two. If not, take it in five. We’ll see.
The first-year forward has been a pleasant surprise. Taken by the Soo Greyhounds with the second-last pick of the Ontario Hockey League priority selection draft in 2021, he’s found a niche with the North Stars in 2022-23.
“He’s scored some big goals for us this year as a rookie, a 2005 kid,” said Thunder Bay coach Rob DeGagne. “He did a good job. But we’ve got to be better, we’ve got to be smarter, at times on the ice. We found a way to win and good teams find a way to win.”
Each team led on two separate occasions, the Miners jumping in front twice in the first on goals by Quintyn Sidaway, the North Stars taking a 3-2 lead late in the first on Mason Wesley’s second goal in two nights and again in the third when Paddington bounced the puck past Red Lake goaltender Jack Osmond, a lead they’d never relinquish.
Going up 2-0 in the series and winning both at home gives the North Stars a huge advantage as the series shifts to Red Lake on Monday and Tuesday night, the defending champions looking to salvage a disappointing season that saw them finish fifth in the seven-team circuit.
“It means a lot. You’re supposed to win your games in here. They wanted to come in here and steal one from us. That was their goal and now we have to go in there and steal one, and maybe two and hopefully end the series in four or five.
Nikolas Campbell had the North Stars other goal, evening the score 1-1 at 6:16 of the first, the goal coming on the power play.
Conner Lemieux was good on 30 of 33 shots he faced on the night between the pipes for Thunder Bay, including Siddaway’s last-minute bid for a hat trick and the equalizer with Osmond, who stopped 28 of 32, on the bench for an extra attacker over the final 1:51 of the game.
The game was played in front of 625 fans at Fort William Gardens.
Scoring: 1. Red Lake, Sidaway 2 (Mowat, Veldman) 3;53 pp. 2. Thunder Bay, Campbell 2 (Feist, Winsor) 6:16 pp. 3. Red Lake, Sidaway 3 (unassisted) 13:14. 4. Thunder Bay, Wesley 2 (Weeks, Winsor) 17:20. 5. Thunder Bay, Feist 1 (Desjardins, Campbell) 18:11. Penalties: Voisey TB (high sticking double minor) 1:16, Bull RLM (slashing) 5:36, Pearson TB (interference) 14:27, Feist TB (misconduct) 18:13.
Scoring: 6. Red Lake, Valdman 1 (Shechtel, Woodard) 2:11. Penalties: McIntosh RLM (roughing), Unrau RLM (roughing), Campbell TB (roughing, misconduct) 10:17, Veldman RLM (holding), Desjardins TB (roughing) 14:53, Halushak TB (head contact major, game misconduct) 14:58, Crysler RLM (goaltender interference) 15:36.
Scoring: 7. Thunder Bay, Paddington 1 (Feist, Murdoch) 0:19. Penalties: Woodard RLM (cross checking) 8:50, Sidaway RLM (cross checking), DesRosiers RLM (misconduct) 13:45, Skillestad TB (interference), Feist TB (misconduct, game misconduct) 5:05.
GAME DATA – SOG – Red Lake 15-11-7-33, Thunder Bay 14-7-11-32; Power plays (goals-chances) – Red Lake (1-4), Thunder Bay (1-3); Goaltenders – Red Lake: Jack Osmond, Thunder Bay: Conner Lemieux; A: 625.