THUNDER BAY – The Thunder Bay North Stars have already proven they know how to win on the road.
A little home cooking works too.
The Superior International Junior Hockey League front-runners continued their early season roll on Friday night, riding a 22-save shutout performance from veteran goaltender Jordan Smith to capture their home opener 4-0 under the new scoreboard at Fort William Gardens.
It was the second career shutout for Smith, his first since the 2019-20 campaign, and the sixth straight win for the Stars, who dropped their opener on the road against the Kam River Fighting Walleye, but rolled off five in a row away from home to take over top spot in the standings.
“It's good to be back in the barn,” Smith said. “It was just good to get a win overall. It's our first game back. We've only been practising in here once.”
It helped his team kept the puck at bay for most of the night, allowing just four shots in the final stanza while limiting chances throughout the night.
“The boys were playing really good ... backing me up and I couldn't ask for more,” Smith said.
North Stars coach Rob DeGagne said Smith playing well in the early going, along with the stellar play of Connor Lemieux, gives the team an advantage in goal just about every night.
The veteran Smith went 15-6-3 in 2019-20,with a 3.17 goals against average and a .912 save percentage, and that kind of play is going to be needed night in and night out if the Stars are going to continue to lead the SIJHL pack.
“He played a great game. He made a big save, I think it was in the second period, when we threw the puck in front of our net and there was a guy standing all alone there. (Jordan) came across the net and he made an all-world save. He just looked so solid in there and looked like you were going to have a hard time beating him.
At the other end of the ice, the Stars showed plenty of depth, four different scorers lighting the lamp, the team playing its first game in six days since beating Fort Frances 3-2 on Oct. 2.
William Demkiw, captain Hunter Foreshew, rookie Dimitri Trahiotis and forward Lou Vesperini, while killing a penalty, scored for the Stars, who scored a pair in the first and two more in the second on Lumberjacks goaltender Charles Beehler.
It was the fourth goal for Trahiotis, a Burlington, Ont. native who played for the Vaughan Kings U18 squad in 2019-20. He added an assist on Demkiw's opening goal at 15:04 of the first, giving him nine points in seven appearances, the third most on the North Stars, behind Foreshew and blue-liner Raj Sangha.
He also extended his point streak to three games and has picked up points in six of seven appearances. His hard work in the off-season is clearly paying off.
“I was working through the summer on my skating, just trying to get back into it. When I got here it just kind of felt like I was fitting in and I was getting my chances in front. I was getting open, getting more passes on the tape and finishing up scoring,” Trahiotis said.
DeGagne said he likes what he's seen so far.
“He's not a big guy, but he knows how to score. He knows where to go,” DeGagne said. “He's been a pleasant surprise for us. And he had to play well tonight because his parents were here.”
Star gazing: The Lumberjacks have had the PCR tests needed to cross into Canada donated to them by the Mayo Clinic, saving the team tens of thousands of dollars ... The Stars debuted their new jerseys a tribute to the former Minnesota North Stars look, with a reverse look of the defunct California Golden Seals.
Red Lake 4, Kam River 2: Elliot Parker scored twice and Ryan Howe had a goal and two helpers to lead the Miners to a home-ice win. Kjell Osborne and Trenton Morriseau had the Fighting Walleye goals.
Scoring: 1. Thunder Bay, Demkiw 4 (Trahiotis, Kuzenko) 15:04. 2. Thunder Bay, Foreshew 4 (unassisted) 17:35. Penalties: None.
Scoring: 3. Thunder Bay, Trahiotis 4 (Belluz, Caddo) 7:39 pp. 4. Vesperini 1 (Caddo) 13:04 sh. Penalties: Vesperini TB (tripping) 2:42, Trahiotis TB (slashing) 3:44, Jouppi WIS (holding the stick) 5:39, Young (interference) 12:56.
Scoring: None. Penalties: None
GAME DATA - SOG – Wisconsin 10-8-4-22, Thunder Bay 10-15-11-36; Power plays (goals-chances) – Wisconsin (0-3), Thunder Bay (1-1); Goaltenders – Wisconsin: Charles Beehler, Thunder Bay: Jordan Smith; A: 512.