THUNDER BAY – Over the past three seasons, Lou Versperini scored just seven goals.
He's already got three in four games with the Thunder Bay North Stars, his eighth team in four years, including a pair in Saturday night's home-ice, 5-1 win over the visiting Wisconsin Lumberjacks, completing a weekend sweep and earning the Superior International Junior Hockey League squad its seventh straight victory.
The Montreal native, who patterns his game after Canadiens forward Josh Anderson, was a bit of an unknown entity when he arrived with the North Stars, but he's quickly showing that sometimes a little blind faith can be a good thing.
Getting back into the goal-scoring swing of things is a confidence boost, the 20-year-old Vesperini said.
“Definitely, I'm happy with that,” he said, the weekend extra special with his parents in the stands at Fort William Gardens.
“I struggled a little last year with it. But I worked a lot this summer on it and it paid off. Hopefully it's going to stay like that this year. Of course I had the help of my teammates a lot – great passes great rushes. I played with a real good player, (Hunter) Foreshew this weekend. It was definitely an amazing weekend.”
After scoring on the power play early in the middle period, Versperini's second goal of the night was was largely inspired by Foreshew's hard work. He fought off a pair of Lumberjacks defenders and fired a shot at Wisconsin goaltender Tyler Swanson. Vesperini picked up the rebound, circled behind the net and slammed it home on the backhand, the Stars lead growing to 4-0 with 5:40 to go in the second.
North Stars coach Rob DeGagne said he didn't know what he was getting in Vesperini, but said so far, so good.
“He's looked great out there. He's a great skater. He's a good character kid in our dressing room who's played very well for us. He's fast,” DeGagne said. “One thing about him, he's 20. He has to dominate a little bit because that's a 20-year-old (spot). If you can't do it when you're 20, then do we really need you? He knows that.”
If Vesperini wasn't the game's No. 1 star, the honour would had to have gone to goaltender Conner Lemieux. The first-year Star held strong in the first, when the Lumberjacks started firing pucks at the Thunder Bay net, out-shooting them 19-10 at one point.
He held steady long enough for the North Stars offence to get going, making 38 stops in total.
Dawson (Light The) Lampi broke the goose egg at the 15:16 mark, taking a cross-ice pass from Noah Francis, one of four affiliate players called up to bolster a North Stars roster reduced to three lines the night before.
Dimitri Trahiotis doubled the lead on the power play with 49 seconds to go in the period, Drew Caddo firing the puck off the end boards. Trahiotis pounced on the rebound, catching Swanson looking the other direction.
Jack Michaealis scored Thunder Bay's final goal of the night late in the second, going in alone on the Wisconsin net and out-maneuvering the Lumberjacks goaltender.
Jake Smith broke Lemieux's shutout bid early in the third, a breakdown in the North Stars zone leaving him free and clear.
Red Lake 3, Kam River 2 (OT): Lucas Piekarczyk scored 35 seconds into overtime to earn the Miners a weekend sweep on home ice. Jeremy Dunmore scored with 12 seconds to go in regulation for the Fighting Walleye to send the game to an extra frame. Alim Darmenov and Carter Albrecht had Red Lake's other goals. Owen Lancaster also scored for Kam River.
Scoring: 1. Thunder Bay, Lampi 2 (Giguere, Michaels) 15:16. 2. Thunder Bay, Trahiotis 5 (Caddo, Ditrich) 19:11. Penalties: Michaels TB (interference) 9:35, Comstock WIS (holding) 17:24 pp.
Scoring: 3. Thunder Bay, Vesperini 2 (Sangha, Foreshew) 5:39 pp. 4. Thunder Bay, Vesperini 3 (Foreshew, Belluz) 14:20. 5. Thunder Bay, Michaels (Sangha) 18:51. Penalties: Trahiotis TB (slashing) 0:49, McCall WIS (slashing) 4:37, Meloche TB (roughing) 10:32, Poggiali WIS (interference) 10:49,
Scoring: 6. Wisconsin, Smith (Rezac, McCall) 4:06. Penalties: Hacker WIS (interference) 0:28, Hacker WIS (cross checking) 7:20, Comstock WIS (interference) 13:21. Falkowski WIS (high sticking) 17:40.
GAME DATA – SOG – Wisconsin 19-10-10-39, Thunder Bay 16-17-12-45; Power plays (goals-chances) – Wisconsin (0-3), Thunder Bay (2-7); Goaltenders – Wisconsin: Tyler Swanson, Thunder Bay: Conner Lemieux; A: 406.