THUNDER BAY – Cody Bruchkowski’s got an eye for the net.
Give him enough chances, and he’ll burn just about anyone in the opposition net. His latest victim was Fort France Lakers goaltender Dean Buchholz.
Bruchowski, who leads the Superior International Junior Hockey League in goals, added two more on Friday night, the tallies proving to be the difference-makers in the Thunder Bay North Stars 4-2 triumph.
The 20-year-old scored the winner with 2:27 to go in regulation, ripping a high wrist shot past Buchholz from the left face-off circle. Then, with 57.1 seconds left on the clock, Bruchkowski iced it with his 27th of the season, taking a long feed from defenceman Logan Mihalcin and beating Buccholz glove-side on a breakaway.
“Coming into the third period intermission, the coach came in and said we played a pretty good first 40 minutes, but said, ‘We’re tied up, we need to find a way to win.’ So he said he needs the big boys to do their job, so fortunately enough, we took care of that,” said Bruchkowski, the only player in the SIJHL to top 20 goals so far this season.
It’s just what coach Rob DeGagne has come to expect from his star forward, acquired early in the season from the Brockville Braves, a team Bruchkowski scored five goals for in six appearances before being dealt.
“He’s got a great release and finds a way to put them in. Give him a little bit of time and he can get it done.”
It was a back and forth battle all night long at Fort William Gardens.
Twice the Stars took the lead and twice the Lakers fought back to tie things up.
Thunder Bay forward Nikolas Campbell, fresh off an invite to Team West’s World Junior A Challenge training camp, broke open a scoreless tie nine minutes into the first, taking a cross-ice feed from Joel Willan and depositing it into the Fort Frances net.
“Willan just made a beautiful feed to me back-door and I just tapped her in. A lot of credit to him,” said the rookie Campbell, who hit double digits with his 10th of the season.
Matty Harrold, who played for two teams this season in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League before landing in Fort Frances, evened the score with 4:10 to go in the first, his third of the year coming moments after Thunder Bay had a goal disallowed after it was kicked into the Lakers net.
Kyler Belluz gave the Stars the lead again 85 seconds into the middle stanza, but Cooper Witherspoon tied it up again at the 17:23 mark, leaving the two teams tied 2-2 after 40 minutes.
The North Stars had a new face in goal to being the third, starter Seth McKay pulling himself after injuring his ankle earlier in the contest. He allowed two goals on 26 shots before giving way to Jordan Smith, who was barely tested in the third, Thunder Bay outshooting their opponent 20-3 the rest of the way.
The Stars (18-7-2) and Lakers (11-13-1) will wrap up their weekend set on Saturday night. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Scoring: 1. Thunder Bay, Campbell 10 (Willan, Foreshew) 8:55. 2. Fort Frances, Harrold 3 (Binguis) 15:50. Penalties: Nicholas TB (holding) 5:16.
Scoring: 3. Thunder Bay, Belluz 2 (Foreshew, Campbell) 1:25. 4. Fort Frances, Witherspoon (Hopfner, Bailey) 17:23. Penalties: Binguis FF (slashing) 7:16.
Scoring: 5. Thunder Bay, Bruchkowski 26 (Brown) 17:33. 6. Thunder Bay, Bruchkowski 27 (Mihalcin) 19:02 pp. Penalties: Brown TB (tripping) 3:34, Thunderchief FF (hooking) 11:23, Hopfner FF (high sticking) 17:44.
GAME DATA – SOG – Fort Frances 16-10-3-29, Thunder Bay 17-17-20-54; Power plays (goals-chances) – Fort Frances (0-2), Thunder Bay (1-3); Goaltenders – Fort Frances: Dean Buchholz, Thunder Bay: Seth McKay (26 shots, 24 saves), Jordan Smith (0:00, third); A: 300.