THUNDER BAY – Keighan Gerrie was the overtime hero as the Thunder Bay North Stars found their way back into the win column on Wednesday night to snap a three-game losing skid.
The 16-year-old rookie, the youngest player in the North Stars lineup, took possession of the puck in the corner deep inside enemy territory and made a beeline for the net, out-waiting Fort Frances Lakers goalie Rob Ivy to secure the 4-3 triumph, 44 seconds into the extra frame.
It’s a big win for the Stars, back in the friendly Fort William Gardens confines, a team still trying to find its identity, Gerrie said.
“We had a tough week. We went 0-3 with a tough loss to the Minnesota Iron Rangers, but we bounced back well and we’ll go from here,” said Gerrie, who scored for a second straight outing after failing to light the lamp in his first four contests.
North Stars coach Rob DeGagne said Gerrie might be young, but he plays like a veteran, which is why he didn’t hesitate to let him start the three-on-three overtime period.
“Keighan is gifted offensively. He’s a game-changer and he’s got great vision. In three-on-three, if you give him the puck and he can wheel, he’ll sometimes make you look silly. He’s got a lot of talent for a 16-year-old kid,” DeGagne said.
“He’s four or five years younger than a lot of these kids out here, but he sure hasn’t played that way. He’s sure played well for us most of the season.”
It’s a game the North Stars could have run away with had their shooting been a tad more accurate. Troy Sherman hit a pair of posts in the first, Brad Thrower and Joe Newhouse following suit in the second.
Sherman did manage to get one, his team-leading fourth, at the 14:13 mark of the opening period, finishing a give-and-go play with newcomer Mackenzie Flett, burying the puck behind Ivy. The Lakers tied things up eight minutes into the second, Cameron Birkeland firing a low shot that surprised Brandon Bodnar, who spent the past two seasons in Fort Frances.
Two minutes later Cameron Chorney potted the go-ahead goal, ripping a wrist shot from the slot that Bodnar had no chance to catch up with.
The Stars didn’t stay down for long.
Brendan Gillis buried a rebound to knot the game at two goals apiece with 3:26 to go in the second, then 73 seconds later Avery Siau took a drop pass from Gerrie and slammed home a wrist shot, the Stars taking a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.
“Those are the guys we need scoring goals,” DeGagne said. “They’re the older guys and the guys that are supposed to be leading the team. They’ve done a decent job for the most part, but there are times out there defensively when they don’t do their jobs, so I think sometimes they feel like they owe us a little bit too.”
The Lakers found even ground 57 seconds into the third, Ian Tookenay pounding home the equalizer that ultimately sent the game to OT.
Lakers coach Wayne Strachan said his team probably deserved a little better fate in the second.
“But we scored that second goal and we quit doing what we were doing. We quit pressuring the puck like we were and causing the turnovers because of that,” Strachan said.
The North Stars host Dryden on Friday and Saturday night.
Scoring: 1. Thunder Bay, Sherman 4 (Flett, Corness) 14:13. Penalties: Gustafson FF (roughing) 19:15, Gillis TB (slashing) 19:39.
Scoring: 2. Fort Frances, Birkeland 2 (Gustafson, Jarvis) 8:27. 3. Fort Frances, Chorney 1 (Lentz, Wilkie) 10:36. 4. Thunder Bay, Gillis 2 (Thrower, Roitelman) 16:34. 5. Thunder Bay, Siau 3 (Gerrie, Maticic) 17:47. Penalties: None.
Scoring: 6. Fort Frances, Tookenay (Wilkie, Lucas) 0:57. Penalties: Lentz FF (holding) 4:59, Roitelman TB (tripping) 11:13.
Scoring: 7. Thunder Bay, Gerrie 2 (Newhouse, Siau) 0:44. Penalties: None.
GAME DATA – SOG – Fort Frances 10-14-6-0-30, Thunder Bay 14-12-5-1-32; Power plays (goals-chances) – Fort Frances (0-2), Thunder Bay (0-2); Goaltenders – Fort Frances: Rob Ivy, Thunder Bay: Brandon Bodnar; A: 210.