THUNDER BAY – It’s taken Avey Siau about six weeks to shake off the post-suspension rust.
On Friday night the veteran North Stars forward, who missed the first 18 games of the season while serving out his 25-game penalty, looked in midseason form.
Siau scored the equalizer, the only goal of the second period, the first of four straight goals the North Stars (24-2-2) would score en route to a come-from-behind 5-2 win over the visiting Thief River Falls Norskies (18-10-4) at Fort William Gardens, their third straight victory.
He also added an assist on Keighan Gerrie’s third-period game-winner, Thunder Bay scoring three times in a 2:31 span in the final stanza to break open a tightly fought 2-2 contest.
“This is my first game where I felt like I was contributing to my full ability,” said Siau, who has two goals and six points in nine appearances since returning to the lineup on Nov. 21.
North Stars coach Rob DeGagne, who shifted Siau to the top line alongside Gerrie and Joel Willan last Saturday after a Friday night loss in Red Lake, said the 20-year-old probably played his best game so far this season.
“Avery’s the kind of guy who can take over a game, sometimes put the team on his back when you need him. He got a big goal for us tonight to get us going. He played much more like the old Avery we know,” DeGagne said.
“We’ve got to be careful, because he’s a fiery guy. That’s the way he plays, he lives on the edge, but we’ve got to be careful he doesn’t go over the edge.”
Both coach and player said the line switch was an effort to recapture some of the magic Siau and Gerrie displayed last season.
“It’s good to be back with (Gerrie). Last year we had some chemistry and coach thought we should put us back together to see if he could get me going and he got me going tonight,” Siau said.
It was a calculated move, DeGagne said.
“He had a lot of success with Keighan last year. I don’t know if I’ll keep that line together, but we changed it in Red Lake for the second game … We thought that maybe with Keighan it might get him going a little bit.
“Has it been working exactly to plan so far, no? But we’ve got great depth and we’ve got great guys who aren’t even playing. Everyone’s going to have to work for their jobs.”
The North Stars, who out-shot the Norskies 47-37, also got goals from players other than the usual suspects.
While captain Ryan Mignault was held off the score sheet for just the second time in 14 games, it was depth players Robert Tyska, Evan Nicholas and Michael Stubbs who stepped up with goals, that latter pair scoring 64 seconds apart in the third to put the game away.
It’s a good sign, DeGagne said.
“Evan gets lots of chances and Evan brings lots of energy to his game all the time. He brings energy to our team. Is he a prolific goal-scorer? No, but he knows that, he knows his role on the team and he plays his role,” DeGagne said.
“A kid like Tyska, who sat out the past two games, got a nice goal for us tonight and played great for us.”
Mason McIntosh and Tate Steffan scored first-period goals for Thief River Falls, Tyska beating Bailey Smitz in between, the Norskies taking a 2-1 lead into the second.
North Stars goaltender Dougie Newhouse took care of the defence from there, despite the puck ringing off the iron on three separate occasions.
Smitz left the game after Thunder Bay’s fifth goal with an injury, having been bowled over by teammate Blake Nelson, who dove in an attempt to stop Stubbs, his momentum carrying him into the defenceless net-minder. Fletcher Bolda took over, stopping all five shots he faced.
Star gazing: Suspended North Stars forward Jacob Anttonen, who has sat the past eight games, will return to the lineup in Saturday’s rematch … Attendance was 284.
Scoring: 1. Thief River Falls – Mcintosh 9 (Ross, T. Johnson) 7:01. 2. Thunder Bay, Tyska 5 (Auger, B. Erwin) 8:38. 3. Thief River Falls, Steffan 10 (Piper, Daman) 17:22. Penalties: Lee TRF (tripping) 3:01, Bryant TB (cross checking) 11:38, Bryant TB (tripping) 19:14.
Scoring: 4. Thunder Bay, Siau 2 (Gerrie, Willan) 12:13. Penalties: Nelson TRF (roughing), Turbide TB (unsportsmanlike conduct) 0:56, Forti TB (cross checking) 1:26, Brown TRF (holding) 3:53, Bryant TB (cross checking), Eischen TRF (slashing) 5:45, Daman TRF (cross checking) 7:22, Gerrie TB (high sticking) 12:49.
Scoring: 5. Thunder Bay, Gerrie 25 (Willan, Siau) 2:09. 6. Thunder Bay, Nicholas 6 (Vecchio) 3:36. 7. Thunder Bay, Stubbs 4 (Tyska, B. Erwin) 4:40. Penalties: Auger TB (slashing) 9:31, Mignault TB (cross checking) 16:58.
GAME DATA – SOG – Thief River Falls 13-13-11-37, Thunder Bay 15-19-13-47; Power plays (goals-chances) – Thief River Falls (0-8), Thunder Bay (0-2); Goaltenders – Thief River Falls: Bailey Schmitz (42 shots, 37 saves), Fletcher Bolda (4:40, third), Thunder Bay: Dougie Newhouse; A: 284.