RED LAKE, Ont. – Josh Bryant tallied twice, including the game-winner, and dished out an assist while Michael Stubbs also notched a pair of markers as the Thunder Bay North Stars went on to defeat the Red Lake Miners 4-2 Wednesday night in Game 3 of the Superior International Junior Hockey League Bill Salonen Cup Final at Cochenour Arena.
With the win, the North Stars now lead the best-of-seven match-up 2-1 heading into Game 4 Thursday back in Red Lake at 7:30 p.m. CT.
An early two-man advantage helped the Miners strike first in the contest as Morgan Venne buried his sixth of the playoffs from close range at 5:15.
Going up a pair of skaters themselves later in the frame, Thunder Bay capitalized with Stubbs lifting one in on a backhand, glove side, on netminder Zach Willms then added another a minute later, while still on the power play, as he ripped one over the blocker and in.
The North Stars then added their third extra-man marker of the first frame as Bryant knocked in the rebound of a Kyle Auger point shot at 15:25.
Red Lake cut into the deficit 13 minutes into the middle stanza when Matt Krawiec put one on net from the high slot that found its way past Thunder Bay goalkeeper Brock Aiken.
The North Stars regained their two-goal lead 6:52 into the third period as a Miners’ clearing attempt went right to Bryant who blasted one high on Willms to put the guests back up by a pair.
Heading to the late going, the Miners pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker, but Aiken and his defensive core held firm as Thunder Bay secured the decision and took the series lead.
Auger finished with three assists in the road triumph.
Shots on goal in the contest favoured the North Stars by a 46-29 margin with Aiken picking up the win and Willms the loss.
Bill Salonen Cup Final
Thunder Bay North Stars vs. Red Lake Miners
North Stars lead best-of-seven series 2-1
Game 1: Red Lake 6 Thunder Bay 1
Game 2: Thunder Bay 5 Red Lake 2
Game 3: Thunder Bay 4 Red Lake 2
Game 4: Thursday, April 18 @ Red Lake 7:30 p.m. (Cochenour Arena)
Game 5: Saturday, April 20 @ Thunder Bay 7:30 p.m. (Fort William Gardens)
Game 6*: Monday, April 22 @ Red Lake 6:30 p.m. (Cochenour Arena)
Game 7*: Wednesday, April 24 @ Thunder Bay 7:30 p.m. (To be determined)
Winner advances to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Jr. A Championship, April 30 – May 4 @ Cochrane, Ont.
Photo credit: Patrick Boucha