RED LAKE, Ont. – A back and forth affair Thursday saw the Thunder Bay North Stars defeat the Red Lake Miners 7-4 in Game 4 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 set 3-1 and will have an opportunity to secure their first SIJHL championship since 2010, on home ice, as they host Game 5 Saturday, in a 7:30 p.m. start at the Fort William Gardens.
Thunder Bay started well with Keighan Gerrie going top shelf on Red Lake starter Zach Willms, on a breakaway, midway through the opening frame.
After Ryan Mignault put the visitors up by a pair, Red Lake countered via a Morgan Venne power play marker at 17:38.
The Miners then tied it moments after another North Stars penalty had expired with Liam Stalwick supplying the equalizer.
It was more Red Lake at 8:06 of the second as Venne scored again for his league-leading eighth of the playoffs.
Regrouping, Thunder Bay drew level during a two-man advantage as Michael Stubbs snapped one past Willms.
Still up a skater, the guests tacked on another at 14:15 as Josh Bryant stuffed one in from close range to make it 4-3 Thunder Bay after 40 minutes.
A third extra-man marker extended the Stars’ lead when Kyle Auger went up top from a sharp angle, on the right side, at 2:53 of the final session.
Later Stubbs and Brendan Gillis both broke in alone on a breakaway and while Willms made an initial stop, Stubbs finished off the rebound.
Battling back, the Miners pulled closer on a nice deflection in front by Spencer Milne that trickled past Brock Aiken in the Thunder Bay net with 6:43 remaining just after another penalty expired.
Red Lake had a couple more late power plays, but Gillis iced it with an empty netter in the final minute to secure the road victory.
Auger and Joel Willan had three assists apiece for the North Stars in the triumph while Sean Gula and Keilan Toews had two helpers apiece for the Miners.
Final shots on goal finished 40-26 in favour of Thunder Bay.
Bill Salonen Cup Final
Thunder Bay North Stars vs. Red Lake Miners
North Stars lead best-of-seven series 3-1
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: Thunder Bay 7 Red Lake 4
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