DRYDEN, Ont. – Zach Willms made 61 saves in regulation and overtime along with three more in the shootout to backstop the Red Lake Miners to a narrow 3-2 triumph over the Dryden GM Ice Dogs Wednesday night in Superior International Junior Hockey League play at Memorial Arena.
The victory was the 52nd overall for Willms in the league, which establishes a new SIJHL record for career wins, surpassing the 51 that current Buffalo Sabres NHL netminder Carter Hutton (North Stars/Golden Hawks) and Josh Mrakic (Bearcats/Golden Hawks) had in their time in the SIJHL.
This also sees the Miners secure the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Bill Salonen Cup playoffs, as well as a first round bye with the Thunder Bay North Stars, who have already claimed the regular season title.
Red Lake opened the scoring nearly five and a half minutes into the contest as Rajvir Sangha fired a low attempt from the right point that was knocked in front by Tucker Evans right to an open Noah Kwasny in the slot, who buried his eighth of the season to put the guests up by one heading to the intermission.
Moving to the middle stanza, a flurry of activity by the GM Ice Dogs saw them pump 21 shots on net in the session, but despite many quality chances, they could not solve Willms as his continued efforts kept the Miners in front.
In the third, Dryden would finally solve Willms as Parker James put a shot towards the goal that Xavier Halterman got a piece of before Dylan Winsor did some crafty stickwork in close before stuffing in his 12th of the campaign at 2:28.
Going to the power play just after that, the hosts then went in front off a nice three-way passing play that was finished off by Evan Pakkala, who went top shelf for his 15th.
On a late man advantage, Red Lake got the equalizer with 3:51 left in regulation following a faceoff win that was finished off by a Morgan Venne snapshot, through a screen, to force overtime.
Neither side would convert in the OT to send it to extra shots to determine a winner.
The first chance for either side saw the Miners’ Sangha get creative on a deke while Nolan Marshall snapped a quick shot in to keep it level.
Then after two misses aside, that included a cross bar and a goal post, Red Lake captain Shaye Sommerfeld got the eventual decider before Willms capped off his record-setting victory with another solid save to finish things off.
Knute Loe made 30 stops in defeat for Dryden helping his side earn a point.
Photo credit: John Butts