THUNDER BAY, Ont. – The Superior International Junior Hockey League playoffs get underway Monday evening as the Thunder Bay North Stars host the Minnesota Iron Rangers in Game 1 of their best-of-five quarter-final series at the Fort William Gardens.
Here’s a look at the match-up.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: The two teams met a total of 14 times throughout the season, with Thunder Bay easily taking the season set 12-2.
However, Minnesota won the final regular-season meeting with a 5-3 road win Saturday.
THE SEASON: The North Stars ended up third in the league standings with a 38-13-4-1 record.
That put them well ahead of sixth place Minnesota who ended up 6-47-1-2 overall.
LAST TIME: The last time the two teams met in the playoffs was back in 2014 when the Iron Rangers took a best-of-seven semifinal match-up, winning four games to two.
POINT PRODUCERS: A well-balanced attack saw Thunder Bay have five players finish in the Top 10 in SIJHL scoring.
Alex Maticic led the way with 65 points, which was fourth-highest in the league.
Next was Avery Siau as he scored 24 times and helped on 39 others for 63 points.
The other three were Bradley Thrower (60), Brendan Gillis (56) and Ryan Mignault (53).
Thrower’s 26 tallies were the fourth-most among all SIJHL players.
Topping the Iron Rangers offensively was Eli Kinsman who collected 45 points as he notched 15 markers and 30 assists.
Mark Sanchez was close by with 43 points, including a team-high 19 goals.
Joe Newhouse of Thunder Bay topped all SIJHL defencemen in offensive production with 47 points that featured 40 assists, which also led all league D-men.
Minnesota rookie blueliner Bryce Litke led all defencemen on his squad with 21 points, including five goals.
GOALKEEPERS: Thunder Bay’s Brandon Bodnar led all SIJHL netminders in wins with 23.
His 2.64 goals-against average was fourth best while his .918 save mark tied him for second overall.
Bodnar was also tops in shutouts with eight, which was just two off the SIJHL single-season record of 10 set by current St. Louis Blues goaltender Carter Hutton back in the 2005-06 campaign while a member of the North Stars as he backstopped them to both a Bill Salonen Cup title and a Dudley-Hewitt Cup crown.
Dougie Newhouse was 15-6-2 with a 3.01 GAA and .892 save percentage for Thunder Bay this season.
First-year netminder Tyler Thompson saw the bulk of the work for Minnesota between the pipes.
His 1,311 saves made were the most of any goalie in the league in 2017-18. He also played the second-most minutes at 2,004.
NORTH STARS’ NOTES: When scoring first in a game during the campaign, Thunder Bay was an impressive 33-2-1-0 on the year. … The club finished second in the league in goals scored with 253 and allowed the third fewest at 164. …As the home team, the North Stars were 21-6-1-0 and 17-7-3-1 as the visiting team. … Special teams saw Thunder Bay finish second in the SIJHL on the power play as they notched a league-best 60-man-advantage markers on 254 chances, which was a success rate of 23.6%. … They were tops at home on the PP at 26.9%. … While shorthanded, they were third best on the penalty kill at 82.8% as they handled 192 of the 232 times they were down at least one skater. … Their eight shorthanded tallies were the third-most in the league. … They also gave up eight shorthanded markers. … Thunder Bay was a perfect 24-0 when leading after one period and 30-1-1 when up after two. … Kyle Auger led all SIJHL defencemen in game-winning goals with six, which was just two off the league lead. … Keighan Gerrie finished second in SIJHL rookie scoring as the youngest player in the league scored 24 times and added 27 assists for 51 points.
IRON RANGERS’ FACTS: When scoring first during the season Minnesota was 5-8-1-1 overall. … The Iron Rangers were sixth in the SIJHL in both goals scored and allowed at 124 and 325. … Minnesota was just 4-21-1-2 at Hoyt Lakes Arena and only 2-26 on the road. … They did pick-up the second away triumph vs. Thunder Bay on Saturday. … Special teams saw the Iron Rangers end up sixth on the power play and fifth on the penalty kill. … At 14.5% they scored 34 times in 234 extra-man opportunities. … The P.K. saw them allow 54 goals against in the 211 times they were short. … They struck five times with a man in the box but gave up 11 when they were on the power play. … The Iron Rangers were 4-3-0-1 when leading after 20 minutes and 5-2-0-1 when holding the lead after two periods of play. … Zac Horn led Minnesota in rookie scoring with 31 points that included 15 goals.
No. 3 Thunder Bay North Stars vs. No. 6 Minnesota Iron Rangers
Game 1: Monday, March 19 @ Thunder Bay 7:30 p.m. ET (Gardens)
Game 2: Tuesday, March 20 @ Thunder Bay 7:30 p.m. ET (Gardens)
Game 3: Thursday, March 22 @ Minnesota 7:30 p.m. CT (Hoyt Lakes)
Game 4*: Sunday, March 25 @ Minnesota 7:30 p.m. CT (Hoyt Lakes)
Game 5*: Tuesday, March 27 @ Thunder Bay 7:30 p.m. ET (Gardens)
*- if necessary