Tight Race for Top Spot in Dudley-Hewitt

Photo credit: Tim Bates DHC/OJHL Images
Photo credit: Tim Bates DHC/OJHL Images

Photo credit: Tim Bates DHC/OJHL Images
Photo credit: Tim Bates DHC/OJHL Images

DRYDEN, Ont. – A Brendan Gillis goal eight minutes into the second period proved to be the game-winner as the Thunder Bay North Stars (SIJHL) edged the rival Dryden GM Ice Dogs (SIJHL) in Day 3 action at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Jr. A Championship at Dryden Memorial Arena.

The result sees both Dryden and Thunder Bay, along with the Wellington Dukes (OJHL), finish in a three-way tie for top spot in the four-team standings, with identical 2-1 records. The Cochrane Crunch (NOJHL), who will host the 2019 Dudley-Hewitt Cup, finished fourth at 0-3.

However, in the tie-breaking formula, the GM Ice Dogs finish first overall and earn a berth directly to Saturday’s Dudley-Hewitt Cup final while Wellington ends up in second and Thunder Bay third with those two clubs now slated to meet in Friday’s semifinal at 7:30 p.m. CT/8:30 p.m. CT back at the Memorial Arena.

The winner of that contest will take on Dryden in the DHC championship game with a berth to the RBC Cup, May 12-20, in Chilliwack, B.C., on the line.

In Thursday’s round robin finale, Thunder Bay would strike five minutes into the contest as Joel Willan scooped up a dump in that Dryden starter Landon Pavlisin could not control behind the net and fed Owen Belisle who chipped in the night’s opening tally.

The GM Ice Dogs then successfully handled a full two-minute, two-man disadvantage to help keep the score at 1-0 North Stars after 20 minutes.

Action in the middle stanza saw the SIJHL-champions from Dryden tie it early in the frame after Jacen Bracko intercepted a clearing attempt and fired a high shot that Thunder Bay netminder could not handle as the puck bounced off the end boards to an open Malcolm Huemmert who banked-in the equalizer to knot the affair.

The North Stars would regain the lead at 8:04 as Gillis finished off a nice three-way passing play with teammates Bradley Thrower and Justin Muir.

Dryden had a pair of great chances to draw level once more later in the period but Evan Walls was denied by Bodnar twice in rapid succession.

The Thunder Bay netminder then flashed the leather in the final moments of the second as he once against made a stellar save, robbing Eric Stout from close range to keep it 2-1 after two periods.

It was back and forth throughout the third with the North Stars needing goals to try and improve their percentage.

Knowing that, they pulled Bodnar with three minutes remaining, despite holding the lead, but they could not add any more offensive production before time expired.

Player of the game honours went to Bodnar for Thunder Bay while Dryden defenceman Cory Dennis earned the laurels for his side.

Shots on goal finished 32-31 in the GM Ice Dogs’ favour.

All Dudley-Hewitt Cup games are streamed online at HockeyTV.com.

Photo credit: Tim Bates DHC/OJHL Images

SCHEDULE/RESULTS: (All starts Central Standard Time)

Tuesday, May 1
Thunder Bay 4 Dryden 0
Dryden 4 Wellington 1
Wednesday, May 2
Wellington 4 Thunder Bay 1
Dryden 3 Cochrane 0
Thursday, May 3
Wellington 6 Cochrane 3
Thunder Bay 2 Dryden 1
Friday, May 4
Semifinal: Thunder Bay (3rd Round Robin) vs. Wellington (2nd Round Robin) 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 5
Final: Semifinal Winner vs. Dryden (1st Round Robin) 7:30 p.m.