SIJHL Action – North Stars v. Wilderness

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Thunder Bay North Stars warming up to take on Minnesota Wilderness in SIJHL hockey action
Thunder Bay North Stars warming up to take on Minnesota Wilderness in SIJHL hockey action

SIJHL League Leading Minnesota Wilderness set to go against Thunder Bay North Stars
SIJHL League Leading Minnesota Wilderness set to go against Thunder Bay North Stars

THUNDER BAY – Sports – The SIJHL heads into the run for the playoffs tonight with the Thunder Bay North Stars taking on the Minnesota Wilderness. The Wilderness got the upper hand on the North Stars in last night’s action. The 7-4 final score put the N-Stars into the mood for tonight’s game.

SIJHL Action

The Fort William Gardens is home for some exciting action tonight and Sunday night. The Minnesota Wilderness are leading the league, and the North Stars are fighting for momentum.

Thunder Bay North Stars warming up to take on Minnesota Wilderness in SIJHL hockey action
Thunder Bay North Stars warming up to take on Minnesota Wilderness in SIJHL hockey action

SIJHL Playoff Picture

The SIJHL playoffs are looming. The North Stars are assured a spot in post season play. The two games, tonight and Sunday night are the last regular season home games for the North Stars.

SIJHL Fans can always count on Onion Rings or hotdogs at the Fort William Gardens
SIJHL Fans can always count on Onion Rings or hotdogs at the Fort William Gardens

The goal is to climb in the standings, likely so not to face the Minnesota Wilderness in the first round of the playoffs.

First Period Action

The puck has dropped, and the play in the opening moments is end to end. The North Stars are going to have their work cut out for them tonight. The Wilderness are not leading the league because they are not a solid team with a solid offence and defense.

In many ways however the North Stars have nothing to lose by throwing everything into tonight’s game. Attendance remains an issue for the team, it really makes one wonder how Thunder Bay will fill a 6000 seat hockey facility when average attendance for the North Stars is under 500 and just over 3100 for the Lakehead University Thunderwolves.

Back to the game…

The Wilderness are looking strong at the four minute mark of the first period. Solid passing and checking is a key to the Wilderness game plan. The players combine pin-point passing with great on-ice communications.

The Wilderness got into scoring position in front of the North Stars net. Matt Kaarella was tagged for hooking at 6:47 giving the Wilderness a man advantage.

The North Stars are employing aggressive penalty killing, and while it payed off for the most part #15 Kahout was tagged for slashing at 8:41. The N-Stars killed off the first penalty.

The Wilderness power play ended at 9:10 with #15 Larson gettingheading to the box for two minutes. High Sticking was the call. Half way through the third period, the Wilderness are slightly ahead on shots with w 4-3 margin.

The North Stars have had a very solid period of hockey. With four minutes left the N-Stars are up on shots with an 8-6 lead, and have been able to keep up with the Wilderness speed.

Kaarella got off a blistering wrist shot that was stopped by the Minn Wild goalie.

The Wilderness came right back and tested Jamie in net for the North Stars.

The period ended with a little fiesty action showing that the N-Stars are not backing down an inch from the Wilderness.

Second Period Action

Action is underway in the second period after a very fast paced first period that remained scoreless.

Minnesota is going on the power play, #5 of the North Stars, is off for high sticking. #7 Guniak from the Wilderness is off to the sin bin – high sticking is the call at 5:27.

Play is end to end, and the teams are showing a little wear.

#27 Brown of the North Stars is taking two minutes to cool his jets for high sticking at 6:12. That was followed quickly with Shockley from the Wilderness off for two minutes at 6:38 for tripping.

North Stars applying pressure on the Wilderness - Photo shot by Quinn Spyrka
North Stars applying pressure on the Wilderness – Photo shot by Quinn Spyrka

The North Stars got off a couple of great scoring chances. #4 Matt Kaarela got off a great slap shot from the point, and then the puck slide past the Wilderness goalie, but not into the net.

The Wilderness #11 is off to sit in the sin bin. Slashng was the call at 8:04.

Second period is slowing down with all the whistles for penalties. 

The Wilderness got on the scoreboard with a well played tip in at 12:09 – Wilderness goal scored by #9 unassisted .

Minnesota Wilderness celebrate after scoring Photo by Quinn Spyrka
Minnesota Wilderness celebrate after scoring Photo by Quinn Spyrka

The game remains close. At the end of the second period, shots on net are Wilderness 19 and the North Stars 18.

The home team is playing solid hockey, stay tuned for the second period.

Third Period Action

There are twenty minutes left in what fans are calling a very exciting game. They are right, those hockey fans who choose to sit at home in front of the tube are missing top class hockey.

The North Stars are down by a single goal, but playing hard.

They do face a powerful team in the league leading Wilderness.

Play in the third period is quite even. 

Matt Kaarela stole the puck with 12 minutes left in the third, and headed down ice, scooping what the Wilderness were planning as a scoring chance. Offside ended the N-Stars run at the offensive drive.

One thing that is very apparent helps the Wilderness is the team’s puck handling. Pin-point passing and solid puck control are the keys to leading the SIJHL and being in the top grouping of the CJHL standings.

Halfway through the final period, the score remains 1-0 with the Wilderness leading.

With 9:49 left, #5 for the North Stars is headed off to the penalty box for holding. The Wilderness took full advantage scoring within 11 seconds of the power play to take a 2-0 lead. 

At 10:15 the North Stars are back in the penalty box, Trevor Hynnes got the box for hooking. Six seconds later the Wilderness scored to start pumping up their offense.

Wilderness Power Play goal scored by #6 McCormack assisted #11 Mike Dietrich.

With 7:47 left #17 for the Wilderness is off to sin city called for interference. The North Stars need a goal to get back into this game.

The North Stars have been, in the past ten minutes of play working to hit and slow down the Wilderness. The result has been penalties and power play goals.

There are just under four minutes left, there is a sense of frustration building on the North Stars bench. The Wilderness seem in the past couple of minutes to have ramped up the speed of their play and are growing confident that the game is in hand.

At 16:56, #19 is off for two minutes hit for slashing giving the Wilderness another power play.

That penalty may have put the game on ice for the Wilderness.

On Sunday night the two teams go at it once again. Game time is 7:30 at the Fort William Gardens. The North Stars could certainly use some fan support in what will be the last regular season home game for the season.

Shots on goal in a Wilderness victory tonight at the Gardens Wilderness 29 and the North Stars 21.

Tonight’s NNL coverage included Meghan Payment and Quinn Spyrka.