The Thunder Bay North Stars have a double date today. They’ll be practicing early this morning on a fresh sheet of Fort William Gardens ice before their rematch with the Thief River Falls Norskies in the evening.
Blowing a pair of four-goal leads and losing in overtime will change a coach’s schedule real quick.
Tyler Johnson scored 1:12 into overtime on a power play as the Norskies stormed back to shock the top-ranked North Stars 7-6.
Stars head coach Rob DeGagne stressed the morning practice is well-deserved.
“You gotta work. If you don’t want to work that’s what you’re going to get,” DeGagne said. “(Up) 6-2, we give up five goals in 14 minutes. If you don’t want to play the right way then that’s the way it is.”
Friday’s loss was the North Stars second in a row and third on the year.
“In the last eight, nine games we’ve been up by three goals many times,” said DeGagne, whose team still leads the Superior International Junior Hockey League with a 14-2-2 mark. “Either we’re not in good enough shape or we’re not paying attention to details. It just shows you have to play defence, too. If you don’t want to play team defence. . . . We’re only so good. You going to get burnt if you keep playing that way.”
Lost in the shuffle was Cody Bruchowski’s natural hat trick (and assist) and newcomer Jett Leishmann’s goal and two helpers in his first North Stars home game.
Leishmann opened the scoring at 4:20 of the first finding a hole through Norskies’ Josh Seeley.
Cameron Lizakowski tied it on an unassisted marker midway through the frame. Bruchowski scored his first of three at 14:49.
Bruchowski notched goals two and three 21 seconds apart in the second period — both on the same power play — to up the ante to 4-1. Nikolas Campbell made it 5-1 before Bryce Johnson narrowed the gap late in the second.
The teams combined for 40 shots in the second and 91 total.
Alex Erwin made it 6-2 on a feed from his brother Ben to restore order but the lead dissipated totally in an 8:34 span. Jack Michels, Briar Sylvester, Michels again and Bryce Johnson scored in succession to wipe out a seemingly comfortable lead and send the game into overtime.
“Nice to get a win here, come back from being down by quite a few goals,” said Wilson Housley, Norskies’ head coach. “Nice to see the guys come out and compete in the third, find the desire that passion to come out and get a win against the number one team in the league.”
Housley expressed his dismay between the second and third periods and his team responded.
“After the second period I was a little upset with our compete level, especially in our net front. I didn’t think we were doing the little things, finishing checks, stopping on pucks, that are frustrating to watch as a coach. . . . I told them I wanted to see their highest level of compete in the next 20 minutes. Luckily we put some goals away. Our top guys are continuing to score and it’s always nice to see.”
Thunder Bay’s Joel Willan drew a tripping minor 11 seconds into extra time. Johnson, the Norskies’ leading scorer, converted a cross-ice pass from Michels for his sixth of the year.
Bryce Johnson added two assists to his two goals, Michels added an assist, and Mason McIntosh garnered five apples in the high-scoring affair. Seeley collected the win, while Jordan Smith took the loss.