Cody Bruchkowski had a game for the ages, scoring five goals as the Thunder Bay North Stars ended a five-game funk in dominant fashion with a 7-4 win over the Dryden Ice Dogs at Fort William Gardens on Friday.
Jordan Smith was stellar in the Stars’ net as the Dogs pelted him with 40 shots through 40 minutes (50 total) including a stick save off Malcolm Huemmert on a Dryden power play late in the second that was grand larceny.
The reigning Superior International Junior Hockey League champion Stars win snapped Dryden’s four-game win streak.
Thunder Bay coach Rob DeGagne said his team didn’t panic through the recent slide even as teams such as the Red Lake Miners and the Thief River Falls Norskies gained ground in the standings.
“We’ve actually played pretty well throughout the five-game slide,” said DeGagne. “With a little bit of luck and a few bounces we could have won two or three of those games. Early in the year you get the bounces. Now you’re not getting the bounces.”
Joel Willan’s five-minute major for boarding and a pair of fights punctuated a spirited game, ensuring a feisty rematch in Dryden tonight.
Lucas Fabijancic opened the scoring early in the first period. Bruchkowski tied it up at 7:55 and then put the home side up five seconds into a North Stars’ power play at 15:45.
The Couchenour, Ont., native roofed top shelf glove side on Dryden’s Knute Loe at 5:05 of the second for a natural hat trick.
“Just buzzing around the puck, I think that was the biggest thing,” said the five-foot-11, 183-pound winger. “Came into the game, we’re on a bit of a slump here. I knew I had to do my job — put the puck in the back of the net. (Friday) it worked. . . . Thought I played well. There are a few things I can touch up but at the end of the day we won a game here and we’re going back in the right direction.”
Nikolas Campbell scored the game’s prettiest goal on a breakaway deke to give Thunder Bay a three-goal lead.
Goals by Dylan DiTomaso and a power play marker by Brad Fortier drew the Ice Dogs to within one.
The North Stars scored three times in the third to put the game away.
Bruchkowski scored with 11 seconds left on a two-man North Stars power play and added his fifth from in close at 5:14 of the third to make it 6-3. Enrico Bozac stuffed one in top shelf to make it a four-goal cushion before DiTomaso scored from a sharp angle with just 1:22 left to round out the scoring.
Thunder Bay ended with an even 40 shots on Loe.
Bruchowski leads the SIJHL with 22 goals in just 18 games, and has chipped in 10 assists.
“Cody can shoot the puck. He’s got a great shot. He’s got a knack for the net. He’s fast,” said DeGagne. “Cody had a great night. We have to get a few more guys scoring again. Brown’s got to start scoring again, Willan’s got to scoring again. We’d like to get a little more balanced scoring attack.”
Thunder Bay killed off a 92-second, two-man disadvantage in the first period that was key in the win.
“We did a good job killing that penalty,” said DeGagne. “I think maybe that was the turning point for us. We just got to learn how to finish a little better. We get teams down, we just have to learn how to finish them a little better. Soon as we get a couple goals everyone thinks they’re a goal scorer. They’re not playing defence first. Happy overall. We had a good work ethic (Friday).”
Thunder Bay’s next home game is at Fort William First Nation Arena on Dec. 6.