March 30, 2022
Thunder Bay, ON
The Wisconsin Lumberjacks couldn’t have asked for a better start to game 2 of their SIJHL quarter-final series against the Thunder Bay North Stars.
After dropping the opener by a score of 5-1, the Lumberjacks had their first lead of the series not long after the national anthems finished up. At just 1:38 into the game, Jack Eckholm took a centring pass from the outside off the stick of Ryan Blackburn and tucked it past North Stars’ netminder Jordan Smith on his first shot of the game. Brock Weimer had the other assist.
The remainder of the period could not have followed the script the Lumberjacks had drawn up.
Edison Weeks tied it 3 minutes later as the North Stars finished off their own odd-man break, followed a few minutes later by a Kyler Belluz point shot that found its way to the back of the net through traffic and the home side had the lead by the 8-minute mark.
Noah Broughton and Belluz had helpers on Weeks’ opening goal, and Weeks and Lou Vesperini helped out on Belluz’ tally.
Then at 13:27, Belluz found the cage again – his third point of the night – when he jumped into the rush and Pier-Luc Bellard found him on the wide wing for a one-timer past besieged Lumberjacks goaltender Tyler Swanson. Vesperini collected his second of three assists in the period on the goal.
The onslaught continued, with the North Stars piling on two more in rapid succession first at 16:09 with Vesperini getting in the goal column – again off an odd-man rush – converting a pass from Weeks. Then Bellard via a one-timer on the power play 35 seconds later from Weeks and Vesperini.
At the end of 20, the North Stars held a 5-1 lead – matching the final score from the opening game of the series. Shots were 14-5 for the period.
Needing to hold the North Stars scoreless the rest of the way, and put up at least six to win – something the Lumberjacks only managed once this season – it may have been moral victories they were realistically keying in on for the final two periods to try and establish something to build from as the series gets set to shift to the Spooner Civic Center for game 3 on Friday night.
But it was the North Stars extending the lead in the middle stanza. First a Zack Davis blast from the point on the power play to move it to 6-1 at 3:15 of the third (Belluz and Dimitri Trahiotis drew the assists) and then Hunter Foreshew at 17:16 with help from Dylan Winsor and Hayden Cattani to 7-1.
The Lumberjacks did persist though, as the third period got underway, Zach Carson got his first of the playoffs with an assist from Brock Weimer. Pier-Luc Bellard closed out the scoring unassisted at 14:22 of the third.
Final shots were 44-32 in favour of Thunder Bay. The North Stars were two for six on the power play, while the Lumberjacks were scoreless in eight chances.
The North Stars took a moment to acknowledge two participants who were announce as league award winners on Wednesday. Wisconsin’s Sal Poggiali received the SIJHL Scholastic Achievement award, while Thunder Bay’s Hunter Foreshew was named SIJHL Top Defensive-Forward.
The series now moves to Spooner, WI Friday night with the Lumberjacks needing a win to extend the series.