Oliver Paipoonge, ON – The Kam River Fighting Walleye retained home-ice advantage in their SIJHL semi-final series with a 4-2 victory over the Wisconsin Lumberjacks. The win, in front of 705 fans at NorWest Arena, stretched the SIJHL regular season champions’ series lead to 2-0.
Ethan Lang opened the scoring 7 minutes in to the first period, the 20 year old veteran forward and all-time leader in Kam River games played banking the puck in off Wisconsin goalie Kyler Lowden from behind the goal line. It was Lang’s second of the series. Despite some grade-A scoring chances, the Lumberjacks were unable to capitalize in the opening frame and the score remained 1-0 heading into the first intermission.
The SIJHL’s leading scorer and MVP in the regular season, Ryder McMillen, evened the score for the visitors midway through the second period. The goal was the native of Silver Bay, Minnesota’s 2nd of the post-season.
Just 57 seconds later, Jack Cook, the reigning SIJHL Defenseman of the Year, showed why he received those honours with the first of two goals on the same 5-minute major powerplay opportunity for the Walleye. Cook sniped a top corner wrist shot at the 8-minute mark of the second, to put the home team ahead again. Then, two and a half minutes later, Cook amazed those in attendance with an unbelievable “Michigan” goal. The rare lacrosse-style marker was Cook’s 4th goal of the playoffs and put the Fish ahead by a 3-1 score.
Lumberjacks captain Salvatore Poggiali pulled his squad to within one, early in the third. The goal was Poggiali’s team-leading sixth of the playoffs. Wisconsin pressed for the equalizer, forcing Kam River netminder Eric Vanska to turn aside several quality scoring chances. With 12 minutes left on the clock, Braeden Duchesne took a sharp-angled shot that eluded Lowden and the Walleye had their insurance marker, and an eventual 4-2 win.
The series now shifts to Spooner, Wisconsin for games 3 and 4, taking place Wednesday and Thursday Night
G and G Excavating 3 Stars
3rd star – Josh Morton KRW
2nd star – Eric Vanska KRW
1st star – Jack Cook KRW