By Tanner Schafer
Spooner, WI – It was a long night in Spooner, as the Wisconsin Lumberjacks and Kam River Fighting Walleye played for almost 86 minutes before finally finding a winner in game 4. SIJHL MVP Ryder McMillen beat Eric Vanska on Wisconsin’s 59th shot of the night to secure a 3-2 win in 2OT.
From the opening puck drop the teams battled in an elimination game that could not have been closer. The 1st period didn’t bring any goals but did see a few coincidental penalties for roughing and a 14-11 shot edge for Kam River.
The Fighting Walleye would strike first early in the 2nd period as Jack Cook continued his exceptional start to the playoffs. Cook beat goaltender Kyler Lowden assisted by Noah Cramps for a 1-0 lead. It was Cook’s 8th goal of the series and Cramps 3rd assist. Late in the 2nd Salvatore Poggiali would even the game at 1. The Lumberjacks captain scored his 8th of the playoffs with assists going to Dillon Phillips and Connor Hacker.
Both teams would tally again in the 1st half of the final period. Kam River reclaimed the lead on a goal by Ethan Lang assisted by Jack Cook. 4 minutes later Dylan Jouppi would find the equalizer on the power play with assists going to Poggiali and Brandon McDonald. The teams would battle until the end of regulation but no more goals would be found. The highlight of the first overtime was a fight 2 minutes in. Cooper McClure of the Lumberjacks and Isiah Kinnavanthong of the Fighting Walleye dropped the gloves and were both shown the door. The Lumberjacks saw the flow of the game tilt in their favor, outshooting the Fighting Walleye 18-13 but couldn’t find the game winner in the 1st 20 minutes of overtime. 5 minutes into the 2nd OT Ryder McMillen ended game 4 on a goal assisted by Hacker and Phillips, giving Wisconsin a 3-2 win.
Both goalies put on impressive displays in this game. Kyler Lowden stopped 52 shots in a winning effort. Vanska on the other side made 56 saves for Kam River. The goalies were 1st and 3rd stars respectively. McMillen’s game winner was good enough for 2nd star. The series now shifts back to Canada for game 5 on Saturday.