Thunder Bay Hold on in Game One Win

By Gary Moskalyk

Thunder Bay, ON – Thunder Bay saw a 4-1 lead slip away but defenceman Max Buffone broke a 4-4 tie in the third and Beau Helmeczi added an empty netter for his second of the game as the North Stars defeated Wisconsin 6-4 in game one of the best-of-seven quarterfinal series.

Keenan Marks made 38 stops for Thunder Bay, none more clutch than his point-blank robbery of Nolan Fowler with five minutes left in the third. Marks stretched out and made a glove save with Fowler on the doorstep. Marks rose from the ice after the whistle, and waved off the apparent goal himself, to the delight of the 527 fans in attendance.

Up 5-4, the Stars killed off Sam Skillestad’s cross-checking major with 2:14 left to go and Wisconsin’s net empty. Helmeczi buried his second of the playoffs with 14 seconds left to seal the deal.

William Forrester made 41 saves in the Wisconsin net.

Alex Remenda at 31 seconds, Easton Mikus and Helmeczi scored for Thunder Bay in the opening frame. Simon Davidson briefly tied it at 1-1 for Wisconsin.

Drew Caddo’s point shot snuck past Forrester at 12:20 of the second to give the Stars a 4-1 edge. But Wisconsin’s trademark explosive offence kicked into gear, scoring three in a span of 3:24. Marshall Thomas went blocker side high, Nolan Fowler converted Dillon Phillips’ nice feed and Sutton Majeske capped off the uprising on a rebound past Marks at 18:21 on a Wisconsin powerplay to knot the score at 4-4.

Buffone blocker side snipe at 12:06 gave the Stars a 5-4 lead, Marks made a 10-bell save on Fowler with five minutes to go to preserve it, and Helmeczi split the uprights with a shorthanded empty net goal to ensure the win.

Thunder Bay took 19 penalty minutes. Wisconsin had four minors. The Lumberjacks were 1-7 on the powerplay and killed off four Thunder Bay chances.