By James Brohm
Sioux Lookout, ON – The Sioux Lookout Bombers were looking to distance themselves from the rest of the pack in the standings while the Fighting Walleye were looking to close the gap. Game two of the weekend series between the top two teams in the SIJHL was an intense battle at the Hangar in Sioux Lookout.
Starting at the same pace they left off at in overtime the night before, it did not take long for the Bombers to jump out to an early lead. Owen Riffel, in his second game back from nearly three weeks due to an upper body injury, got the icebreaker at 2:23. Using a Walleye defenceman as a screen, his wrist shot beat Travis VanderZwaag high on the glove side for the game’s first goal. Owen Cotter added to the Bombers’ early lead at 14:37. Two on one with Ty Lone against Caleb Labelle, his pass across hit the inside of Labelle’s skate and took a fortuitous bounce over the pad of the Walleye netminder to put the home team up by two. The Fighting Walleye, who were already playing with a great deal of intensity, turned it up another notch but the Bombers’ defence kept them to the outside and Matthew Spencer-Dahl slammed the door to maintain the Bombers’ lead.
Sioux Lookout added two more goals in the second period. After some sustained pressure in the defensive zone, the Walleye were struggling to get the puck out and get a change. Owen Riffle took advantage of the tired players on the ice and netted his second of the night. Blake Burke got his 16th of the season on the powerplay, sliding the rebound of a Dayvan Bull point shot behind the Walleye netminder’s pad to give the Bombers a healthy four goal lead. Temperatures boiled over at 15:26 and Rylen Leroux for the Bombers and Caleb Labelle for the Walleye went toe-to-toe. Both were given 5 minute major penalties for fight and shown the gate. The Fighting Walleye were finally on the board at 16:45 of the second period on the powerplay. Edwin Liang blasted a one timer from the right faceoff dot that would find a way through Spencer-Dahl and drop behind him in the crease. Daxton Lang was on the doorstep and tapped in the loose puck to make it 4-1.
Both goaltenders were perfect in the third period with neither team able to add to their tally. However, the physical play continued and both teams added to their penalty minutes tally. All tolled, there were 78 penalty minutes assessed to both teams, including several 10-minute misconducts and the fighting majors to Labelle and Leroux.
The game’s third star was Edwin Liang, who assisted on the lone Walleye goal. Second star was Matthew Spencer-Dahl with an outstanding performance against a Walleye team with a lot of offensive firepower. Owen Riffle was the game’s first star and has retaken the crown as the leagues top scorer with 26 goals on the season.
The teams will meet up one more time in the regular season on February 10th at the Hangar in Sioux Lookout.