Special Teams Lifts Miners to Early Series Lead

Red Lake F Mathieu Belanger (#4) posts up on Kam River G Austin Madge (#1). Photo by James Mirabelli

April 22, 2022

Thunder Bay, ON

From the stats line, it was a very disciplined game from both teams.  The opening game of the SIJHL’s Bill Salonen Cup championship finals saw the host Kam River Fighting Walleye enjoy the man advantage only twice in the entire game.

The Red Lake Miners skated with the extra man only four times.

Neither of those numbers are noteworthy.  However the three goals the Red Lake managed to pick up during those opportunities was all the offence the visitors needed to earn them a 3-2 victory, steal home-ice advantage back from the Fighting Walleye, and potentially changed the complexion of the entire series.

It was Kam River’s Dayton Clarke who opened the scoring at the 15:51 mark of the opening frame, finally giving the near-capacity crowd something to cheer about after a tight-checking opening to the series that saw little high-quality chances at either end.

For a power play that looked a little unorganized at times in the previous series vs. Dryden, Red Lake was firing on all cylinders and they finally got to work courtesy of a roughing call assessed to Walleye’s defenceman Max McNeil.

It was Miners’ Jordan Baranesky in the right spot in the crease to pot his seventh of the playoffs after the Walleye’s goaltender Austin Madge made a post-to-post save on a cross-ice one-timer but couldn’t snuff the rebound.  Ryan Hunter and Ryan Howe recorded helpers on the play.

Minutes later, this time with Kam River’s Johnny McCollum in the box for a high stick, it was Brady Harroun’s first of the playoffs with help from Mathieu Belanger and Brandon Rossetti and the Miners held a 2-1 lead after 2.

That lead expanded to 3-1 when SIJHL top forward award winner Ryan Hunter at the 2:43 mark unleashed a wrister from distance that seemed to handcuff Madge who also appeared to be partially screened on the play.  It was Hunter’s third of the playoffs with assists from Howe and defenceman Kenyon Nyman.

Kam River’s Dayton Clarke notched his second of the night and fourth of the playoffs at 6:25 to pull the home side within one.  Kersey Reich and Anthony Oviedo assisted on this play.

But that was as close as the fish would get.  The Miners managed to fend off a furious attack as time was winding down and Madge on the bench in favour of an extra skater.

Final shots were 47-39 in favour of Red Lake.  The Miners were 3 for 4 on the power play, the Fighting Walleye went 0 for 2.

The game’s three stars were Kam River’s Dayton Clarke (3rd), Red Lake’s Baranesky (2nd) and Hunter (1st).

Game 2 of the best-of-seven finals is set for Friday night, 7:30pm at Norwest Arena before shifting to Red Lake on Monday night.