Oliver Paipoonge, ON – After the 5th game of the 2021-22 season between the Kam River Fighting Walleye and the Thunder Bay North Stars, one thing has become abundantly clear: junior hockey fans in the Lakehead would be treated to an all-time classic series should the two teams ever meet in the playoffs.
Each and every game between the two clubs this year has featured intense, back-and-forth action, along with physicality and a little nastiness that only a bitter rivalry can bring. Friday night at NorWest Arena, fans were treated to all of the above.
Kam River got off to a blazing start, when Alex Enegren potted his 16th goal of the season just 50 seconds after the opening puck drop. 5 minutes later, Ethan Lang buried the puck off a goal mouth scramble, for his 13th of the year and a 2-0 Walleye lead. Just when it appeared as though the team in orange and black was in full control, the North Stars battled their way back. Hunter Foreshew and Dylan Bertrand scored goals 90 seconds apart, to even the game up and send the teams to their dressing rooms for the first intermission tied at 2.
The Walleye once again started the period strong, and once again the North Stars answered back. Kam River captain Zach Fortin unleashed an absolute bomb from the point to restore the Walleye lead just two and a half minutes into the middle frame. Less than a minute later, Trenton Morriseau sniped his 14th of the season on the powerplay, and the Fish were up by 2. But a North Stars goal by former Fighting Walleye defenceman Brad Fortier, at the 12 minute mark of the period, made the game close again. As the two teams battled hard for the crucial next goal, tensions boiled over when Walleye defenceman Johnny McCollum and North Stars forward Mason Wesley engaged in a spirited fight at the Walleye blueline. Despite both teams’ best efforts, the score remained tied after two periods.
For the third time, the Fighting Walleye got an important early-period goal to give them the momentum. Ethan Lang banked the puck in off of North Stars goaltender Connor Lemieux, for his second of the night, just 38 seconds into the final period. After Brad Fortier cut into the Walleye lead again, with his second goal of the game and third of the season, the teams traded chances back and forth, desperate for that all-important next goal. Walleye goaltender Austin Madge made several key saves to preserve the Kam River lead, and with 8 minutes left in the 3rd, Carson Gorst took matters into his own hands. The 19 year old forward from Calgary, Alberta took a pass from Holden Woodcroft at his own blueline, carried it all the way up the ice, dangled two defenders and tucked the puck through the legs of Lemieux. It was Gorst’s 9th goal of the season, and a dagger through the heart of the North Stars’ comeback attempt. Trenton Morriseau added an empty netter to make the final score 7 to 4 for the Fighting Walleye.
Austin Madge stopped 33 of 37 shots to pick up his league-leading 15th win of the season. Connor Lemieux was solid in net for Thunder Bay, stopping 52 of an incredible 58 shots the Walleye sent his way. The Fighting Walleye picked up their 13th win in a row, and are now a perfect 15-0 on home ice this season.
Next up for the Fighting Walleye is a two-game road trip to Spooner, Wisconsin to play the Lumberjacks on February 11th and 12th. The North Stars take on the Dryden GM Ice Dogs for two games on the road next weekend.
0:50 KRW Enegren (16) Asst: Veneruzzo, McNeil
5:26 KRW Lang (13) Asst: Morriseau, Reich
12:04 TBN Foreshew (17) Asst: Davis, Belluz (PP)
13:40 TBN Bertrand (3) Asst: Vesperini, Weeks
2:48 KRW Fortin (4) Asst: Lamoureux, Woodcroft
3:25 KRW Morriseau (14) Asst: McCollum, Enegren (PP)
11:45 TBN Fortier (2) Asst: Vesperini, Weeks (PP)
0:38 KRW Lang (14) Asst: None
7:39 TBN Fortier (3) Asst: Foreshew
12:03 KRW Gorst (9) Asst: Woodcroft, Reich
17:13 KRW Morriseau (15) Asst: None (EN)
G and G Excavating 3 Stars
1st – Trenton Morriseau – Fighting Walleye
2nd – Ethan Lang – Fighting Walleye
3rd – Brad Fortier – North Stars