THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. – A Blair Lindholm goal with 8:12 remaining in regulation proved to be the decider as the Thief River Falls Norskies edged the Thunder Bay North Stars 2-1 Tuesday evening in Game 1 of their Superior International Junior Hockey League semifinal series at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
After a scoreless opening frame, Thief River Falls opened the scoring 12:44 into the middle frame with Michael Johnson staring the play with a face-off win deep in Thunder Bay territory back to defenceman Connor Bowey who fired a shot towards the net that was redirected out of mid-air by Johnson past North Stars’ netminder Brandon Bodnar.
The visitors came back to tie it four minutes later after breaking out of their own zone and a couple of quick passes sent Alex Leonidis in alone on Norskies’ starter Bailey Schmitz as he snapped in the equalizer.
It stayed that way until Lindholm’s game-winner in the final frame as his low attempt from the left side found its way through the legs of Bodnar to provide the difference maker.
Schmitz and the home side’s defensive corps did the rest to thwart any chances Thunder Bay had to try and knot the affair and force overtime.
He finished with 31 stops to record his first SIJHL playoff victory while Bodnar faced 31 attempts in defeat for the North Stars.
The two teams will meet again Wednesday back in Thief River Falls at 7 p.m. CT.
All SIJHL postseason games are streamed live and on demand at HockeyTV.com.
No. 2 Thief River Falls Norskies vs. No. 3 Thunder Bay North Stars
Thief River Falls leads best-of-seven series 1-0
Game 1: Thief River Falls 2 Thunder Bay 1
Game 2: Wednesday, April 4 @ Thief River Falls 7 p.m. CT (Ralph Engelstad Arena)
Game 3: Saturday, April 7 @ Thunder Bay 8 p.m. ET (Fort William Gardens)
Game 4: Sunday, April 8 @ Thunder Bay 7:30 p.m. ET (Fort William Gardens)
Game 5*: Monday, April 9 @ Thief River Falls 7 p.m. CT (Ralph Engelstad Arena)
Game 6*: Wednesday, April 11 @ Thunder Bay 7:30 p.m. ET (Fort William Gardens)
Game 7*: Thursday, April 12 @ Thief River Falls 7 p.m. CT (Ralph Engelstad Arena)
*- if necessary
Photo credit: Allison Garrigan