RED LAKE, Ont. – A Hunter Bjorge wrist shot from the point sailed through a crowd in front 40 seconds into overtime, and in, as the Thief River Falls Norskies rallied from three-goal third period deficit before eventually upending the Red Lake Miners 5-4 Thursday evening in Game 1 of their Superior International Junior Hockey League semifinal at Cochenour Arena.
The two sides return to the ice Friday night, back in Red Lake, at 7:30 p.m. for Game 2.
Thursday saw Red Lake captain Michael Di Lullo put the home side in front early on as he redirected a Dante Tisi attempt from just inside the blueline on the right side.
The Miners then went up by a pair at 8:42 of the first with Kyle Uzelman finishing off the work of Keilan Toews and Keegan Tiringer.
Michael Crosbie put the visitors on the board as Mason McIntosh forced a turnover and set him up in front at 15:47.
Action in the second stanza saw Red Lake tally twice to go up by three with Morgan Venne completing some nice work by Stratton Pickett and Di Lullo before Bryce Young wired one home during a man advantage to make it 4-1.
Undaunted, Thief River Falls began their comeback at 2:51 as Tate Steffan connected on the power play to make it 4-2.
The Norskies then added another at 11:21 as Boe Bjorge chipped a backhander over top of Miners’ netminder Zach Willms from close range to pull the guests to within one.
They then forced extra time with four and a half minutes to go as an attempt going around the boards bounced off Bryce Johnson right to Zach Ross, who blasted in the equalizer from the high slot.
Thief River Falls then finished off their comeback early in OT as Hunter Bjorge let one go from just inside the blueline that flew right to the back of the net, through a screen, to give the Norskies the come from behind victory.
Shots on goal in the contest favoured Thief River Falls 36-33 with Bailey Schmitz picking up the win while Willms suffered the defeat.
All SIJHL playoff contests are streamed live online and on demand at HockeyTV.com.
No. 2 Red Lake Miners vs. No. 3 Thief River Falls Norskies
Thief River Falls leads best-of-seven series 1-0
Game 1: Thief River Falls 5 Red Lake 4 (OT)
Game 2: Friday, March 29 @ Red Lake 7:30 p.m. (Cochenour Arena)
Game 3: Monday, April 1 @ Thief River Falls 7 p.m. (Ralph Engelstad Arena)
Game 4: Tuesday, April 2 @ Thief River Falls 7 p.m. (Ralph Engelstad Arena)
Game 5*: Friday, April 5 @ Red Lake 7:30 p.m. (Cochenour Arena)
Game 6*: Sunday, April 7 @ Thief River Falls 7 p.m. (Ralph Engelstad Arena)
Game 7*: Tuesday, April 9 @ Red Lake 7:30 p.m. (Cochenour Arena)
Photo credit: Patrick Boucha