Thunder Bay North Stars crowned SIJHL champions

THUNDER BAY, Ont. – Keighan Gerrie tallied twice and assisted on the game-winner as the Thunder Bay North Stars went on to defeat the Red Lake Miners 4-1 Saturday and capture the Superior International Junior Hockey League’s Bill Salonen Cup championship in front of a season-high crowd of 2,120 at the Fort William Gardens.

With the result, Thunder Bay takes the best-of-seven series 4-1 and now moves on to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Junior A Championship, April 30 through May 4, in Cochrane, Ont.

Joining them will be the host Cochrane Crunch (NOJHL) as well as the Ontario Junior Hockey League-champion Oakville Blades and either the Hearst Lumberjacks or Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHL).

Hearst currently leads the best-of-seven Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League final 3-2, heading into Game 6 Monday at home.

Thunder Bay got the boisterous home crowd fired up two minutes into the contest as Alex Erwin fed one out front from behind the net to a waiting Jayden Mrakic, who promptly wired one from the slot past Red Lake starter Zach Willms.

The visiting Miners countered however at 7:36 as Stratton Pickett skated in, used a North Stars defender as a screen, and whipped one high that eluded Brock Aiken in the North Stars net.

Answering back, the home side regained the lead five minutes later as defenceman Kyle Auger pinched in and outwaited Willms before sliding in his third of the playoffs.

Red Lake had a great chance to draw even in the middle session after killing off a pair of penalties when Morgan Venne stepped out of the box and came in on a breakaway, only to be denied by Aiken.

Thunder Bay pumped 16 shots on Willms in the second, but could not solve the Miners’ stopper.

The North Stars did extend their lead 1:05 into the final frame when Gerrie was sent in alone and the highly-touted forward made no mistake ,slipping one low that eluded Willms to make it 3-1.

They then capped off their victory five minutes after that as Gerrie connected once more to give Thunder Bay their first Bill Salonen Cup title since 2010 as well as the North Stars SIJHL-record sixth league championship.

Gerrie also added an assist while teammate Jacob Brown had three helpers of his own as the duo finished up with three-point performances.

Thunder Bay held a big edge in shots by a 49-27 count with Aiken picking up the win while Willms was outstanding despite the season-ending defeat for Red Lake.

The Dudley-Hewitt Cup winner will then advance to the Canadian National Jr. A Championship, May 11-19, in Brooks, Alta.

SIJHL Playoffs
Series E
Bill Salonen Cup Final
Thunder Bay North Stars vs. Red Lake Miners
North Stars win best-of-seven series 4-1
Game 1: Red Lake 6 Thunder Bay 1
Game 2: Thunder Bay 5 Red Lake 2
Game 3: Thunder Bay 4 Red Lake 2
Game 4: Thunder Bay 7 Red Lake 4
Game 5: Thunder Bay 4 Red Lake 1

2002: Dryden Ice Dogs
2003: Fort Frances Borderland Thunder
2004: Fort William North Stars 
2005: Fort William North Stars 
2006: Fort William North Stars 
2007: Schreiber Diesels
2008: Dryden Ice Dogs
2009: Fort William North Stars 
2010: Fort William North Stars 
2011: Wisconsin Wilderness
2012: Wisconsin Wilderness
2013: Wisconsin Wilderness
2014: Fort Frances Lakers
2015: Fort Frances Lakers
2016: Fort Frances Lakers
2017: Dryden GM Ice Dogs
2018: Dryden GM Ice Dogs
2019: Thunder Bay North Stars

Photo credit: Rick Baraniuk