OLIVER PAIPOONGE – When the Kam River Fighting Walleye scored with one second left in the second period on Saturday night, things weren’t looking great for the visiting Dryden Ice Dogs.
Three times they’d given up the lead on the road, and momentum is a funny hockey mistress at times. Give it up at the wrong time, and often it’s game over.
Fate didn’t consider the Ice Dogs power play.
Given three man-advantage opportunities in the third, Dryden’s special teams scored three power-play goals, breaking open a 3-3 tie after 40 minutes en route to a 7-3 win in the regular-season finale for both teams.
“Honestly, you don’t want to give up a goal within the last minute of play, after you’ve just gone up,” said Dryden captain Brady Frattinger, who scored once and added a pair of helpers to crack the 50-point barrier for the season, finishing with 51.
“We went into the second intermission and said, you know what, shake that off, come back out strong and see what we can do.”
Getting special teams clicking heading into the postseason – which gets under Thursday night at home against Fort Frances – is key for Dryden.
There’s no question it was the deciding factor against the Fighting Walleye, a team the second-place Ice Dogs could find themselves on a playoff collision course, depending how the first two rounds play out.
“Our power play has been good all year – win the draw, set the play up and get pucks to the net and guys to the net. We find lots of success that way,” the 20-year-old Elkhorn, Man. native said.
Despite the loss, Kam River forward Ethan Lang isn’t reading too much into the result.
The Fighting Walleye sat eight regulars and provided a bit of pre-playoff experience to some of the younger players on the roster.
“It was chance for some young guys to get there shot here in junior, some guys to play some more minutes that they’re not used to,” said Lang, honoured before the contest for dressing in his 100th regular-season game with the Fighting Walleye, the first player to crack the milestone.
“It gave some guys some rest before playoffs and a chance to heal. We have some injuries, so it was good. I thought the team put up a good effort. We all thought so.”
For the first 40 minutes, it was a back-and-forth affair.
Neither team found the back of the net in the first, Kam River’s second-stringer Jack Orchard and Dryden’s Eric Clark both playing strong between the pipes.
Kaden Bandura finally lit the lamp 5:50 into the second, banging home a rebound for a 1-0 Ice Dogs lead.
Riley Borody responded four minutes later, beating Clark for his 10th of the season. Less than two minutes later Dryden was back in front, Jack Cullen with a second-chance opportunity off a James Hooton shot.
Fifty-eight seconds later, the game was tied again, Euan Morrison redirecting a puck in front of Clark that soared into the top of Dryden net.
The final minute of the middle frame brought two more goals, one by each team. Less than four minutes after Clark stoned Kam River’s Ryan Doucette on a penalty shot, Frattinger made it 3-2 with 31 seconds to go in the period, only to have Logan Gallaher surprise Clark and 825 fans at the Norwest Arena with a last-second goal to close out the second.
The third, however, was all Ice Dogs.
Landen Stromme put the visitors ahead for good 5:11 into the period and Cullen notched his second of the night 72 seconds later, stretching Dryden’s lead to 5-3. Max Roby, on the power play, and Hooton, rounded out the scoring, giving the Ice Dogs their third win over Kam River in eight meetings this season.
Notes: The Thunder Bay North Stars also open playoff play on Thursday, hosting the Red Lake Miners in a best-of-seven series. Game 2 is Friday night at the Gardens. Sioux Lookout, which took third place in the standings, will host Wisconsin in the other first-round series.
Scoring: None. Penalties: Stromme DRY (tripping) 8:40.
Scoring: 1. Dryden, Bandura 8 (Earl, Frattinger) 5:50. 2. Kam River, Borody 10 (Duchesne, Henderson) 9:43. 3. Dryden, Cullen 2 (Hooton, Maksimow) 11:16. 4. Kam River, Morrison (Duchesne, McLeod) 12:14. 5. Dryden, Frattinger 28 (Paulsen) 19:31. 6. Kam River, Gallaher 6 (McLeod) 19:59. Penalties: Maksimow DRY (roughing), Paulsen DRY (interference), Morrison KRW (roughing) 2:01, Braham KRW (roughing) 17:28.
Scoring: 7. Dryden, Stromme 24 (Paulsen, Pfoh) 5:11 pp. 8. Dryden, Cullen 3 (Stromme, Frattinger) 6:43 pp. 9. Dryden, Roby (Bandura, Hackl) 14:13 pp. 10. Dryden, Hooton (unassisted) 15:37. Penalties: McCollum KRW (slashing) 4:58), Reyelts KRW (interference) 5:33, Earl DRY (high sticking) 6:39, Bench minor KRW (too many men, served by Duchesne) 14:07, Reyelts KRW, Maksimow DRY (fighting majors, game misconducts) 17:38, Paulsen DRY (instigating, fighting major, game misconduct), Gallaher KRW (fighting major, game misconduct) 19:44.
GAME DATA – SOG – Dryden 7-20-12-39, Kam River 17-15-9-41; Power plays (goals-chances) – Dryden (3-4), Kam River (0-4); Goaltenders – Dryden: Eric Clark, Kam River: Jack Orchard; A: 825.