Looking at the final results – a 6-1loss on Friday and a 7-2 setback on Saturday, you might think the Norman Northstars put forth a pair of similar efforts against the always-formidable Winnipeg Wild at home this past weekend.
But the truth is, while the Northstars were out of contention early in the first game of the homestand, they led for nearly 30 minutes the following night before surrendering two goals in the last two minutes of the second period.
It was 1:37 before the end of the middle frame when Taylor Fisher beat Northstars goalie Aaron Vallance on a point shot immediately after an offensive zone faceoff for the Wild, forced by Vallance’s stops on a breakaway and a rebound attempt just seconds before. That goal made it a 2-2 game but the tie didn’t last long, as Paul Soubry deflected a shot by Bradley Reichardt that fluttered up in the air and over Vallance’s shoulder to give the Wild the lead just 41 seconds later.
The Northstars had never trailed to that point, with Even Akkerman getting them on the board just past the midway point of the opening frame and Brendan Barron doubling the lead less than 90 seconds later, with both Northstars’ goals coming on the power play. Zach Hiesinger, who finished the game with a hat trick, got the Wild’s first goal 4:14 before the first intermission. He would add two more in the third – the first just past the midway point, the second shorthanded with just 20 seconds left – as the Wild scored four unanswered goals, including power play markers by Jordan Bochinski and Jackson Keane in the late stages of the game.
However, despite the Northstars’ leading until nearly the second intermission, the tide actually turned earlier in the middle frame, as the Wild ratcheted up the pressure and played a puck possession game, limiting the Northstars to just four shots in both the second and third periods, while recording nine and 19 respectively, to finish the game with a 38-21 advantage, after having been outshot 13-10 in the first 20 minutes.
The Wild got ahead early on Friday and never looked back, opening the scoring just 1:06 into the game, when Ezra Hall backhanded a rebound past Norman netminder Luke Penner after the initial shot by Liam Kroeker rang off the post. Winnipeg then added four more goals in the opening frame, including even-strength markers by Keane and Ryan Pruden and power play goals by Jake Dudar and Bochinski, the latter with just three seconds left before the end of the period. About 90 seconds before that, the Northstars had appeared to get on the board when Trent Laycock put a rebound past Adam Vander Linden but the goal didn’t count as the referee had lost sight of the puck and blown the play dead.
Fisher made it 6-0 for the Wild with 8_09 left in the second period, beating Vallance, who replaced Penner after intermission, before Myles Bennett got his first goal as a Northstar on a deflection just 26 seconds later.
Both teams were scoreless in the third period. Shots in the game were 36-31 for the Wild.
The Northstars’ record now stands at 0-4 leaving them last in the East Division, but they are just two points back of both the Interlake Lightning and the Eastman Selects. They face the selects this weekend in the third game of a four-games-in-four-days road trip, which opens with back-to-back games in Kenora against the Thistles on Thursday and Friday and ends with their third contest in eight games against the Wild on Sunday.
The Northstars take to home ice again on Oct. 26 when the face the Interlake Lightning for the first of two games.