A hat trick by Lodie Ipeelie gave the Norman Northstars their first win of the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League season over the Kenora Thistles Oct. 18 and the team won two of four road games in a four-day span to bring their record to 2-6 and leapfrog a couple of teams into fourth place in the East Division standings.
Ipeelie had the overtime winner against the Thistles in the team’s 5-4 win, putting the puck in the net behind Kenora goaltender Brandon Beaulieu less than a minute into the extra frame. Earlier, it was Ipeelie who responded just 63 seconds after Brandon Pentek gave the Thistles a 4-3 lead early in the third period. Ipeelie’s first of the game game on a power play with less than a minute left in the opening period, which gave the Northstars a 2-1 lead. Tavish Quinn had the first goal for the Northstars about five minutes earlier after Chris Varrin of the Thistles opened scoring about 12 minutes into the game.
Northstars’ head coach Stu Cunningham said it wasn’t just about an individual effort, though.
“The strong play of his linemates Evan Akkerman and Trent Laycock made [Ipeelie’s] night possible,” said Cunningham
Brendan Barron had the other goal for the Northstars, scoring 23 seconds into the third period to knot the score 3-3 after Kenora had the only two goals of the second period, by Nicholas Prouty and Evan Mignault.
Goaltender Luke Penner made 31 saves for the Northstars for his first win of the season, as Norman outshot the Thistles 44-35 in the game. Defencemen Jordie Valentino and Bruce Highway each had a pair of assists for the Northstars.
Kenora edged the visitors 4-3 on Friday, getting a 2-0 lead in the first period and matching the Northstars goal-for-goal in the final two periods after Akkerman got Norman on the board with a power-play marker late in the opening frame.
Ipeelie added his fourth goal in two games midway through the second period to tie the game 2-2 but Josh Brunton re-established the Thistles’ lead just 38 seconds before the period ended.
Pentek put Kenora up by two in the early stage of the third period before Laycock made it interesting with a goal at the midway point.
Mignault and Mikko Keski-Pukkila had the first period goals for Kenora, while Akkerman added two assists to finish the game with three points for the Northstars.
Aaron Vallance gave up four goals on 25 shots in the loss, which Cunnigham called a good battle, though the result was not what the Northstars wanted.
The Northstars’ second win of the trip – and the season – came Oct. 20 against the Eastman Selects. Tanner Hepp got the game-winner 7:43 into the second period, assisted by Boyd Langan and Vallance, after the teams traded goals in the opening 20 minutes. Barron got the Northstars ahead with a shorthanded goal just 71 seconds into the game, but Dane Mistelbacher pulled Kenora even 5:53 before the intermission.
Vallance made 35 saves for his first win as the Northstars were outshot 36-31 by the Selects, who are in fifth in the East Division with just a single win in six games.
“Aaron Vallance made big saves when we needed and even picked up an assist,” said Cunningham. “Bruce Highway and Cory Reid probably played their best games of the season which was very promising and Boyd Langan was solid again. Up front the team played strong both ways and Brendan Barron and Tanner Hepp had very good games but it was a team win.”
Norman’s third meeting with the Winnipeg Wild in eight days ended similarly to the first two, as the Wild jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and cruised to an 8-2 victory.
Akkerman had the first goal of the game for the Northstars, but it didn’t come until 1:20 before the second intermission, at which point the Wild were already up 7-0. Barron’s power play goal early in the third period reduced the lead to five but Ezra Hall, with the man advantage, and Jordan Bochinski replied soon after for the Wild.
Penner was tagged with the loss after giving up three goals on nine shots in 9:42 of the first period before being relieved by Vallance, who stopped 31 of the 36 shots he faced. Shots in the game were 45-23 for the Wild, who improved their record to 6-0.
“We worked hard for the whole 60 minutes but undisciplined play hurt us as we gave up two quick goals killing off penalties and it was an uphill battle from there,” said Cunningham, singling out Tyrel Charlton’s strong performance. “He was on a destruction mission and hit, I believe, every player on their team.”
As a whole, said the coach, there were a lot of positive developments on the trip.
“Both our goalies put a win in their cap and for the most part the players came to play, even in the ones that we lost,” Cunningham said. “Our veteran players stepped up and played solid games.”
The Northstars are back on home ice this weekend, taking on the Interlake Lightning, who are 1-5 this season and currently sit sixth in the East Division standings.