Heavy is the head that wears the crown—though perhaps for not much longer.
The Borderland Thunder are halfway to knocking off the defending SIJHL champion Dryden Ice Dogs, grabbing a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven semi-final series after a pair of weekend victories here.
Dan Hoehne made 21 saves, and Ian Lockman had a goal and an assist, as the Thunder blanked the Ice Dogs 5-0 on Friday night.
The Thunder grabbed a 3-0 first-period lead on goals by Ryan Kramer, Rob Scales, and Aaron Grynol against goalie Ryan Comeau and an unimpressive-looking Dryden squad—and were never threatened the rest of the way.
Chad Baldwin tallied in the second, then Lockman capped the scoring in the third before having his night come to an end with 50 seconds left after being assessed a cross-checking minor, a 10-minute misconduct, and a game misconduct, which led to him being suspended for game two Saturday night.
The Ice Dogs took advantage of a short-staffed Thunder squad to leap to a 3-1 second-period lead in that one. But the hosts scored four unanswered goals to storm back for a 5-3 victory.
Grynol scored the winner at 10:30 of the third period against Dryden netminder Ryan McGillis while Kevin Webb notched a pair.
“Critter” Nagurski and Kurt Hogard, on a Bobby Orr-like rush from center that he finished off by sweeping around the Ice Dogs net and snapping a wrist shot home, rounded out the Thunder’s offensive attack.
Joey Pell, Steve Bunney, and Jordan Sitar replied for the Ice Dogs, who were outshot 38-28 by the Thunder, who were without captain Josh Baxter (knee), forward A.J. Tucker (ankle), and defenceman Clayton Windigo (shoulder) for both games.
Baxter and Windigo sustained their injuries last weekend against the Fort William First Nation Wolves while Tucker still is recovering from a Feb. 4 incident against the Ice Dogs.
Lockman was joined in the press box Saturday night by defenceman David Lloyd, who finished Friday’s game but was sporting a sling on his shoulder Saturday night, although head coach Dave Allison stated the blueliner was suffering an ankle injury.
Games three and four of the series are slated this Friday and Saturday night in Dryden, with game five, if necessary, back here next Monday (March 24) at 7:30 p.m.
The dates and times for games six and seven, if necessary, were not available as of press time.
Meanwhile, the Wolves and the Thunder Bay KC Bulldogs are tied 1-1 in the other semi-final series.
Fort William scored twice in the final three minutes, including the game-winner on the power play at 19:15 by Trevor Abraham, to steal game one 3-2.
But the Bulldogs gained retribution Saturday night on the strength of a pair of goals from Rylan Vesa to take an easy 6-1 decision.
Games three and four of that series also are scheduled for this Friday and Saturday.