A late goal by Brian Dzijak gave the Thunder Bay KC Bulldogs a narrow 5-4 victory over the visiting Borderland Thunder last night in Game 3 of their best-of-seven SIJHL semi-final series.
The Thunder still hold a 2-1 lead, with Game 4 going tonight at the Fort William Gardens. Game 5 will be back here Saturday night.
Dzijak, the league’s top goal scorer during the regular season, blasted a 15-footer from the slot past fallen Thunder goalie Rob Hrabec, who had just made two sprawling saves, with 2:25 to play.
“We didn’t knock anyone down in front and it cost us,” Thunder head coach Wayne Strachan said. “[A win] would have put a stranglehold on the series. Now we have our work cut out for us [tonight].
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy.”
The Thunder found themselves down 2-0 early but responded with two power-play goals from David Lloyd and Matt Johnson in a 30-second span.
Dallas Mosbeck continued the power-play barrage with two in the second period to put the Thunder up 4-3 after 40 minutes (Jamie Gardner had beaten Hrabec midway through the period).
John Antoniak then tied the game with 16:39 left in the third, setting the stage for Dzijak’s winner.
Ian Lockman and Terry Parisien each had two assists in the loss.
The Thunder outshot the Bulldogs 35-27 and were four-for-seven on the power play. But none of that mattered, said Strachan, who noted the home team turned it up a notch.
“They outplayed us throughout the game. They wanted it more and we couldn’t get anything going [even strength],” he said. “If it wasn’t for our power play, the score could have been worse.”
Bulldogs head coach Brian Vescio said his team just wanted to stay close to the first-place Thunder.
“All we need is a chance to be in the game. We’re going up against the number-one team. We just have to improve the mental toughness,” he remarked.
Confidence is high on both sides heading into tonight’s all-important “swing game.”
“It doesn’t mean anything except it’s now 2-1 for them,” said Vescio. “It’s another must-win for us.”
“We’re not worried about anything. We’ll go out tonight and come out focused and play like the way we can,” noted Strachan.
There will be no advance ticket sales for Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. game here. Tickets only will be available at the door.