Lights were dimmed, the music was turned up and festivities of a long-awaited home opener for Thief River Falls’ new Junior A hockey franchise had the Ralph Engelstad Arena in an energy-charged mode Friday night. Then the game started and the host Norskies found themselves trailing red-hot English River 4-0 just 15:05 into the contest. It proved to be too big of a hole to climb out of as they fell to the Miners 7-4.
It was team-record eighth straight win for the visitors.
After opening their inaugural Superior International Junior Hockey League season with eight road games, the Norskies were probably hoping a crowd of 1,785 – in a league that was averaging 321 fans per game – would put a little extra jump in their game and maybe prove a little intimidating for English River.
But that did not happen. A quick snap shot by Austin Kuhn stayed low and beat Thief River Falls goalie Ryan Buttazzoni cleanly just 2:05 after the opening face-off.
Two Ryder Prue power play goals promptly made it 3-0 as he scored a point-blank rebound at 5:35 and on a weak shot that trickled into the net at 9:55.
After a quick shot from the side by Morgan Scriber found the netting at 15:06, Buttazzoni was relieved by Sam Novak.
The Norskies’ first home rink goal came from Thief River Falls product Keaton Huot off a nice feed from another former Prowler, Michael Johnson, at 18:51.
A third Lincoln High School graduate on the Thief River Falls roster made it 4-2 when Blair Lindholm scored a quick 41 seconds into the second period – on assists from Johnson and Huot.
The comeback was cut short, however on two more English River power play goals by Matt O’Neill at 10:41 and Dwayne Auger with only 15 seconds left in the second period that rebuilt the four-goal difference at 6-2.
Another early Thief River Falls strike made it 6-3 when Connor Smith scored in the first minute of the third period and a rally was in full force when Cody Aarvig chopped the English River lead to 6-4 at 14:48. Both of those goals came on point-blank rebounds.
With a power play in effect, the Norskies pulled Novak for a 6-on-4 skater advantage with about 3 1/2 minutes to play. The netminder later returned and it was English River, not Thief River Falls, scoring on a power play at 18:52 to wrap it up.
While the Miners were scoring on five of their nine power play opportunities, the Norskies were 0-for-4 with the extra man.
First period – ER, Austin Kuhn (Sidney Glaude), 2:05; ER, Ryder Prue (Dante Tisi), 5:35; EGF, Prue (Glaude, Kuhn), 9:55; ER, Morgan Scriber (Nash Dabb, Jake Gushue), 15:06; TRF, Keaton Huot (Michael Johnson), 18:51.
Second period – TRF, Blair Lindholm (Johnson, Huot), :41; ER, Matt O’Neill (Braeden Pearce, Trevor Pereverzoff), 10:41; ER, Dwayne Auger (Glaude, Jamie Driedger), 19:45.
Third period – TRF, Connor Smith (Alec Daman, Jack Dunnell), :55; TRF, Cody Aarvig (Smith), 14:48; ER, Dabb (Tisi, Pereverzoff), 18:52.
Goalie saves – TRF, Ryan Buttazzoni 7-x-x, Sam Novak 3-8-11, TRF game total 29; ER, Spencer Eschyschyn 15-6-5–26.
Penalties – TRF 10 (22 minutes); ER, 6 (12 minutes).
Attendance – 1,785.