Tyler Minoletti stuffed the puck into an open net with just eight seconds remaining to seal a 4-2 Thunder Bay win over Thief River Falls in a Friday Superior International Junior Hockey League game in front of 602 fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The league-leading North Stars had their hands full against the first-year Norskies, who led 2-1 at the end of the first period and pushed for the equalizer after pulling goalie Ryan Buttazzoni for an extra skater with 2:11 to play.
Suspense ended as the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard clock when Minoletti came out of the corner with the puck and beat the buzzer by pushing the puck around the post.
Only one of the six goals scored in the game came during regulation 5-on-5 ice time. In addition to the open netter to finish it, both teams had power play and shorthanded goals.
The Norskies made the first costly mistake when they coughed up the puck in their own zone while trying to organize an opening period power play. Brad Thrower turned the gift into a goal with a close-in backhand and a 1-0 Thunder Bay lead at 12:49.
Back-to-back penalties, however, proved to be too much for the North Stars as Michael Johnson tied it at 13:44.
Johnson scored again in the final moment of the first period – this time with Thunder Bay guilty of a goal-producing turnover. Officials said Johnson’s shot beat the buzzer and put the goal in the books at 19:59.
Two second period goals gave the advantage back to Thunder Bay.
A Brett Wolframe shot from the point caromed off Buttazzoni’s stick at 7:16 on the only even-strength goal of the night.
The game winner was a power play goal by Nicholas Nigro at the 13-minute mark. Thief River Falls nearly made it out of a five-minute major penalty without being scored on before Nigro, the second-leading scorer in the SIJHL, swatted in a point-blank rebound with 35 seconds left in the extended power play.
First period – TB, Brad Thrower (Joe Newhouse), 12:49; TRF, Michael Johnson (Blair Lindholm, Keaton Huot), 13:44; TRF, Johnson, 19:59.
Second period – TB, Brett Wolframe (Tyler Minoletti, Ryan Walsh), 7:16; TB, Nicholas Nigro (Brad Arabia, Newhouse), 13:00.
Third period – TB, Minoletti (Arabia), 19:52.
Goalie saves – TRF, Ryan Buttazzoni 16-9-7–32; TB, Jordan Elliott 8-11-14–33.
Penalties – TRF 8 (19 minutes); TB 7 (14 minutes).
Attendance – 602.