DRYDEN, Ont. – Brandon Bodnar turned aside all 27 shots he faced while Bradley Thrower set-up the eventual game-winning goal and later added a man advantage marker as the Thunder Bay North Stars (SIJHL) blanked the Cochrane Crunch (NOJHL) 4-0 Tuesday afternoon in the opening game of the 2018 Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Jr. A Championship at Dryden Memorial Arena.
Cochrane came out quickly and generated the majority of the scoring chances in the first half of the opening frame but could not solve Thunder Bay starter Bodnar.
It would be the North Stars who opened the scoring with 3:11 left in the period as Thrower made a slick no-look pass from behind the net right to an open Turner Santin to the right of the crease as he lifted a shot from close range into the open side past Crunch goalkeeper Shayne Battler.
Thunder Bay came right back on the next shift and added another as SIJHL Rookie of the Year Keighan Gerrie dug the puck loose along the side boards and skated in front where he wired one top shelf on Battler.
Cochrane head coach Ryan Leonard called a timeout after that and opted to replace Battler in favour of Taylor Unruh in an effort to try and turn the momentum back in their favour.
However, going on the power play early in the middle stanza, the North Stars upped their lead thanks to the man advantage as defencemen Joe Newhouse and Jake Behse worked it over to Thrower in the right face-off dot who fired a snap shot high short side over Unruh’s shoulder to make it 3-0 at 2:55.
The Superior International Junior Hockey League side added some insurance with just over six minutes remaining in regulation as Dillon Ward forced a turnover just outside the Cochrane blueline, darted in down the left wing and buried his chance to put the North Stars up by four and round out the scoring.
Battler suffered the loss for the Crunch allowing two against on eight shots while Unruh handled 26 of 28 in 42 and a half minutes of relief.
Thunder Bay’s Behse dished out two assists on the day and was named his club’s player of the game.
Austin Whelan earned the laurels for the Crunch.
Game 2 of the DHC goes at 7:30 p.m. CT/8:30 p.m. ET as the host Dryden GM Ice Dogs take on the Ontario Junior Hockey League champion Wellington Dukes.