Walleye’s Leduc nets 1-0 winner in third

Walleye’s Leduc nets 1-0 winner in third

Kam River goaltender Eric Vanska made 46 saves to earn his third shutout of the season and fifth of his SIJHL career.

OLIVER PAIPOOGE – Just when it looked like nobody was going to light the lamp on Friday night, Max Leduc found himself alone in the slot.

The 16-year-old Kam River Fighting Walleye forward turned, fired the puck and chased it through Thunder Bay North Stars goaltender Conner Lemieux’s five-hole.

The tally, which came at 10:45 of the third period, turned out to be the only goal of the game, the Fighting Walleye winning for the second time in four games – but for the fourth time in four games against visiting North Stars.

“I’ve just recovered from an injury so it was a bit difficult to come back but the lads kept the intensity throughout the game and Eric (Vanska), our goalkeeper, kept us going. It’s just a big moment when you score the last goal,” said Leduc, who has points in four of his last five games and has up to nine goals and 23 points in 28 games this season, his first in the SIJHL .

“I got a great pass from Jeremy (Dunmore), made a move on the first D and just shot it through the defense’s leg. It was a screen.”

Fighting Walleye coach Geoff Walker said that’s exactly the kind of payoff the team was hoping for when Leduc was brought on board.

“He’s a stallion. He knows how to play the game and he’s playing the game right at his age,” Walker said. “He missed the last three or four through injury. That’s a huge hole for us and that says something about a 16-year-old kid.”

While the goal was a key factor in the win – you can’t win if you can’t get the puck in the net – it was Vanska who shouldered most of the pressure and kept North Stars’ attack at bay. And attacked Thunder Bay.

The Stars beat the Fighting Walleye 19-16 in the first and 15-13 in the second, but couldn’t untie the experienced Netminder, who made 46 stops to earn his third shutout of the season and fifth of his SIJHL career.

“He’s our rock,” Walker said. “He’s the key to our whole operation here. He went through a rough couple of weeks there, put it aside and had a (damn) game. We won’t win this game without him. We don’t win many games without him.”

His best stop came in the second when the North Stars played shorthanded.

Nikolas Campbell broke free and was alone at the 20-year-old goalkeeper but was walled in. Later in the second, EJ Paddington had an almost surefire detour that should have broken the double goose egg – but Vanska had other ideas.

Conner Lemieux was also up to the task at the other end of the rink, stopping 44 of 45 shots, including a scintillating toe save on Noah Kramps in the early stages of the third.

The third period also brought some rough stuff, with the North Stars’ Dylan Winsor and the Fighting Walleye’s Kobe Braham going head-to-head to the delight of 806 fans at Norwest Arena to earn five-minute Fighting Majors and automatic in-game misconduct.

The two teams will try again on Saturday night in Oliver Paipoonge. Puck drop is 7:30 p.m

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