SIJHL record-setting crowd sees Norskies sink Lakers

THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. – The Thief River Falls Norskies saw their captain Bryce Johnson notch a hat trick and add an assist in leading his side to a 7-3 triumph over the visiting Fort Frances Lakers Saturday in front of a Superior International Junior Hockey League single-game record crowd of 3,049 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

This breaks the previous SIJHL mark of 3,045 the Norskies had on hand back on February 24, 2017 in another meeting with the Lakers.

Thief River Falls earlier boasted 3,011 spectators in a match-up vs. the Thunder Bay North Stars back on Feb. 11, 2017 while the SIJHL neutral site contest between the then English River Miners and Fort Frances drew a sold out gathering of 2,050 to the Kenora Recreation Centre as part of the Hockey Day in Canada celebrations on Feb. 18 that same year.

Buoyed by the big crowd, the Norskies took control early by striking three times in the first period on a man advantage marker from Nick Harder and even strength efforts courtesy of Joe Collins and Johnson.

Johnson then notched his second of night 6:43 into the middle session to put TRF up by four.

Fort Frances cut into the deficit during a power play in the back half of the second when Jaden Wake wristed in his initial SIJHL tally as he converted from the point at 15:51.

They then added one more just before the stanza expired as Stone Stelzl spun and fired in his 14th at 19:59.

An early man advantage in the third helped Justin Schwartzmiller put the hosts up 5-2 before the period was two minutes in.

After Johnson finished off his second career hat trick with an unassisted effort at 11:04, Reece Hopfner connected for the Lakers a couple of shifts later while up a skater.

The Norskies then finished it off when Greg Paseschnikoff darted down the left wing and deposited his first SIJHL goal at 19:35 to round out the scoring.

Harder chipped in with two assists for Thief River Falls for a three-point night.

Shots on net also favoured the Norskies by a 36-34 count with Seth Purcilly getting the win while Alex Bugeja suffered the loss.

Photo credit: Tim Benton