© Herald Photo by Andrew Schopp
Thunder Bay Kings' netminder Brock Aiken was outstanding on Friday as the 15-year-old stopped 36 shots in helping his club salvage a 2-2 tie with the Saskatchewan champion Notre Dame Argos. Thunder Bay needs a win over Winnipeg and an Argos' loss to Prince Albert to have a chance at reaching the Western Regional final on Sunday.
Saturday is the Ontario Hockey League’s annual draft of 15-year-old talent and if Thunder Bay’s Brock Aiken isn’t on anybody’s radar, he should be.
The talented affiliate netminder for the Thunder Bay Major Midget Kings stole the show on Friday in helping the Kings salvage a 2-2 draw with the Saskatchewan champion Notre Dame Argos in Day 2 action at the Western Regional Midget AAA championship being played at the Art Hauser Centre.
Aiken made 36 saves in his first appearance at the championship and was especially sharp in the third period when he turned aside all 15 Notre Dame shots to preserve the tie. Aiken needed to be focused the entire game as a beautiful toe save on Argo forward Jared Fanti with five seconds left was his biggest save of the game.
The tie moves the Argos to 1-0-1 while the Kings are 0-1-1. Notre Dame can advance to Sunday’s final with a win or tie against the host the Prince Albert Mintos on Saturday, but Thunder Bay is still in the hunt as they complete the round-robin with a game against the Manitoba champion Winnipeg Wild on Saturday.
“We need some help, but we have to do our job as well,” said Thunder Bay head coach Ian Swalucynski.
“Something has to change,” added Swalucynski. “Whether it’s eating breakfast at a different time or getting to the rink earlier, I don’t know, but for some reason we are having bad starts. We get better as the game goes on.”
Just like in their first game, the Kings fell behind 2-0 in the opening period on Friday and then had to battle back. Jordan Berger had staked the Argos to a two-goal advantage in the opening 20 minutes, but Trevor Kavanaugh and Brad Arabia brought Thunder Bay back on even terms in the middle session.
“We had a bit of a letdown in the second period,” admitted Notre Dame head coach Del Pedrick. “We have to get back to the way we play and manage the game better.”
“Thunder Bay hung around and stuck to their trap system,” added Pedrick.
Thunder Bay, who was playing without defenceman Chase Stewart for Friday’s match due to a game misconduct he picked up late in Thursday’s opening loss to Prince Albert, had 22 shots on Matt Kustra in the Notre Dame goal.
Not surprisingly, Aiken, who normally plays for the Thunder Bay Minor Midget Kings, was named the game star for the Northern Ontario representatives while Berger picked up the honour for Notre Dame.
With Prince Albert already guaranteed a spot in Sunday’s final by virtue of their 3-2 win over Winnipeg in Friday’s late game, Thunder Bay and the Argos will have to take care of business on Saturday to grab the other berth. The Kings will have to first beat Winnipeg and then hope the Mintos defeat Notre Dame to have any shot of grabbing the final berth in the championship final.
The winner of Sunday’s final game will get the western regional berth in the Telus Cup championship slated for Moose Jaw in two weeks time.