HOYT LAKES — The Minnesota Iron Rangers came to life in the third period and gave undefeated Thunder Bay all they could handle in a 3-2 loss.
The Iron Rangers entered the period trailing 3-0 but Aaron Koivunen quickly changed all that with a blast from just inside the blue line 1:58 into the period.
Suddenly, the tally by Eveleth product Koivunen (assisted by Zach Kilen of Virginia had the Rangers back in the game, 3-1.
The North Stars and Rangers exchanged scoring opportunities and penalties, but neither side could get the late game advantage.
Minnesota netminder Nick Corneliuson was again keeping the home team in the game with 10 saves in the final period.
The Iron Rangers finally got their chance with a power play around the 4:00 mark. Less than a minute later Minnesota had a 5-on-3 for more than a minute.
Christian Ward made the North Stars pay for their mistakes after grabbing a rebound and putting it past the Stars’ goalie Brock Aiken to make it 3-2 with 2:28 to play. The score was assisted by Cam Birkeland and Erik Engdahl.
The Rangers continued to put the pressure on and had a few scoring chances. However, Aiken was up to the task and preserved the Thunder Bay win, 3-2.
The Iron Rangers outshooting Thunder Bay 14-10 on the final stanza was on stark contrast to the first two periods.
The Iron Rangers skated toe to toe with Thunder Bay in the first two periods thanks to the goaltending of Corneliuson.
The netminder from Thief River Falls, Minn., stopped 33 shots in the first 40 minutes, which kept Minnesota in the game.
The advantage in shots on goal caught up to the Iron Rangers late in the first and second of the loss.
Shortly after the home team came up empty on the power play, Thunder Bay’s Ryan Mignault scored his first of the game to give the visitors a 1-0 lead with 1:50 left in the first. Mignault raced into the Rangers zone, deked goalie Corneliuson and lit the lamp.
The second period seemed much the same with Corneliuson again looking strong early on. That included two separate saves just 45 seconds apart. Each time the North Stars had a skater in all alone on Corneliuson. The Rangers goalie turned aside point blank shots each time.
The Thunder Bay pressure was too much later in the second as Mignault scooped up a rebound and buried it behind Corneliuson for a power play goal with 2:59 left in the second for a 2-0 lead.
Just 47 seconds later, Graeme Scott got on the scoresheet with an unassisted shot to make it 3-0 after two periods.
Corneliuson ended the game with 43 saves, while Aiken had 28.
The Iron Rangers (1-6) and Thunder Bay (6-0) face off again today at 7 p.m. at the Hoyt Lakes Arena.