Lakers’ offence erupts against Clydesdales
Despite some impressive offensive performances on the road of late, the Fort Frances Lakers had yet to see that carry over into their games at the Ice For Kids Arena in the last month.
But with a five-goal outburst in the first period Saturday night, the Lakers snapped a three-game home losing streak with an 11-6 victory over the Duluth Clydesdales.
“We did have a couple of sloppy breakdowns,” he admitted. “But to put five up in the first period at home is always a good thing, and you should be able to carry that through to the end.
“In the second, they outworked us a little bit but we came on in the end, with the line of Merritt [Rysavy], [Colton] Spicer, and [Jordan] Christianson being involved with our last seven goals,” Strachan added.
Leading the way for the Lakers’ top line was Christianson. The 20-year-old from International Falls had two goals and six assists for what was the most successful night of his hockey career.
“This ranks right up for one of the most memorable nights of my career,” he smiled.
“We were working well out there tonight, and everything was just clicking for me with Spicer and Merritt,” Christianson added.
“They are a lot of fun to play with.”
Not to be outdone, Spicer also had an impressive showing Saturday night, hitting the twine four times and assisting on one of Christianson’s markers.
“I think I had a pretty successful night against Duluth a little while ago, but this game is right up there,” the 17-year-old Fort Frances native remarked.
“Normally, when our line is clicking, we are getting points.
“And on a night like this one, where we are making things happen, we are able to get some goals,” he reasoned.
Although Rysavy was held to just a goal, the captain’s play with his linemates was something Strachan felt was a contributing factor to Saturday’s strong performance.
“When we needed them to step up, especially in the second period, they were able to do that with their leadership,” he lauded.
“All three of them are veteran players for us, and they showed the way up front by moving their feet and working hard.
“Because of that, things were able to open up for them,” Strachan added.
Davis Smith, Jacob Nolan, and Mason Meyer also scored for the Lakers while Tyler Brodersen, acquired from the NAHL’s Soo Eagles last Thursday, had a goal and an assist in his first game with his new club.
Another new member of the Lakers also had an impressive performance in his second SIJHL contest. Former Abitibi Eskimos’ defenceman Simon Desrosiers collected four assists Saturday.
“Overall, I like what I see from him so far, and he will definitely help us out on offence at the back end,” Strachan said of Desrosiers, who was acquired in a trade last Tuesday.
“I would like to work with him a little bit to shore up a few things, such as finishing his checks, but he will be a big part of the team going forward.
“As for Tyler [Brodersen], it was our first chance to see him in action and he was able to chip in right away with a couple of points in the first period,” Strachan noted.
“He still needs to get in a little bit better game shape, but his skating is fine and you can tell that he understands the game.”
Despite suffering yet another loss in what has been a very difficult campaign, the Clydesdales (2-32-0-1) did have a nice offensive showing from Sebastian Romeo, who scored a pair of nearly-identical breakaway goals on Jameson Shortreed during the second period.
Teammates Zachary Newman, Justin Martin, Luke Dmytro, and Jon Ringstad added singles.
For the Lakers, Saturday’s win took the sting out of a rough game they had just 24 hours early, when they fell 6-2 to the league-leading Minnesota Wilderness here.
Having just seen their 20-game winning streak snapped Wednesday by the Minnesota Iron Rangers in a shootout, the Wilderness came out firing on all cylinders early on.
They took advantage of some Lakers’ mistakes and chased starting goalie Tanner Hamilton after he allowed three goals in under 15 minutes.
“It’s not right to not be able to show up against the number-one team in the league,” Strachan lamented.
“In the first period, we weren’t too bad early on when it was five-on-five,” he recalled. “But our special teams hurt us twice, and a couple of bad defensive errors put us behind 4-0.
“We weren’t in their face constantly,” Strachan added. “And when you are not matching their intensity and speed, that is exactly what can happen.”
With team captain Mike Dietrich leading the way with a goal and an assist, the Wilderness cruised the rest of the way.
They remain the second-best team in the entire CJHL in the latest top 20 poll released Monday.
“Our goal coming in here was to play a full 60-minute game and start off strong, which is something that we didn’t do the other night against the Iron Rangers,” noted Wilderness head coach and general manager Rod Aldoff.
“If you fall asleep for five-10 minutes early on, you are probably going to a lose the game.
“The guys were bound and determined, and they were good to go right off of the bat, so my hat is off to them,” he added.
Tyler Gorniak, Jake Larson, Conrad Sampair, Jordan Shockley, and Nick Szopinski also scored for the Wilderness.
Smith and Jon Carlson replied for the Lakers long after the outcome had been decided.
The Lakers had kicked off their three-game homestand on a losing note last Tuesday night, when they saw a two-goal lead disappear in the third period before falling 3-2 in a shootout to the Dryden Ice Dogs.
“The breakdowns that we had in the third period were a bit alarming at times as they were similar to the mistakes that we made early on in the season,” Strachan noted.
“Their first goal [by Cole Sonstebo] came on a two-on-one rush that started from a breakdown, and the save that Tanner had to try and make was a tough one for any goalie,” he recalled.
“On the second goal [by Paul Thompson], we just let a guy come out of the corner and two of our guys were unable to lay a hand on him, which was quite alarming.”
With overtime solving nothing, despite a point blast by John Dora that beat Ice Dogs’ goalie Eric Szymczyk but rang off of the crossbar, the Lakers were forced to go to a shootout to try and prevent a Dryden comeback.
However, their hard luck with the goal posts continued as both Christianson and Spicer had their shots clang off of the iron.
Meanwhile, Chris Belhumer and Jesse Linner both found the back of the net to give the visitors the victory.
“It all came down to us getting the third goal of the game,” said Ice Dogs’ head coach Paul MacLean.
“If they would have scored to go up by three goals, it would have been all over,” he conceded. “But we were able to bounce back and roll with it.”
The Lakers now hit the road Friday for a game against the Minnesota Iron Rangers in Hoyt Lakes, then will host the Clydesdales yet again Saturday night.
“We just have to stay focused as that has been an issue in the last couple of games,” Spicer stressed.
“We have to show up and play our game for 60 minutes as too often we only play for about 20-30 minutes when you need to play for about 55 against the good teams,” echoed Christianson.
The Lakers also could see two new players added to their lineup this weekend. Brett Bateman of Belleville, a 19-year-old defenceman, and 18-year-old goalie Taylor Joseph of Lloydminster, Alta. are expected to join the team this week.
“Brett has some experience with the Deseronto Storm in the GMHL last season, and he’s set to play baseball at Rainy River Community College this year,” Strachan noted.
“The way that he’s been described to me is that he is a stay-at-home defenceman who is a physical type of guy, and that is something that we can add to our lineup.
“Taylor has split time with the Olds Grizzlys and Calgary Mustangs in the AJHL, where he was 5-2 this year, and we have been getting some rave reports about him from the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL and some of the other teams in the AJHL,” Strachan added.
“If he’s the goalie that I hear he is, that could put us in a situation where we would have three goalies, which is not something that I like to do but it is needed,” he remarked.
“If our other two goalies [Shortreed and Hamilton] want to compete for [playing] time, they are going to have to pick their games up,” he stressed.