Lakers rally to beat Ice Dogs
Having given up the lead midway through the third period, and also having lost captain Merritt Rysavy to injury, it looked like the Fort Frances Lakers were about to drop yet another game to the Dryden Ice Dogs here last Tuesday night.
But the Lakers turned the momentum around to grab a 5-4 victory and take over sole possession of second place in the SIJHL standings, though the Ice Dogs moved back into a tie with the Lakers following a win in Dryden over the Minnesota Iron Rangers on Saturday night.
“With us being tied with them in the standings and having let two points slip away on Saturday [Jan. 26 against the Minnesota Iron Rangers], this was a must-win game for us,” he noted.
“If we had lost, I would have felt that we gave away the game to them as the defensive breakdowns that we had are something that we shouldn’t have at this point in the season.
“But I can’t take away anything from the guys as they kept fighting back and found a way to get the job done,” Strachan added.
Trailing 4-3, the Lakers tied the game just past the halfway point of the third when Joel Bogacki’s point shot worked its way through traffic and past Ice Dogs’ goalie Eric Szymczyk.
“I don’t think Eric really saw the puck, and I think that was a real turning point in the game,” Ice Dogs’ head coach Paul Maclean said afterwards.
“When they got up on us 4-3, we needed to get back into the game and that goal really gave us the momentum we needed,” said Lakers’ forward Jordan Christianson.
Christianson was involved in the game-winning goal with less than five minutes to go, feeding the puck to a streaking Patrick Sofer on a 2-on-1 rush.
“The last time we played together was in Dryden and we worked together on a couple of goals there,” Christianson recalled.
“We seem to have a pretty good connection together,” echoed Sofer.
When asked how the winning goal developed, Christianson was quick to cite the contributions of two of his teammates.
“There was a great pass by [Cody] Wickstrom to hit [Colton] Spicer, and Colton made a heads-up play to get the puck to me,” he explained.
“Jordan then made a great pass to me and I was just able to put the puck on net,” Sofer noted.
The Lakers’ offence was spread out last Tuesday, with Christianson leading the way with a goal and an assist. Wickstrom and Mason Meyer, meanwhile, both had a pair of helpers.
Spicer, Alex Bruess, and Tyler Brodersen notched a goal apiece.
“Lately when we have been scoring, it hasn’t just been our top line of Jordan, Colton, and Merritt as we’ve had a couple of key goal from Alex in the last couple of games and Sofer got us the game-winner tonight,” Strachan noted.
“If we want to continue down the stretch here and achieve our goal of finishing in second place, we need to have scoring from all over and not just lean on our top scorers in the standings,” he stressed.
Last Tuesday’s win did come at a price for the Lakers. Rysavy left the game following the second period and did not return after being the recipient of a blow to the head.
“Right now with Merritt, it’s probably going to be day-to-day,” said Strachan.
“And it might be a good thing that don’t play for a week so that we can let him rest.
“When he came off, he took a blatant hit to the head,” Strachan noted. “He didn’t remember the hit or even coming off the ice, so it’s something we have to watch with concussions and what-not.
“Just unfortunate that a hit like that doesn’t get called,” he lamented.
Despite the fact he had just watched his team cough up a third-period lead, Maclean felt there were some positives the Ice Dogs could take away from the game.
“It was pretty much a back-and-forth game between the two teams, and I felt that it could have gone either way at the end,” he remarked.
“Right now it’s very tight between everyone, especially since this is now a five-team league and we are all jockeying for a position in the standings,” Maclean added.
“You really don’t want to be in a situation where you finish in fourth or fifth place and have to be in that play-in series because that is only a best-of-three affair.”
After taking on the Minnesota Iron Rangers here last night (the outcome wasn’t known as of press time), the Lakers will hit the road this Friday for a rematch in Hoyt Lakes.
“We know that it’s going to be a playoff atmosphere against the Iron Rangers as they are fighting to catch up with us in the standings,” Christianson noted.
“They are a hard-working team, so we have to make sure that we can play a little bit harder than them,” stressed Sofer.