Lakers solidify hold on second
With less than two weeks left in the SIJHL regular season, the Fort Frances Lakers have made it perfectly clear to the rest of their rivals that they want to start the post-season with the second seed.
Heading into a clash with Dryden here last night (the outcome wasn’t available as of press time), the Lakers held a seven-point gap on the Ice Dogs in the race for second place with eight games to go before the playoffs.
“Everything we are doing here is to build toward the playoffs,” he noted. “And if we can continue to find ways to win close hockey games, that is going to bode well for our team down the road.”
Their most recent taste of success came against those same Ice Dogs here Friday night, when defenceman Jon Carlson scored a power-play goal in overtime to give the Lakers a 4-3 victory.
“Three weeks ago, we might have been talking following a loss after we gave up a lead in the third period,” Strachan said after his team’s fifth-straight win.
“But we are not doing that right now and we are finding ways to win hockey games.
“Things like that tend to happen when things are going your way,” he added.
With Dryden’s Len Pelletier sitting in the sin bin for slashing, the Lakers had a chance to end the game early in the extra frame, which Carlson did with a blast from the point.
“It’s probably one of the biggest goals that I have ever scored,” smiled the 18-year-old from Fort Frances.
“Colton [Spicer], Simon [Desrosiers], and I had just talked a little strategy prior to the face-off and we wanted to try and spread them out a little bit, which Colton did a great job of doing,” Carlson explained.
“I had the lane and I had seen the bottom corner was open there, and I was just fortunate that the puck went in,” he added.
The Lakers were led offensively by Patrick Sofer, who
netted a pair of power-play markers with a little bit help from linemate Jacob Nolan, who finished the game with two assists.
“Whenever you have a power play, you want to capitalize on your opportunities,” Sofer stressed.
“The power play is something that we have been working on a lot here lately, and I feel that it’s really starting come along here in the last couple of games.”
Besides setting up Carlson’s game-winner, Spicer got the ball rolling with a breakaway goal in the first period when his backhander eluded Ice Dogs’ goalie Eric Szymczyk.
Jesse Linner had a goal and an assist for the visitors Friday night while Tyson Holder and Evan Capobianco also beat Lakers’ netminder Talor Joseph.
The Lakers began their first of three games against the Ice Dogs last Wednesday with a 4-2 triumph in Dryden, led by a three-point night from team captain Merritt Rysavy.
“He led the way for us, I thought, especially in the second period as we turned things around after not playing up to our potential in the first period,” Strachan recalled.
“He was working hard in the battles that he had, and he was one of those guys that went to the net for us and paid the price in order to get a goal.
“He was rewarded for his play with an empty-netter at the end of the game, and that came as a result of the effort he put in,” Strachan added.
Rysavy’s linemate, Jordan Christianson, had a pair of helpers during the game while Desrosiers and Kevin Kurm also tallied.
Holder and Linner each had a goal and an assist for the Ice Dogs.
Following last night’s home game with the Ice Dogs, the Lakers will head on the road tonight to meet the regular-season champion Minnesota Wilderness in Cloquet.
Then they’ll host the Ice Dogs yet again this Saturday (March 2) at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.
After travelling to Dryden next Wednesday, the Lakers will conclude their regular-season home schedule with a pair of games March 8-9 against the Thunder Bay North Stars.
Two make-up games with the North Stars also are being worked on at the moment, but the exact dates and times of those contests at the Fort William Gardens are still to be determined.
“For the most part, we are just going to go into those games with the same effort we have been bringing lately,” Carlson said.
“We have to come in and work hard every night,” he stressed. “And if we do that, we will be able to come away with the two points.”
In related news, the Lakers will hold their annual awards banquet this Friday (March 1) at the Adventure Inn, starting with cocktails at 5 p.m.
Dinner will be served at 6 p.m., with the awards presentations to follow.