Late surge lifts Lakers to victory
The Fort Frances Lakers figured there was no point in letting all their hard work earlier in the game go completely to waste.
After coughing up a 4-0 lead, the Lakers scored three times in the final seven minutes to earn a 7-4 victory over the Dryden Ice Dogs in SIJHL action here Saturday night.
“They got in our face and took us off our game,” he noted. “We took some bad penalties. . . .
“But we did a good job to hang on in the third and we worked hard to end the game on a positive note.”
Ice Dogs’ head coach Paul Maclean shortened his bench in the third period, which came back to bite the visitors.
“We were running just four defencemen out there pretty hard,” admitted Maclean, whose team fell out of the CJHL top 20 rankings with the loss after entering the week at No. 10.
“It really drained them in the end. . . .
“To be down 4-0 and then battle back, I can’t be upset with the effort overall,” he added.
The Lakers opened the scoring at 10:24 of the first period when John Dora’s wrist shot through a screen during a power play earned the blueliner his first goal of the season.
SIJHL scoring leader Lucas DeBenedet (11 points) made it 2-0 just 1:36 later with his fifth of the year on a quick shot from between the face-off circles that surprised Ice Dogs’ goalie Robert Kopytek-MacKenzie.
Bryce Lipinski took twin brother Lyndon’s pass and rocketed a shot past Kopytek-MacKenzie at 1:57 of the second for his second of the year before younger brother, Kyle, making his Lakers’ debut, set up Riley Daly’s first of the season 1:10 later to put the hosts up 4-0.
Dryden finally found some life 57 seconds after that as Zachary Kercz cut in across the blueline and drilled a shot that hit the crossbar behind Lakers’ goalie Ryan Ferguson and dropped into the net.
That triggered an Ice Dogs’ outburst that included goals by Rory Court (power play) at 14:53 and Chris Sitko at 18:20 to cut the lead to 4-3.
Tyson Holder then put Dryden on even terms when he whacked a loose puck over the outstretched pad of Ferguson 49 seconds into the third.
But Ferguson (21 saves) slammed the door after that, allowing his teammates to execute their late-game heroics.
Kevin Kurm netted the go-ahead goal at 13:48, taking DeBenedet’s pass in front and roofing a shot just under the crossbar past Kopytek-MacKenzie (33 saves).
“Lucas came down the wing and made a nice pass and I just let it go,” recalled Kurm, whose second goal of the season was sweet payback after being unceremoniously dumped into the Dryden bench and then held there by Holder for about a six-count during the second period.
“Coach said the glove side was [Kopytek-MacKenzie’s] weak spot the whole game,” Kurm added.
“We scored four of our five goals to that point there.”
Dryden’s comeback hopes were snuffed with 1:33 left. Bryson Jasper gloved down a horrible pass by the Ice Dogs’ Braeden Foote up the middle from behind his own net, then immediately fired it home to make it 6-4.
“That sixth goal killed us,” admitted Maclean.
DeBenedet capped a team-best three-point night by getting his second of the game—and fifth of the season—with 58 seconds left.
The victory meant a split of the home-and-home series for Fort Frances, which lost 7-6 in a shootout last Wednesday night up in Dryden.
Kercz scored in regulation time, then added the winner in the battle of breakaways, where Dryden prevailed in the fourth round by a 2-1 margin.
Holder also scored in the shootout against Ferguson, who replaced Jordan Cartney 4:50 into the game after the latter gave up two goals on five shots.
Kurm had the lone goal in the shootout for the Lakers, who got regulation-time goals from Mason Meyer (two), Jasper, Patrick Sofer, Aaron Wesley-Chisel, and Tanner Fricke.
Dryden’s other markers came from Holder (two), Derek McPhail, Court, and Drew Decker.
The Lakers began another home-and-home series last night with a visit to Hoyt Lakes to take on the Minnesota Iron Rangers (the outcome was unavailable by press time).
The back half of the series goes this Friday (Oct. 4) at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.
In other SIJHL news, Brandon Wolframe of the Thunder Bay North Stars was named the Pizza Hut Player of the Week after compiling eight points in two games.
Jasper also received consideration for the award, along with Court, Minnesota forward Jason Reynolds, Wisconsin Wilderness forward Darrick Howard, and English River Miners’ goalie P.D. Melgoza.