Lakers down North Stars
In the strange but true department, having to kill a major penalty may have been just what the Fort Frances Lakers needed last night.
Kevin Kurm and Mason Meyer each tallied twice as the Lakers (24-3-0-2) won their second-straight game—a 5-3 decision over the visiting Thunder Bay North Stars (17-6-1-3).
Then with 57.3 seconds left in the frame, Laker Cam Gobeil was handed a five-minute charging penalty and a game misconduct after an all-out collision with Stars’ goalie Nathaniel Dupuis along the end boards.
Coincidental penalties which stemmed from the fracas that followed led to the Stars having a 4-on-3 for two minutes, then a 5-on-4 edge for the next three.
But the Lakers fended off the assault and 45 seconds later, Meyer took Lyndon Lipinski’s pass and threaded it through a maze of sticks and bodies for his 21st goal of the season and a 4-2 lead.
Miles Nolan then set up Kurm 1:02 later for his 13th and the Stars never recovered to fall 12 points behind the first-place Lakers with two games in hand.
“[Killing the major] was the biggest key to the game,” said Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan, whose team also rose one spot to No. 5 in this week’s Canadian Junior ‘A’ Hockey League top 20 rankings.
“To kill the 4-on-3 for two minutes, and then the remaining three minutes of the five-minute penalty, was huge for us and definitely a momentum grabber for us as we bounced back with two goals shortly after,” he noted.
The line of Kurm, Bryce Lipinski, and Patrick Sofer was flying all night for the home squad.
“I believe our entire team rose to the task of playing the Stars tonight,” said Strachan.
“The line in question was the best they have been since being together.
“Kevin was energetic and moving his feet, and played his best game in a couple of weeks,” Strachan lauded.
“Bryce has been consistent, but not getting anything on the offensive scoresheet, and [Sofer] has been working hard and it was good to see them break through tonight in a huge game. . . .
“I believe their start to the game led the way to how the rest of the team responded,” added Strachan.
“We had some ups and downs, but for the most part played a good hockey game.”
Delpaggio opened the scoring at 8:41, but the Lakers bounced back thanks to a series of juicy rebounds surrendered by Dupuis.
Kurm tied it at 14:53, with Meyer (power play) at 16:35 and Bryce Lipinski (12th of the season) at 17:40 making it 3-1.
Delpaggio finished his hat trick at 10:10 of the third. But even with Dupuis pulled for most of the final 2:07, the North Stars were kept at bay until the final horn.
Lucas DeBenedet’s two assists gave him a league-high 30, two up on Delpaggio, while adding to his SIJHL-leading point total that now stands at 56.
Earlier in the day, DeBenedet was given honourable mention for the Pizza Hut Player-of-the-Week award, which went to Minnesota Iron Rangers’ goalie Alex Reichle.
Jordan Cartney, meanwhile, put in a strong 35-save effort for the win, with Dupuis making 43 saves in the loss.
On the injury front, the news wasn’t as positive for the Lakers as Strachan announced former Muskie Brandon Sinclair will be lost for the season due to a back injury.
The 20-year-old defenceman, who hasn’t played since Nov. 20 against Minnesota, had two goals and eight assists in 18 games.
On the upside, Strachan said forward Colton Spicer (upper-body injury) should be good to go when the Lakers return from their Christmas break Jan. 3 against the English River Miners.
Spicer has been on the shelf since Nov. 22.
But forward Donovan Cousineau, who has been out since Nov. 9 after a knee-on-knee collision, is still three weeks to a month away from returning.
The Lakers next host the Dryden Ice Dogs (15-16-2) this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.
The two squads then will wrap up the home-and-home series Saturday in Dryden.