Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Goalie backs Lakers to wins

The adjustment period seems to be over for Devin Tappenden.
The Fort Frances Lakers’ goalie lost three of his first four starts but is back to even after back-to-back wins here over the weekend.

For his recent efforts, the 19-year-old from Markham, Ont. was named the SIJHL’s Pizza Hut Player-of-the-Week, making it the second-straight time a Laker nabbed the honour after Lucas DeBenedet turned the trick the previous week.
“I’m more comfortable now and I’m settling in with the guys well,” noted the 6’5”, 220-pounder, who was acquired from the Burlington Cougars of the Ontario Junior Hockey League on Jan. 10 for a player development fee.
“They have confidence in me and I have confidence in them,” he added.
“They’ve really picked up their game.”
The netminder posted a 1.96 GAA and .941 save percentage during his three starts last week to earn the weekly award.
Tappenden was outstanding for the Lakers (35-6-1-2) in a 2-1 overtime loss a week ago against the host Minnesota Iron Rangers (25-10-2-4).
The netminder kept the game scoreless despite the Lakers being outshot 18-2 in the first period.
Lyndon Lipinski gave the Lakers a 1-0 lead on the power play at 11:04 of the second, but Sam Mancini netted the equalizer at 16:45 of the third.
That allowed Austin Frank to play the hero at 3:53 of the extra session, when his game-winner rubbed some of the shine off Tappenden’s 37-save performance on a night the Lakers were outshot 39-18.
Erick Majerle made 17 saves for the Rangers, who beat the Lakers for just the second time in eight meetings this season.
“[The loss] was not Devin’s fault,” stressed Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan.
“He was the reason we even made it to OT,” Strachan noted. “He gave us a chance to win.”
That outing, which Lakers’ captain Patrick Sofer called “our worst game of the year,” sparked a team meeting that focused on regrouping.
“We had a meeting just to remind ourselves about teamwork and working hard every game,” noted Sofer.
With their purpose redefined, the Lakers came out here Friday night against the Thunder Bay North Stars (28-8-1-4) and looked re-energized in a 4-1 victory.
Tappenden was terrific with 29 saves to give the bevy of Lakers’ parents in town for the weekend action reason to celebrate.
Among those in the crowd was LeAnn Lipinski, who travelled from the family home in Grande Prairie, Alta. to watch her three sons have a big hand in the win over the North Stars.
Bryce Lipinski kicked off the scoring at 16:04 of the first, with younger brother, Kyle, helping set it up.
Then Bryce’s twin, Lyndon, notched the only goal of the middle frame on the first of three plays involving DeBenedet using an extra gear to make things happen.
DeBenedet blew around the Stars’ Brendan Mihalus, then had his quick shot stopped by Thunder Bay goalie Nathaniel Dupuis—only to have Lyndon there to bang home the rebound.
The lightning show continued at 6:36 of the third, with DeBenedet again leaving Stars’ defenders choking on his vapour trail before beating Dupuis top shelf to the glove side that would have left TSN SportsCentre’s Highlight-of-the-Night selection committee drooling.
Not yet satisfied, DeBenedet turned Mihalus into a human pylon on another rush before sending a slick pass across the crease to Lyndon Lipinski, who redirected it in at 11:25 for a 4-0 cushion.
Daniel Del Paggio, named Gongshow Gear Inc. player-of-the-month for the second-straight time Saturday, ended Tappenden’s shutout bid 28 seconds later with a lucky shot that bounced off Lakers’ defenceman Riley Daly’s leg.
“We had a letdown on the road . . . we knew we had to come play at our level,” said Strachan.
Then on Saturday night against English River, Tappenden strung together a 29-save effort while six Lakers had two points or more against the visiting Miners.
Leading the way on offence were Kevin Kurm and the Lipinski twins, who all had a goal and two assists.
DeBenedet scored twice in that one, with Patrick Sofer and Miles Nolan adding singles.
Sofer’s goal came at a key time with the Lakers’ 3-0 lead after the first period quickly fading as a pair by John Morales of the Miners made it 3-2 less than four minutes into the second.
But on a delayed penalty against English River, Bryce Lipinski unleashed a bullet shot that Miners’ goalie P.D. Melgoza couldn’t corral—allowing Sofer to pounce on the rebound at 6:21, which ended Melgoza’s night after he had recorded 16 saves.
“Who knew what could happen if they got the next one?” said Sofer.
“I was just glad to put it in.”
The captain’s contribution inspired his team to light the lamp three more times against back-up goalie Greg Harney before the end of the frame to snuff out any Miner comeback hopes.
“We seem to fall into a pattern of lacking intensity and hockey smarts to start games,” said English River head coach Kevin Kahoot, who held a hastily-called group meeting of his own with his team immediately after the game.
“It’s a 3-2 game and we’re out too long on a shift, we turn the puck over and don’t get a key save, and, boom, it’s 4-2 and we’re on our heels again,” he noted.
Vincent Currao netted the only goal of the third for fifth-place English River (16-22-3), which trails the Dryden Ice Dogs (18-22-5) by six points with four games in hand.
Lakers’ defenceman John Dora had to leave the game at 3:28 of the second after Bryce Lipinski’s knee connected accidentally with Dora’s head while he was trying to regain his footing.
Dora is listed as day-to-day while forward Colton Spicer (shoulder) remains out indefinitely.
But Strachan did get good news regarding forward Donovan Cousineau, who is slated to return after being out since Nov. 9 with a knee injury.
Cousineau is expected to be in the lineup tonight when the Lakers return to Hoyt Lakes to take on the Iron Rangers again before heading to Thunder Bay on Friday to face the North Stars for the final time in the regular season.
The Lakers next home game is this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against Minnesota.

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