Saturday, August 1, 2015

Lakers red-hot to close season

Momentum definitely is in the Fort Frances Lakers’ corner at the moment.
The Lakers ran their winning streak to eight games Monday night with a 7-2 pounding of the host Wisconsin Wilderness to close out their regular-season road schedule.

“I thought we played a pretty good 60 minutes,” said Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan.
“The first 10 minutes of the game was intense by both teams,” he noted.
“They were in our face but we continued to push the pace and create scoring chances and, eventually, taking full control of the period.
“The second just brought more of that,” added Strachan, whose team now has won 12 of its last 13 outings to sit at 45-6-2-2 with one game to go.
“Our pressure, speed, and play-making was pretty to watch,” he remarked. “All our lines and defence were throwing the puck around nice, creating [scoring] chance after chance.
“The third we sealed the deal. It was a strong team effort.”
Recently created out of necessity due to injuries, the line of Bryce Lipinski, Kevin Kurm, and Donovan Cousineau had one of its best nights.
Lipinski netted his 22nd and 23rd goals of the season to go along with an assist while Kurm added a goal (his 23rd) and two helpers.
Cousineau pitched in with two assists.
Brent Aiken had his 12th while Lucas DeBenedet netted his league-leading 47th.
Mason Meyer joined DeBenedet in the 40-goal club with his one tally.
Nick Eytcheson notched both goals for the Wilderness (5-48), who lost their eighth-straight and 14 of their last 15.
Wilderness starting goalie Griffin Strain only lasted until 11:20 of the second, when he was sent packing after giving up five goals on 35 shots.
Zann Anderson replaced him and finished with 23 saves on a night where the Lakers outshot the Wilderness 60-29.
At the other end, Devin Tappenden proved his selection Saturday as the Gongshow Gear Inc. performer-of-the-month was no aberration, making 27 saves to win his 10th-straight appearance after a 1-3 start upon joining the Lakers in January.
Tappenden went 8-0 in February, with a sparkling 1.88 GAA and .927 save percentage, and now has allowed two or less goals in his last seven games.
“From a rough start, where the team wasn’t playing our best, to now is a great turnaround for Devin,” lauded Strachan.
“He has settled in and become comfortable with his teammates, and got his timing in his own game down.
“What he and the team accomplished in February was great,” Strachan added.
“Devin to this point has met every expectation we have expected and has been a big part of our team’s success thus far in the season.”
Tappenden had company in the awards department as Lakers’ defenceman Cody Wickstrom was named the Pizza Hut player-of-the-week after notching six assists in three games.
The honour is even more of an accomplishment considering Wickstrom missed the first 13 games of the season while dealing with ulcerative colitis.
“It’s a good thing to be a part of,” Strachan said about Wickstrom’s comeback.
“We, at one point, were wondering if Cody would be coming when they were trying to get everything figured out,” he noted.
“He was growing impatient and we were trying to stress the importance of his health,” Strachan recalled. “[And] when he returned, it took him a bit to get things going.
“But I think in the last month or so, he has been as good as anyone on our team, leading and playing well in both ends of the rink.
“It’s definitely a good story and shows the character of Cody,” said Strachan.
Monday’s win didn’t come without a downside, however. Forward Hunter Leishman and defenceman Aaron Wesley-Chisel both left the game with undisclosed injuries.
They join forwards Colton Spicer and Patrick Sofer, both out with shoulder injuries, and defenceman John Dora (head) on the sideline.
The Lakers finish the regular season this Saturday when they host the Wilderness in the back end of the home-and-home series at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.
First up, though, is the team’s annual awards banquet, which goes Friday at La Place Rendez-Vous.
Cocktails are at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 and then the awards presentations.

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