Saturday, November 1, 2014

Lakers sign three more

Slowly but surely, the faces that possibly could make up this year’s Fort Frances Lakers are coming into focus.
This past week, the local Junior ‘A’ squad announced the signing of one newcomer and two returnees from last year’s squad.

Defenceman Robbie Bonthron of Thunder Bay came on board with the defending Bill Salonen Cup champs yesterday.
The six-foot, 165-pound blueliner had three goals and 13 assists in 29 games with Fort Knox of the Prairie Junior Hockey League—a Junior ‘B’ circuit based out of Saskatchewan.
“We believe Robbie can add depth and a solid defensive game to our defensive corps,” Lakers’s general manager and head coach Wayne Strachan said about the 19-year-old, who attended the team’s open camp in International Falls two weeks ago.
“He skates well, makes good decisions with the puck, and jumps into the play offensively nicely.
“Robbie played most of the camp with our other [recent] signee, George Roblin, and the two of them looked to have early chemistry,” Strachan noted.
“Robbie has a good shot and we are eager to start working with him in a Lakers’ uniform.”
On Monday, Strachan signalled the return of two contributors to last year’s SIJHL championship effort—goalie Devin Tappenden and defenceman Aaron Wesley-Chisel.
Tappenden, 19, was acquired from the Burlington Cougars of the OJHL at the January trade deadline.
The Markham, Ont. product turned things around after a 1-3 start with the Lakers, winning his final 10 regular-season decisions to end the year 11-3 with a 2.26 GAA and .922 save percentage.
His 8-0 record in February caused him to be picked as the CJHL’s Second Star of the Month.
The 6’5”, 220-pounder then posted a 5-4 record in the playoffs.
But after blanking the Minnesota Iron Rangers 1-0 in double overtime in Game 1 of the league final, Tappenden lost three-straight games.
That cost him the starter’s job to the man he took it from, Jordan Cartney, who won three-straight starts to carry Fort Frances to the SIJHL crown.
“We now have a veteran presence in net and feel comfortable as a team with Devin returning,” said Strachan.
“We know when Devin is on his game, we have a goalie capable of winning games and having success on the ice.”
Also back in the fold is Wesley-Chisel, who had four goals and eight assists in 43 regular-season games.
The 17-year-old from Thunder Bay, who saw spot duty at forward during the year, was injured late in the regular season and couldn’t get back into the lineup when healthy again for any playoff action.
“Aaron was a rookie with the team last year and improved his game immensely throughout the season,” lauded Strachan.
“We feel Aaron can come in this year and be a mainstay in our defensive corps.
“He is a powerful skater, has a physical presence, and a good upside to his game,” Strachan added.
“Having junior experience will definitely help Aaron’s game and you could see that as he skated in summer camp a few weeks ago.
“He had poise, moved the puck well, and even added more toughness to his game.”
In related news, defenceman Tanner Fricke became the final over-aged Laker to confirm his plans for the fall.
The 21-year-old native of Savage, Mn. signed with the two-time National Junior College Athletic Association national champions Williston State College Tetons (Williston, N.D.)
Fricke and Cody Wickstrom led the Lakers in defencemen scoring and were tied for second in the league in that department, with Fricke collecting six goals and 32 assists in 54 regular-season games.
He added a goal and two assists in 12 playoff games.
“[Fricke] reads the ice well and knows when to attack the opposing team’s net,” noted Strachan.
“Tanner will provide the Tetons with the same game and continue his success on the ice.”
Fricke is following in the footsteps of other Lakers who joined the Tetons in recent seasons, including goalie Tyler Ampe, who backstopped Williston State to last year’s NJCAA title, and forward Henry Gutierrez.
The Lakers open training camp next month.

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