Lakers’ red-hot run impressive

I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t see this coming.
After starting the 2012/13 SIJHL season with no wins in four games, not to mention going winless in four pre-season contests, I felt the Fort Frances Lakers would turn things around but that they might be in tough to catch up to some of the top teams in the league.
But in the span of less than a month, the Lakers not only have risen all the way back up to second place in the standings, they’ve quickly become a force to be reckoned with for their opponents.
During their rough start, head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan was quick to point out that while the team featured a younger lineup compared to last year’s SIJHL finalists, this Lakers squad was a very good one.
And that’s quickly becoming evident.
Up front, returning forwards Jordan Christianson, Colton Spicer, and captain Merritt Rysavy have made their presence felt as the top line on the team, with all three among the top scorers in the SIJHL to this point.
However, a line full of newcomers also has been very effective in the last few games as the trio of Jacob Nolan, Mason Meyer, and Kevin Kurm have climbed up the point charts over the past week.
Now I had seen all three forwards in the past, with Kurm impressing me at the Lakers’ prospect camp over in International Falls back in July, Meyer coming to my attention during last season’s “Border Battle” as he scored the game-winning goal over the Muskies in overtime, and Nolan proving to be an effective player for the Sioux Lookout Flyers the last two years.
But I’d be lying if I knew that all three players would run rampant over their opposition and give coaches fits night after night as they tried to combat not one but two extremely dangerous lines.
Defensively, second-year player Jon Carlson has been solid once again, earning himself an invite to the Canada West training camp for the upcoming World Junior ‘A’ Challenge along with Spicer.
Ethan Brekke and Owen Stauber also have made the transition from the high school ranks to the junior game quickly, and already are earning a lot of ice time for the Lakers.
One of the biggest strengths the Lakers have had in their recent run, though, is between the pipes as Jameson Shortreed and Tanner Hamilton have become a very formidable combination.
When Shortreed was acquired from the AJHL’s Drumheller Dragons a couple of weeks ago, I was curious as to how this move would go, especially with two talented netminders trading time in goal.
So far, though, Shortreed and Hamilton have preformed well whenever they start for the Lakers, and the team now arguably can go up face-to-face with the Minnesota Wilderness’ two-goalie system they’ve used to great effect over the last couple of seasons.
A couple of weeks ago in this column, I felt the Dryden Ice Dogs might be the team to beat in the SIJHL this season. But their recent downturn in form, coupled with the Lakers’ rise, has had me change my mind.
While there’s still a long way to go, it looks as if we might be on track for another Lakers-Wilderness battle for the Bill Salonen Cup once the playoffs roll around next spring.
And if it’s anything like last year’s seven-game thriller, it should be another great affair.
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Staying with the local hockey scene, last year’s Fort Frances ‘AA’ Atom Canadians hockey team has a chance to win Bauer hockey gear from head to toe.
As part of Bauer’s “Own the Moment” contest, Armand Jourdain submitted a video of the team’s game-winning goal in overtime at a tournament last year in Neebing, which can be voted on to potentially air on TV down the road.
The video, entitled “And We Win the Game in Overtime,” can be voted on until Dec. 31 at