Lakers grab 2-0 lead on Miners

Joey Payeur

The English River Miners are not going away quietly so the Fort Frances Lakers need to get rolling if they’re going to make some real noise this post-season.
It took three third-period goals by the two-time defending SIJHL champs to finally shake the league’s last-place team during the regular season as the Lakers rallied for a 4-2 win in Game 2 of their best-of-seven semi-final series Sunday night at the Ice For Kids Arena.
The Lakers lead the series 2-0, with Games 3 and 4 set for tonight and tomorrow, respectively, at the Cochenour Arena.
Game 5, if necessary, would be back here Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The Lakers understand they have to improve their play over what it was for the first two periods of Game 2 as English River led 2-1.
“We came in overconfident and we shouldn’t have been,” said Lakers’ goalie Pierce Dushenko, who bailed out his team with a 47-save effort after allowing Alex Maticic’s opening goal just 13 seconds into the game.
“It’s tough to let in a goal against that quickly but I was able to bounce back,” he noted.
“We have to keep their [scoring] chances minimal.”
Lakers’ captain Dylan Robertson, who has five goals in the first two games, tied things up at 5:17 of the second five seconds after a power play ended.
Christian Ripley fed Nick Minerva at the point, who spotted Robertson alone in the left circle, with the SIJHL MVP rocketing a shot past goalie Korlan Vader.
The Lakers got undisciplined later in the period, with Roshen Jaswal (slashing) and Minerva (interference) going off within 1:07 of each other to give the Miners a two-man advantage.
Trevor Pereverzoff made the most of it—wiring a shot from the right point by Dushenko at 15:39.
“We tried to keep it positive between periods,” Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan said about the conversation at intermission.
“Everyone knew we weren’t at our best, but I told them let’s go play our game for one period and see what happens.”
What happened was a quick-strike equalizer from Robertson, who netted his second of the game just 18 seconds into the final stanza after Andrew Willner’s forechecking forced a turnover behind the net.
Midway through the period, Minerva was forced to trip Matthew O’Neill to prevent a breakaway after he had lost control of the puck at the Miners’ blueline.
But that turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Ripley stole the puck inside the Lakers’ blueline during the penalty kill and took off down the right wing.
Miners’ defenceman Brody Jennings tried to cut the angle off—only to have Ripley reverse course and head to the middle of the ice.
He then blasted a 20-footer right under the crossbar that Vader only could wave at for the go-ahead goal at 11:57.
“I saw a lane and when [Jennings] tried to hit me, I cut to the middle quickly and took a shot, and hoped it would go in,” Ripley recalled.
“If [A.J.] Rupert hadn’t pushed [Jennings] to my side, the play would never have happened.”
The Lakers didn’t get anywhere on the power play in the game (0-for-7), but their penalty-killing again proved to be pivotal in the final minutes.
Julian Uhryniuk was whistled for tripping but the Lakers held firm, with Dushenko making a big save on O’Neill as the forward crashed the net looking for the tying goal.
“Pierce and I talked after Game 1 and he wasn’t happy with how he played,” Strachan said, referring to the Lakers’ 7-4 victory in Game 1 here Friday night.
“But tonight [Sunday], he stood tall and came up with the big save when called upon, especially in the third.”
More good forechecking by Minerva led to him creating another turnover, which he fed out front to Willner for an empty-net boomer with 16 seconds left.
In Friday’s win, Robertson and Dylan Kooner each netted hat tricks to lead the attack.
“It was great for Kooner after being out so long,” Robertson said of his teammate, who didn’t play from Jan. 3-March 18 due to a fractured scapula.
“He was starting to find his niche again and it was good for his confidence,” Robertson added.
“He’s a big factor for us and we’re going to need him.”
Minerva had the other Lakers goal while Dushenko made 23 saves to earn the win
In the other SIJHL semi-final, the Dryden GM Ice Dogs won twice on home ice over the weekend to take a 2-0 series lead over the Thunder Bay North Stars.
Games 3 and 4 in that series go tomorrow and Friday in Thunder Bay.