Lakers show progression on road trip


Head coach Wayne Strachan saw progression as he assessed the Fort Frances Lakers’ recent three-game road trip in which the team went 1-1-1.
After opening with a 6-2 loss to the Dryden GM Ice Dogs back on Oct. 7, the Lakers suffered a 4-3 overtime loss to the Thunder Bay North Stars last Wednesday before doubling the Minnesota Iron Rangers 6-3 this past Saturday night.
“One of our sayings we have is we want to get better each and every day, every game,” Strachan, also the team’s general manager, noted in an e-mailed response to the Times.
“So if you look at it that way, through the three games we had that progression.”
Slow starts contributed to the two losses.
“Against Dryden, we didn’t have that compete level we needed to play with them for 60 minutes,” Strachan recalled.
“Really, a flat first period kind of cost us the first two games,” he conceded.
“We [got] a point against the North Stars, however, the mental errors we have had creeped into play and hurt us in this game.
“In the win, we came to play, earned the success, and that’s what we need to do to improve our record,” Strachan added.
Trailing 1-0 after one period to the North Stars, Cameron Birkeland and Carter Chorney netted second-period goals to give the Lakers the lead.
The North Stars later tied it, then retook the lead just 73 seconds later.
But the Lakers rallied once again–knotting the score in the opening minute of the third on Ian Tookenay’s first goal of the season.
The game eventually went to overtime, when Keighan Gerrie beat Rob Ivy just 44 seconds into the extra frame to secure the victory.
Then against the Iron Rangers on Saturday, power-play goals by Skylar Lentz and Julian Uhryniuk gave the Lakers an early 2-0 lead.
After Minnesota scored later in the first, the teams traded second-period tallies by Nick Lucas and Zach Hayes to make it 3-2.
Lucas notched his second of the game 6:12 into the third before teammate Jaedin Ness tallied just 18 seconds later to bump the Lakers’ lead to 5-2.
The Iron Rangers drew to within 5-3 but Tookenay sealed the win later in the period.
Brett Akins made 29 saves to earn the win.
“We played with drive and used our speed,” Strachan said of Saturday’s game.
“For the most part, we stuck to the systems, limited their opportunities, and got solid goaltending.”
After the Lakers hosted the English River Miners last night (the outcome was not known as of press time), the squad heads back down to Hoyt Lake this Friday for a rematch with the Iron Rangers.
“They are both games we need to have success in if we want to continue the growth process [and] further our chances of moving up in the standings,” Strachan noted.
“We need a 60-minute effort, we need a high compete level, be relentless in our pressure of pucks, stay discipline, be strong defensively, and get the goaltending to play at an elite level,” he stressed.
The Lakers then will host the first-place Thief River Falls Norskies this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.
“This will definitely be a tough task,” Strachan said about facing the team that leads the six-team SIJHL with an 8-0-0-0 record and on Monday took over top spot in the CJHL’s top 20 regular-season rankings for the period ending Oct. 16.
“They [the Norskies] are playing good hockey and not giving up a lot of goals,” he noted.
“We have to match their intensity, shut down their top line, do the little things that bring success, and above all out work them for 60 minutes.
“I really like our speed and cycle game when we get rolling,” Strachan added. “How we use our defence out of the cycle to create offence.
“When we play at a high tempo and are pressuring pucks, we can be very effective.
“We need to do this more consistently, however, and learn from our mistakes,” he conceded.
“We still need to shore up some areas in our defensive zone.”
Strachan also has liked his team’s goaltending so far.
“I don’t think we can fault them,” he reasoned. “Our play in front of them is what has hurt us to this point in the season.
“We are working hard to correct those mental mistakes, however at this point, Rob [Ivy] has had some hard luck and Brett [Akins] has been pretty solid in his two wins.
“Michael [Binczyk] hasn’t got much of an opportunity thus far into the season.”
As for the injury front, Strachan said defenceman Connor Keith and forward Dominick Allan remain out with upper-body injuries, as is defenceman Mark Richter (ribs).
But forward Jeff Venzon was expected back in the lineup last night against the Miners.