Lakers split at ‘Showcase’


The Fort Frances Lakers earned a split in their games at the SIJHL’s annual “Showcase” held at the Hoyt Lakes Arena.
Fort Frances was blanked 3-0 by the red-hot Thunder Bay North Stars in its opener Tuesday afternoon, but then rebounded with a 7-3 win over the host Minnesota Iron Rangers last night.
Dougie Newhouse turn aside all 18 shots he faced to help the league-leading North Stars (31-2-11) earn the shutout in Tuesday’s game.
The best chance to score in the first period came midway through the frame when Kyle Auger was denied by a stellar save by Lakers’ goalie Jacob Gnidziejko.
It remained scoreless until the late stages of the second, when Jayden Mrakic stuffed one from the right side of the crease that found its way through Gnidziejko at 17:43.
The North Stars added some insurance with nine-and-a-half minutes to go as Michael Stubbs spun in the right face-off circle and ripped a shot off the post and in to double the lead.
Evan Nicholas notched an empty-netter at the buzzer to cap the scoring.
Newhouse snagged his third shutout of the season to earn the win, which ties him with teammate Brock Aiken for the league lead.
Gnidziejko was solid in finishing with 41 saves to take the loss.
Ethan Knutsen then scored once and added three assists to help the Lakers beat the last-place Minnesota Iron Rangers (3-35-0-0) in the “Showcase” finale last night.
The Iron Rangers opened the scoring just 2:46 into the first when Joshua Baker took a pass from Kurt Reger from behind the net and fed Joe Lech in the slot, who promptly buried it past Lakers’ goalie Matt Booth.
Fort Frances countered with the equalizer a couple shifts later, however, with Knutsen netting his third marker of the season.
The Lakers took the lead with a power-play marker by Nate Drobnick at 10:49 to make it a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.
Fort Frances then clicked again with the man advantage in the second that resulted in Isaac Baron being left with a tap-in at 8:11.
Battling back, the Iron Rangers trimmed it to 3-2 on a fortuitous bounce off a Garrett Wojcicki attempt on goal that saw the rebound hit the glove of a Fort Frances defender and go in past Booth.
But the Lakers struck twice in rapid succession later in the frame as Jaedin Ness and Brett Hahkala both connected from close range to extend the lead to 5-2 after 40 minutes.
Skating four aside, the Lakers added to their lead 7:27 into the third when Reece Hopfner sent a cross-ice pass to Anthony Antonelli, who went up high for his second of the season.
The Iron Rangers got one back from defenceman Cam Birkeland, who tallied his first SIJHL goal when he snapped a shot from the left-point that found its way into the back of the net with 6:09 to go.
The Lakers then capped the scoring in the final minute as a quick pass deep in their own zone, followed by a redirection, sent Ness in alone and he made no mistake in burying his 14th marker.
Kirk Coppock dished out three helpers to help pace the Lakers’ offence.
Booth finished with 25 saves to earn the win while Nick Corneliusen faced 50 shots in defeat.
The fifth-place Lakers (13-22-1-1) resume action tomorrow when they head to Thief River Falls to face the third-place Norskies (22-13-3-1).
Then they’ll cap the week by hosting the second-place Red Lake Miners (25-13-2-0) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.