Ben Hilborn’s last contribution to the Fort Frances Lakers was a positive one.
Hilborn scored his third goal of the season as part of the Lakers’ 4-1 victory over the host Spooner Mustangs in SIJHL action last Friday night.
The next day, however, Hilborn and forward Brendan Muise were informed they were being dealt to the Lindsay Muskies of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League for future considerations.
The trade meant Fort Frances giving up its top offensive defenceman in Hilborn (seven points in 14 games) and a point-per-game player in Muise (four goals and two assists in six games).
But Lakers’ head coach Wayne Strachan isn’t sweating the loss of offence.
“It will be better for the team in the long run,” he said, without elaborating.
The Lakers were 4-8-2 entering a home-and-home series against the Sioux Lookout Flyers (7-8).
Last night’s game here was a make-up contest for one postponed earlier this season (the outcome wasn’t available prior to press time), with the second game scheduled for tonight in Sioux Lookout.
It was a much-improved Lakers’ team on Friday in Spooner, not only from their previous match-up with the Mustangs (a 5-2 loss back on Sept. 30) but also from Fort Frances’ previous outing—an 8-0 rout at the hands of the Dryden Ice Dogs here last Tuesday (Oct. 27).
“We took a beating against Dryden but we had quite a few guys sick [with the ’flu] for that one,” noted Strachan.
“We came back against the Mustangs a lot more healthy, and got a solid effort from all the guys and some solid goaltending from Jameson Shortreed,” he added.
Mike Jourdain opened the scoring seven minutes into the first as the Lakers’ forward finished off a 2-on-1 by burying Colton Kennedy’s feed behind Spooner goalie Jeff Dunaisky for his third of the campaign.
Then at 15:50, Sacha Alaby pinched in from the point and wired a bullet from the high slot past Dunaisky to make it 2-0.
Hilborn scored off of another good forechecking shift at 11:07 of the second.
Dunaisky was replaced by Mason Riley to start the third, but it made no difference to Kennedy, who made it 4-0 with his team-leading 11th of the season after some great work by Anders Wick and Irv Lockman deep in the Spooner zone.
Matt Keith was the lone Mustang to figure out Shortreed, spoiling his shutout bid at 12:55.
While Kennedy has been the centrepiece of the Lakers’ attack so far this season, with no other player on the roster currently with more than three goals, Strachan is confident in his team’s ability to put the puck in the net.
“Injury and illness put a few of our guys a step back, but the balance on offence is not, overall, a concern,” he remarked. “We have good depth as any of our three lines can score and even the fourth line gets its share of opportunities.
“We’re building for our future here.”
Besides the trading of Muise and Hilborn, the Lakers’ roster was reduced by one more with the release of goalie Zac McMichael.
The 19-year-old sported a 2-2-1 record with the Lakers to go along with a 4.66 goals-against-average and a .877 save percentage.
His departure opens the door for either Shortreed or newcomer T.J. Pocock to grab the No. 1 starter’s role.
“We’re going to go with the two local guys,” said Strachan. “Whomever wants to step up, the job is there for them.”
Editor’s note: Lakers’ forward Colton Kennedy yesterday was named the SIJHL’s player-of-the-month for October.
The 5’11” Kenora native had 10 goals and nine assists in 11 games.
In related news, former Fort Frances Jr. Sabre Ryan Faragher was named NAHL goalie-of-the-week.