Colton Spicer’s homecoming already is spelling trouble for the rest of the SIJHL.
The Fort Frances native scored the opening and closing goals last night to help propel the Lakers to their ninth-straight win—a 5-2 triumph over the Minnesota Iron Rangers at the new Couchiching arena.
“Playing that first game felt a little different,” admitted the 18-year-old forward, the SIJHL’s reigning Most Improved Player award winner.
“But now in the third game, I’m starting to get my feet under me,” added Spicer, who now has three goals and four points in three games with Fort Frances.
Spicer returned for a second stint with the Lakers this past weekend following a trade with the English River Miners on Oct. 16 for forward Bryson Jasper and defenceman Ben Smaha.
It was somewhat of a surprising development, considering Spicer left the team on unpleasant terms following an undisclosed incident during practice on the eve of the playoffs last season.
“It’s good to have a fresh start,” said Spicer, who was dealt to the Portage Terriers of the MJHL in the summer, but abruptly left the squad after training camp.
“I’ve come in with an open mind,” he noted. “Me and Wayne [Strachan] have had a good talk and things are working out so far.”
For Strachan’s part, the Lakers’ head coach and general manager is interested to see how much Spicer can improve as the season wears on.
“Colton’s got a little better every game,” he noted.
“He still needs to work on his conditioning a bit, but as the year continues, we’ll see what he can do.”
The Lakers (10-1-0-1) got the ball rolling against Minnesota (5-5-0-1) at 9:27 of the first period when Spicer’s soft flip shot from just inside the blueline turned into a one-hopper that fooled Iron Rangers’ goalie Erick Majerle.
“That’s the luckiest dump-in ever but I’ll take it,” smiled Spicer.
Minnesota tied it on Eric Madison’s wrister past Lakers’ goalie Jordan Cartney at 2:03 of the second.
Fort Frances shifted into overdrive soon after. First, Lucas DeBenedet took a feed from Mason Meyer and buried a wrist shot at 4:22 to put the Lakers back in front with his league-leading 11th of the season.
Brent Aiken then made it a two-goal bulge at 8:01 when Donovan Cousineau feathered a perfect pass to him on a 2-on-2 rush, which was zipped past Majerle for Aiken’s third of the campaign.
Matt O’Dea drew the visitors to within one at 4:51 of the third, 19 seconds after a Lakers’ time-out.
The turning point of the game came at 8:57 during a Minnesota power-play.
The Iron Rangers were whistled for too many men on the ice and Kevin Kurm made sure the Lakers’ league-leading power play would not be silent on this night, banging home a rebound of Spicer’s initial chance in front at 10:40 for his third of the campaign and a 4-2 lead.
“I don’t believe the referee knows what he’s talking about,” said a visibly-frustrated Iron Rangers’ head coach Chris Walby.
“We’re on a power play and the guys going on for the change know in advance who they’re changing for and the guys out there know who’s coming off,” he fumed.
“There’s no way we had too many guys out there. [The ref] blew the call.
“Considering we were peppering [the Lakers] at that point, that really took the wind out of our sails,” Walby added.
Spicer capped the scoring with a beautiful forehand-backhand deke on a breakaway after a lead pass from Kurm sent him in alone.
Cartney finished with 23 saves for the win while Majerle turned aside 24 shots in a losing cause.
Lakers’ defenceman Brandon Sinclair was back in the lineup after missing Saturday night’s road game with the Thunder Bay North Stars due to a lacerated shin.
The Lakers will shoot for a perfect 10 in a row when they return to action this Saturday at 7:30 p.m., when the last-place Wisconsin Wilderness (1-7) invade the Ice For Kids Arena.