With games against the SIJHL’s two bottom-feeders over the weekend, the Fort Frances Lakers had a great opportunity to reclaim top spot in the league.
And the Lakers (17-8-1) did just that—earning a 5-4 comeback win over the Sioux Lookout Flyers here Friday before holding off host Duluth last night.
Fort Frances was forced, to varying degrees, to come from behind in both games.
It wasn’t quite as steep a hill against Duluth as Jon Sinclair’s fifth of the season tied the game just 3:15 after Matt Jerulle had opened the scoring for the Clydesdales.
The Lakers then reeled off four-straight goals in the second period. Ryan Wildman notched his fifth of the year at 7:06 before Sinclair’s second of the night came 1:07 later.
Wildman came through again with 16 seconds left in the period, then Jaret Leclair, with his ninth, tallied with just one tick on the clock to put Fort Frances up 5-1 heading into the third.
Duluth charged back early in the final frame as Joe Nelson scored two goals 1:07 apart before the period was two minutes old to bring the Clydesdales to within 5-3.
Connor Hady, notching his second of the year, netted a short-handed marker at 15:31 to restore the Lakers’ three-goal lead, although Casey Eckman made the final score look better by tallying with three seconds left.
Tyler Ampe made 32 saves for the Lakers while Jeff Dunaisky blocked 30 for the Clydesdales.
Byron Katapaytuk had four assists on the night.
Things had gotten off to a far worse start against the visiting Flyers on Friday night as the lethargic Lakers fell behind 2-0 in the first period.
Galen Matyjanka got things started 3:55 in, turning Josh Scott inside out before wristing a shot glove side on Jameson Shortreed.
The Flyers doubled their advantage at 13:53 when Darnell Ferland buried a Kalen Ewald rebound.
Sioux Lookout then went up 3-0 just 2:15 into the second period when Chase Dobranski batted a shot over Shortreed’s shoulder.
The Lakers contended it was a high stick, but lost the argument.
Fort Frances finally got going midway through the frame as Henry Gutierrez took a Tyler Stevenson rebound on the power-play and deked out goalie Jayme Brattengeier at 8:09.
The goal was his eighth of the season.
After Ferland’s second of the game—again a rebound—put the Flyers up 4-1 at 12:40, Fort Frances exploded late in the frame, knotting the game heading into the third.
First, Jace Baldwin chipped the puck over Brattengeier’s right shoulder at 15:31, then Stevenson banked home his 25th just 31 seconds later.
Leclair got the equalizer at 18:08 as he was allowed to cruise out in front of the net and wrist one blocker side.
Baldwin notched the lone goal of the third, with his 10th of the year coming at 4:45 looking like a carbon copy of his earlier tally.
Shortreed made 35 saves while Brattengeier stopped 31 shots.
With the wins, the Lakers sit in first place with 35 points—one ahead of Dryden and Wisconsin and two up on Thunder Bay.
They’ll look to hang onto that lead when Dryden visits the Ice For Kids Arena tomorrow (Nov. 30) at 7:30 p.m.
The team also is holding a toy drive for the local Salvation Army and United Native Friendship Centre at the game, where fans can donate new or slightly-used toys.