Lakers blessed with two options in goal

Dan Falloon

The top goalie for the Fort Frances Lakers so far this season hasn’t been reigning SIJHL goalie-of-the-year Jameson Shortreed.
Shortreed hasn’t played poorly by any stretch, but the 17-year-old is coming off a rough outing in the Lakers’ 5-4 loss in Sioux Lookout on Friday night, getting blitzed for five goals on 28 shots.
Early in the season, such games wreak havoc on statistics—and Shortreed’s were not immune to the wild swings.
For instance, he fell into the bottom half of the league in both his goals against average (2.97) and save percentage (.891), the latter of which is lower than last season’s mark (.895) despite Shortreed facing roughly 10 fewer shots per game this year.
Of course, heading into Friday’s game in Sioux Lookout, Shortreed sat at a solid 2.00 GAA and .918 save percentage.
Now, the goalie Shortreed and all others are looking up to also pulls on a Lakers’ jersey.
After four appearances, Tyler Ampe tops the league in both categories, boasting sparkling numbers of a 1.82 GAA and .939 save percentage.
Those numbers, in fact, helped Ampe capture the SIJHL’s Pizza Hut player-of-the-week award on Monday.
Ampe admitted he had some nerves heading into Saturday night’s game here against the Flyers, in which he recorded his first SIJHL shutout, knowing the Lakers had to put up a strong game to avoid their second two-game losing streak of the young season.
“It felt good, especially losing on the road and having to come back to our home rink and beating them here,” enthused Ampe, who hails from Hermantown, Mn., a stone’s throw from Duluth.
“I was a little bit on edge before the game knowing that we couldn’t lose another game.
“Our team played well together, played fast, and played the full 60 minutes,” he noted.
“The ‘D’ had my back and the forwards put the puck in the net, so I lost the edge a little bit.”
Ampe had a little trouble warming up to the SIJHL, allowing five goals in his first pre-season game against Dryden although the Lakers eventually pulled out a 6-5 win.
He noted there’s some extra pressure to perform consistently in the league—a change from high school where cracking the team in the fall meant near-immunity.
“It’s faster. You’ve got to be on your game or you’re not playing the next game,” he explained.
“You can be traded or cut, so you have to be on your game all the time.
“In high school, you can ease back and wait for your players to play,” Ampe noted. “If you don’t play well, you might not finish the game, but you have a feeling you might start the next game.
“It’s not as ferocious, and you don’t feel like you’re going to be gone the next day.”
Ampe also dispelled any thoughts of anything but a healthy rivalry between him and Shortreed, reasoning a goalie’s best ally is the netminder in the same position.
“It’s not like we’re biting at each other’s necks,” Ampe said of his relationship with Shortreed, who he added he likes “a lot.”
“My goalie coach told me that forwards shoot at our heads, [and] ‘D’ tip pucks through our legs. The only friend you have is the goalie next to you.”
Even with the relatively close proximity, Ampe hasn’t had any family or friends up to see any games here yet, although he had a cheering section when the Lakers visited Spooner, Wis. last month.
He has the Lakers’ games at Duluth circled, beginning with a showdown on Oct. 17, noting that several high school friends stayed in the area to attend college.
“When we go to Duluth, it’s going to be fun to look into the crowd and see all the faces cheering for us instead of the Clydesdales,” he enthused.
Lakers’ head coach Wayne Strachan noted the soon-to-be 19-year-old’s numbers could be even better, if not being hung out to dry by his teammates in his first regular-season start—a 4-3 loss at Wisconsin back on Sept. 24.
In two starts since then, however, Ampe has allowed only two goals—both in a 3-2 win over Dryden here last Tuesday night.
“He played well in his loss in Wisconsin, and he got a little confidence last Tuesday [against Dryden] without ‘Shorty’ [Shortreed] being there, and getting a big win at home,” Strachan lauded.
Ampe performed mop-up duty in Sioux Lookout last Friday, allowing him a brief look at the team he posted a 30-save shutout against the following night.
“He looked confident in the net and made some saves that we needed him to,” Strachan said.
“He performed well. He made some big saves cross-crease on four or five occasions, and he deserved to get the shutout.”
“Tonight we gave him the nod to give Jameson a rest, coming off the week he had,” Strachan noted after Saturday’s game.
Shortreed had been coming off a long week that saw him attend a tryout for Team West’s entry into the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge in Penticton, B.C., which will be held there in November.
The team will be announced Oct. 20.
Shortreed was the only goalie in attendance from outside of the BCHL, and also was two years younger than the other netminders.
“It was a really good experience. It was very fast-paced hockey,” Shortreed enthused.
“It was good to see what’s out there,” he added. “There are a lot of good players out there, for sure.
“There were a lot of guys who could really shoot the puck, and you had to be really careful not to cheat or anything or else they’d burn you,” he remarked.
Meanwhile, back in the SIJHL, Shortreed was hoping to shake off his tough outing in Sioux Lookout and not get too hard on himself, noting he tries to keep from letting too much positive attention get to his head, as well.
“I had a little bit of a rough game, and I’m hoping to get back into things with practice on Monday,” Shortreed stressed on Saturday.
Strachan felt that after the week at the Team West camp, Shortreed may have been flying a little too close to the sun upon his return, resulting in a little melting Friday night.
“He just needs to get settled back at home and get his game going,” Strachan remarked.
“Individual accolades are great for a player, and obviously it’s great for our team to have him out there being seen.
“It’ll attract more scouts to our team now and give our players the opportunity to be seen,” he reasoned.
“He’s young. He just needs to . . . forget about what’s happened in the past and play his game,” Strachan added.
“You can never be too high and never be too low with your emotions.
“You’ve got to reel them in to stay on an even keel, and right now, he’s maybe a little too high and I think it is affecting his play,” Strachan concluded.