Lakers’ brass keeping busy over summer

Lucas Punkari

It may be the off-season for junior hockey teams, but it certainly isn’t a time of rest and relaxation for those involved with the Fort Frances Lakers.
This past season’s SIJHL runner-ups already are out pounding the pavement to set the roster for this year’s squad, which will include some returning faces in addition to new ones.
“We will now be signing a few veterans and announcing those moves to the public here in the next week or so to try and start getting people somewhat into the hockey mode throughout the summer,” noted head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan.
“We have made offers to two possible returnees that we hope to announce in the next week or so, along with a few offers to new players who we are waiting to hear if they will commit to us.
“We should be able to announce the signing of a new face from eastern Canada in the next few days, with a player that put some good numbers in ‘AAA’ Midget and played junior hockey last year, so we will be exited to see him in main camp and see what he can do,” Strachan enthused.
The first signing the Lakers made this off-season came last Tuesday when the squad announced forward Jordan Christianson will return for the 2012-13 campaign.
Christianson, who is 19 years old and from International Falls, was acquired by the Lakers in November from the OCN Blizzard of the MJHL, scoring 21 goals and adding 14 assists in 33 regular-season games.
The skilled forward also was a key cog during the Lakers’ playoff run, notching 13 points in 15 games during the red-and-black’s run to the SIJHL final.
“As soon as he came on our team, Jordan became a fan favourite in the border towns,” Strachan noted.
“Jordan will be one of four 20-year-olds the team can return next season, and he will be looked up to be a leader on our team, especially on offence,” he added.
“Any time you can keep local products home, it definitely benefits our team and organization.
“We are very happy that Jordan wants to return to help continue our process of bringing a championship to Fort Frances,” said Strachan.
While the Lakers are welcoming back one of their top offensive threats, the team could be without the services of SIJHL rookie-of-the-year winner Jordan Larson come the fall.
The 17-year-old Fort Frances native recently was selected by the Des Moines Buccaneers in the USHL entry draft, where he could have the chance to play for the same squad that one-time Fort Frances Jr. Sabres’ forward Mitch Cain suited up for before he joined the Bemdji State Beavers last fall.
“We wish Jordan the best of luck in becoming a Buccaneer next season,” Strachan said.
“But we would also like to have him back in a black-and-red uniform to further improve his year that he had for us last season,” he stressed.
While the search for new players is ongoing, the next big event for the Lakers will be the SIJHL’s annual general meeting this Saturday and Sunday in Thunder Bay.
“The weekend will include our general meeting, with discussions about the league in general and improvements that can be made,” Strachan explained.
“And on Saturday night, the league officials, owners, and presidents of the teams will get together to discuss their budgets and other league issues.
“Then on Sunday, we will have the SIJHL entry draft, which will see the teams draft 1996 birth date players over the course of nine rounds, and then the schedule for 2012-13 will also be set,” he added.
After that, the team will hold its second-annual Bob Mainville Memorial golf tournament at Heron Landing on Saturday, July 7 starting at 10 a.m.
Those interested in taking part in the event can contact the Heron Landing pro shop(274-5678) or Strachan (275-7798).
As for on-ice activities, that will resume July 20-22 at Bronco Arena in International Falls when the Lakers hold their annual prospect camp.
“We are hoping to have the minimum two teams and 44 players that we have had over the last couple of years, and hopefully more if we can get all of the potential recruits to come out,” Strachan remarked.
Strachan also said any local players who have not been contacted, and are interested in taking part in the camp, can reach him by calling 275-7798) or via e-mail at Wayne@fortfranceslakers.com
In other news, a number of graduating members from last year’s team currently are finalizing where they’ll be attending school this fall, with departing captain Blake Boaz recently committing to Concordia University College in Edmonton, Alta.
“Blake will be joining ex-teammate Tyler Stevenson on the team, and Tyler himself had a very successful first year with the Concordia program,” Strachan noted.
“Blake was with our team for three seasons and contributed as a leader for us at both ends of the rink,” Strachan added.
“We wish him the best of luck in the future.”