Lakers clinch second with comeback win

Lucas Punkari

After a gut-wrenching loss to the Dryden Ice Dogs in their home finale Tuesday evening, the Fort Frances Lakers were determined to end their SIJHL regular season on a winning note last night in Sioux Lookout.
Trailing 2-1 heading into the third period, the Lakers came roaring out of the dressing room to post a 15-3 shot advantage in the final frame—finding the back of the net three times to beat the Flyers 4-2.
The victory also clinched second place for the Lakers heading into the playoffs.
Dane Morin scored the go-ahead goal, and eventual game-winner, at the 13:36 mark of the third.
Jace Baldwin and Henry Gutierrez led the Lakers offensively with a goal and an assist each.
Goalie Tyler Ampe made 23 saves to earn the victory. At the other end, Flyers’ netminder Jesse Wilkins turned aside 39 shots en route to be selected as the game’s second star.
The victory, coupled with a 4-3 overtime loss for the third-place Thunder Bay North Stars to the Duluth Clydesdales last night, assured the Lakers of second place and a date with the regular-season champion Wisconsin Wilderness for a pair of two-game, total-goal series.
The winner gets to choose their second-round opponent.
Finishing the regular season with 71 points, the Lakers lead the North Stars by four points, with the North Stars finishing up their regular-season schedule with a pair of games against the Wilderness.
But even if the North Stars sweep the weekend series, the Lakers hold the tie-breaker advantage by winning the season series with Thunder Bay.
Playoff dates for the first round of the SIJHL playoffs have yet to be announced.
In related news, the SIJHL announced yesterday that Lakers’ head coach Wayne Strachan was named coach of the year for the 2010-11 campaign.
This marks the third time Strachan has garnered the award, capturing similar accolades in 2007-08 with the former Fort Frances Jr. Sabres as well as in the SIJHL’s inaugural season of 2001-02 with the now-defunct Borderland Thunder.
Strachan edged out Rod Aldoff (Wisconsin Wilderness) and Clint Mylymok (Dryden Ice Dogs), who was named the league’s best bench boss last season, as finalists in voting done by SIJHL member clubs.
The Fort Frances native also serves as general manager of the Lakers.
Strachan, a former Muskie star, attended Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., where he was part of two NCAA championship clubs with the Lakers.