It will be a star-studded cast that leads the Fort Frances Lakers into battle tomorrow night in Thunder Bay, where they’ll take their first step towards a possible first SIJHL championship.
The league unveiled its inaugural first and second all-star teams yesterday, with five Lakers’ players, the team’s bench boss and main architect, and even the squad’s training staff all receiving accolades.
The “DLM” line of Lucas DeBenedet, Mason Meyer, and Lyndon Lipinski all garnered nods for their fantastic seasons, with DeBenedet and Meyer being first-team selections at forward while Lipinski earned a second-team nod.
DeBenedet led the league in goals (48) and points (112) while Meyer was third in goals (40) and fourth in points (90).
Lipinski was third in points (91) and fourth in goals (39).
Daniel Del Paggio of the Thunder Bay North Stars kept Lipinski from joining his linemates on the first team after finishing second in scoring (105) and leading the circuit in assists.
Lakers’ defenceman Cody Wickstrom also was named a first-team all-star, along with Austin Frank of the Minnesota Iron Rangers.
Frank was tops among blueliners with 42 points, with Wickstrom close behind in second (38).
Wayne Strachan, meanwhile, was a double-winner as he was chosen to the first team as both general manager and head coach.
And Lakers’ goalie Jordan Cartney joined Lipinski on the second team after leading the SIJHL in wins (24), GAA (2.48), and save percentage (.911).
He also tied Greg Harney of the English River Miners for the league lead in shutouts (three).
Eric Mann (North Stars) got selected over Cartney for first-team honours, finishing with the most minutes played and in the top five in wins (21), GAA (2.94), and save percentage (.909).
Those behind the scenes of the Lakers’ success also received their just rewards, as the trainer/equipment manager spot on the first team went to the local tandem of Dale Cooper and Dwayne Sinclair.
As noted, the Lakers’ playoff run begins tomorrow in Thunder Bay against the second-place North Stars in the opener of a two-game total-goal series to decide who gets the right to choose their semi-final opponent.
Fort Frances took the season series 6-3-0-1.
The Lakers will be without the services of forward and captain Patrick Sofer (shoulder) and defenceman Aaron Wesley-Chisel (undisclosed) for at least tomorrow night’s game.
Forward Colton Spicer (shoulder) is gone for the year.
Game 2 of the series goes next Friday (March 21) at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.
Meanwhile, the two best-of-seven quarter-final series begin tonight.
The third-place Minnesota Iron Rangers (36-14-2-4) face the last-place Wisconsin Wilderness (5-53) in Hoyt Lakes while the Miners and Dryden Ice Dogs square off in Ear Falls.
The two teams posted identical 21-30-5 records during the season, but English River earned home-ice advantage by winning the season series 6-5.
In other news, Kevin Kurm of the Lakers received honourable mention for the Pizza Hut player-of-the-week award, which went to Evan Erickson (Iron Rangers).