Lakers drop opener

Mitch Calvert

The Fort William North Stars got two goals from returning sniper Mitch Forbes to steal a 5-2 win from the Fort Frances Lakers last night before an announced crowd of 400 at the Ice For Kids Arena.
Despite coming out on the wrong end on the scoreboard in their SIJHL season-opener, the fresh-faced Lakers have plenty of positives to build off from a competitive battle with the defending champs.
After the Stars opened the scoring on a power-play goal by Cody Lund (credited to former Fort Frances Jr. Sabre Dan Usiski on the scoresheet), the Lakers showed plenty of resolve in battling back to tie on a power-play marker of their own from defenceman Ben Hilborn before the end of the period.
Local product Jordan Sinclair had the Lakers’ next-best chance to score when he came out of the penalty box midway through the frame, but his breakaway wrister rang off the post behind Stars’ goalie Guillaume Piché.
“The first period was a good game of hockey, back-and-forth. Both teams came out intense and played hard,” Lakers’ head coach Wayne Strachan noted.
“We had a lot of good chances to get a jump on them and didn’t capitalize.
“[A tie] after the first was a good confidence-builder for us,” Strachan added.
The Lakers actually held a 13-9 shot advantage after 20 minutes, but the Stars roared back with three unanswered goals by Forbes, Sam Dubinsky, and Randall Hanlan over the next period-and-a-half to silence the home crowd.
The Lakers came unravelled late in the second and then failed to generate anything on an extended five-on-three advantage early in the third.
“The last [seven minutes of the second] we played scared, made too many turnovers, and looked like a young, inexperienced team,” Strachan lamented.
“The third [period] we started like we played the last seven minutes of the second.
“I couldn’t watch anymore [and] around the nine-minute mark called a time-out and challenged the team,” Strachan recalled.
“Challenged them to win the last nine minutes, no matter the outcome. Out-work them the way we did in the first and play the way we were capable.
“For the most part we did, and I commend the team for their finish,” Strachan said.
Lakers’ forward Cam Gross tipped in a Sinclair shot from the sideboards on a late power play to make it close, but Forbes then iced the win with an empty-netter in the final minute.
The Lakers had just three full-time defencemen dressed (Hilborn, Conner Foster, and Josh Scott) while affiliated players Chris Cousineau and Jamie Kaun rounded out the five-man defensive crops.
The squad has signed Montreal native Sacha Alaby of the OJHL’s Ajax Attack, who will be in the lineup tonight in Thunder Bay when the Lakers take on the K&A Wolverines in the first of two games there.
“He’s a big, physical guy who has a heavy shot and will add much-needed depth to our back-end,” Strachan said.
The North Stars—ranked 14th in the CJHL’s pre-season rankings released earlier this month—played without reigning league MVP Trevor Gamache, who currently is at the Lakehead Thunderwolves’ tryouts.