The Fort Frances Lakers have been putting in a more committed effort lately are reaping the rewards of it.
Ben Hoefler’s goal just over eight minutes into the third period proved to be the game-winner as the Lakers skated to their third win in a row with a 5-3 victory over the suddenly slumping Thunder Bay North Stars on Friday night at the Ice For Kids Arena.
Nakoda Thunderchief opened the scoring for Fort Frances (10-10-1) 3:21 into the second period as he snapped a shot high past Thunder Bay goalie Jordan Smith from the left side for his first SIJHL goal.
But Michael Vecchio tied it for the North Stars (14-5-2) just moments later as roofed one off the crossbar and over Lakers’ goalie Alex Bugeja to knot it at 1-1.
After Alex Erwin finished off a lengthy rush from Jacob Anttonen to give the visitors their first lead, Flynn Perry notched the equalizer at 17:39 to knot it at 2-2 after 40 minutes.
An early power play helped the North Stars regain the lead in the third as Cody Bruchkowski collected his league-leading 17th tally.
Battling back, Fort Frances drew even near the seven-minute mark of the frame when local forward Cooper Witherspoon neatly deflected a Perry attempt heading towards the net for his first SIJHL marker.
The Lakers then got the game-winner from Hoefler as he got enough of a right point shot from MacKenzie Flett to change the puck’s course and it found its way in past Smith.
Flett secured the home win for the Lakers as he salted the game away with a long-range empty-netter to round out the scoring.
Bugeja made 33 saves to earn the win while Smith faced 35 attempts in defeat for the league-leading North Stars, who have now dropped five straight.
The fifth-place Lakers will resume action this Saturday (Nov. 30) when they battle the third-place host Thief River Falls Norskies (11-8-2) at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.