How’s this for a comeback?
Fort Frances Laker forward Zach McCool, playing in just his second game of the season after missing nearly six weeks with an injury, halted a see-saw of a game by notching the winning goal with just 3:35 left.
McCool hadn’t played since the Lakers’ season opener, a 4-2 win over the Thunder Bay North Stars on Sept. 17, and he sunk the North Stars (10-5-1) in his return as Fort Frances (10-6-1) snapped a two-game losing streak.
It was a game of call-and-response for the Lakers, who never trailed, but never led by more than a goal either.
Captain Tyler Stevenson opened the scoring on the power-play just 2:12 into the game, but Thunder Bay’s Riley Desserre got his team on the board just 65 seconds later.
Jon Sinclair’s third of the season came just 1:52 into the second to give Fort Frances a 2-1 lead.
Then Thunder Bay’s Quinn Remple knotted the game at deuces at 3:48.
Blake Boaz’s second goal of the season staked the Lakers ahead at 5:07, but the North Stars’ Jacob Brown rallied his team yet again 2:55 later.
Stevenson and Thunder Bay’s Kevin Hamel traded power-play markers just 1:21 apart midway through the frame, completing a wild span where six goals were tallied in a 9:32 span.
Stevenson’s second of the game was also his 17th of the season, and 12th on the power-play, both league-leading marks. He’s now just four goals away from matching last season’s total of 21.
Laker goalie Tyler Ampe and Thunder Bay counterpart Guillaume Piche barred the door for the second half of the game, setting the stage for McCool’s late heroics.
Ampe ended up making 37 saves, his highest total of the season, while Piche made 23.
With Laker goalie Jameson Shortreed in Penticton, B.C. getting ready for the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge, former K&A Wolverine Markus Leikkari was backing up Ampe.
Leikkari was 0-4-1 with a 5.84 GAA and .849 save percentage in seven appearances with the Wolverines last year.
The Lakers will return home to play the Duluth Clydesdales (5-8-1) tomorrow night (Nov. 5) at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.
As for Shortreed, Team West will begin action tomorrow night with an exhibition game against Team East, and will play its first official game against Switzerland on Monday night.