Lakers’ goalie to stay

Joey Payeur

The masked man who stepped into a huge hole and nearly stole the Dudley Hewitt Cup will be back for another go-round with the Fort Frances Lakers.
The Lakers announced late last night that Pierce Dushenko will return to the team this fall, guaranteeing one of the SIJHL’s top goalies last season will keep hanging his hockey skates here.
“We are very happy to have Pierce back in the fold for next season,” said Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan.
“It was somewhat of a relief for me to hear those words, ‘I want to return to the team,’ the other night on the phone,” he added.
Dushenko went 11-2 in 15 regular-season games after joining the Lakers in December, eventually settling in as the No. 2 goalie behind starter Nathan Park.
The 6’3,” 190-pounder from Coquitlam, B.C., who turns 20 on July 26, went 0-2 during the SIJHL playoffs but still garnered the praise of his coach.
“He was outstanding for us last year,” lauded Strachan.
“In the playoffs, we didn’t help him versus the [Thunder Bay] North Stars and he got hung out to dry, in my opinion,” Strachan recalled.
“But [he] came in relief in Game 2 versus Dryden [Ice Dogs] and gave us a chance to come back in the hockey game and have a chance to win,” he noted.
Dushenko’s value to the team became even more evident during the Dudley Hewitt Cup here, when he was forced to step in after Park injured his knee in the final round-robin game against Dryden and was lost for the rest of the tourney.
In what was an elimination game for both teams, Dushenko stopped 20-of-22 shots in relief as the Lakers beat the Ice Dogs 5-3 to advance to the semi-final.
Dushenko then racked up 43 saves to backstop the Lakers to a 6-4 victory over the defending Dudley Hewitt champion Toronto Patriots.
With a trip to the RBC Cup national Junior ‘A’ championship on the line, Dushenko once again was outstanding in the Dudley Hewitt final against the NOJHL champion Soo Thunderbirds.
But despite his 41-save effort, the Lakers fell 3-2 in what ended up being the most successful season in Fort Frances junior hockey history.
“I cannot say enough about what he [Dushenko] did in the Dudley Hewitt Cup,” Strachan stressed.