The English River Miners are a hard-working, in-your-face style of team.
But the Fort Frances Lakers were up to the challenge as evidenced by their hard-fought 5-1 victory Friday night at the Ice For Kids Arena.
Captain Julian Uhryniuk and affiliate player James Gushulak both notched a goal and an assist to pace the Lakers’ offence.
Uhryniuk opened the scoring just 37 seconds into the first period when he snapped a shot that beat Miners’ goalie Michael Lenko five-hole.
Jack Bernie extended the lead to 2-0 when he redirected a Uhryniuk shot over the left shoulder of Lenko at 6:19 on a power play.
Jaedin Ness and Adam Withers then tallied 1:18 apart early in the second to make it 4-0.
Nic Herringer gave the Miners some life when he broke down the left wing and fired a shot short-side past Lakers’ goalie Ismael Ralsten to trim it to 4-1 with 4:57 to go in the frame.
The Miners pulled Lenko in the late stages of the game but it backfired when Gushulak fired a long-range empty-netter with 1:05 to go to cap the scoring.
Ralsten earned the win, finishing with 35 saves, while Lenko turned aside 19 shots in taking the loss.
The Lakers (15-28-2-4) next are in action tomorrow night when they face the third-place Thunder Bay North Stars (32-12-4-1) at the Fort William Gardens.
In other news, the SIJHL has announced its format and schedule for the upcoming post-season.
The first round will feature a pair of best-of-five quarter-final series, which are slated to run from March 20-27.
Those match-ups will see the No. 3 seed taking on the No. 6 Minnesota Iron Rangers while the other series will feature the four- and fifth-place teams squaring off.
The regular-season champs and the second-place team have first-round byes.
Semi-final action then will see two best-of-seven series taking place March 28-April 11.
One series will see the top seed meeting the lowest-seeded team, with the other two squads meeting in the other showdown.
From there, the two semi-final winners will square off for the Bill Salonen Cup in another best-of-seven set slated for April 13-24.
The SIJHL champion will join the Dryden GM Ice Dogs at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup set for May 1-5 at the Memorial Arena in Dryden.
Should the Ice Dogs repeat as league champs, the other Bill Salonen Cup finalist also will represent the SIJHL at the four-team event, which also will feature the title-holders from the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League and the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
The Dudley-Hewitt Cup winner then will advance to represent the Central region at the RBC Cup Canadian national Jr. ‘A’ championship May 12-20 in Chilliwack, B.C.