Lakers look to shore up defensively


The Fort Frances Lakers will be gunning to put in a better defensive effort when they visit the Thunder Bay North Stars tonight.
“We have to buy into our defensive game,” head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan said yesterday morning in an e-mailed response to the Times regarding the team’s 2-4-0-1 start to the regular season.
“We have some guys out on our back end but we need our young defencemen to start to grow, to grasp our defensive style,” he stressed.
“As a team, we need to listen and learn to what we are trying to teach them.
“We have to have the ambition and hunger defensively to win battles, box out in front of the net, pick up sticks, and get pucks out of our end quicker,” Strachan added.
The Lakers are coming off a weekend split–beating the Minnesota Iron Rangers 6-2 here Friday night before falling to the host Dryden GM Ice Dogs by that same score Saturday.
Damien Carigni and Nick Lucas scored 64 seconds apart just past the midway point of the first period against the Iron Rangers.
After the visitors drew within one later in the period, the Lakers exploded for four goals in the second to secure the victory.
Jaedin Ness restored the two-goal cushion early in the frame before Lucas notched his second of the game at 6:43.
Charlie Wilkie then netted his first SIJHL goal at 11:46 to make it 5-1.
The Iron Rangers got one back on the power play at 16:54 but Ian Jarvis rifled home his first of the season a minute later to cap the scoring.
Brett Akins made 28 stops in his SIJHL debut to earn the victory.
“I felt we did a good job of playing to our identity, controlling the play and the puck,” noted Strachan.
“We went to the net hard and played a near 60-minute effort.”
It was a different story the following night in Dryden, though, where a tough start cost the Lakers.
Strachan cited soft penalties early in the first period, coupled with a lack of concentration defensively around their own net, as contributing to the loss.
“[We] needed to battle harder,” he noted. “You can’t spot the Ice Dogs a three-goal lead and expect to have success.”
Lucas (power play) and Skylar Wentz scored for the Lakers in that one.
Rob Ivy started in goal but was pulled 13 minutes into the second period after allowing five goals on 27 shots.
Michael Binczyk handled 16-of-17 shots in relief.
Strachan said his team definitely will need to be competitive and ready to play tonight against the North Stars (2-2-1-0), who sit tied with the Lakers for third place with five points apiece although they’ve played two fewer games.
“Thunder Bay has some skilled players that we will have to watch,” Strachan warned.
“We need to stick to our game plan, win battles, and play 60 minutes if we want to have success,” he stressed.
Strachan lauded a solid team effort for Friday night’s win over Minnesota
“[I liked] how hard we went to the net, some consistency in our game,” he said.
“We were hungry and played a fast game.
“Even in the loss to Dryden, we showed some of these aspects,” Strachan added.
“[But] we still need that improvement in our defensive game,” he reiterated.
“We need to learn we cannot take soft penalties against good offensive teams.”
The Lakers also have been hit by the injury bug, specifically Connor Keith (upper body), Mark Richter (ribs), Dominick Allan (upper body), Jeff Venzon (upper body), and Ness (knee).
After tonight’s game, the Lakers will play a third-straight road game Saturday against the Iron Rangers in Hoyt Lakes before returning home next Tuesday (Oct. 17) to face the English River Miners at 7:30 p.m.
Going into play tonight, the Thief River Falls Norskies lead the six-team league with a 6-0-0-0 record (12 points) while the Ice Dogs (5-0-0-1) are right behind with 11.
The Iron Rangers are in fifth place at 1-4-0-1 (three points) while the Miners (1-3-0-0) sit in the cellar with two points.