Lakers looking to build off win

Jamie Mountain

Losing streaks can test the morale of any team and the Fort Frances Lakers are happy to put their most recent one behind them.
A Chase Robideau goal 13:40 into the third period proved to be the game-winner as the Lakers beat the visiting Red Lake Miners 5-3 on Saturday night at the Ice For Kids Arena to snap a seven-game losing streak.
Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan is hopeful his squad can use the momentum as a positive as the season nears its holiday break.
“We need to build momentum off Saturday’s win,” he stressed.
“We have a goal to win out heading into the Christmas break [but] it’s going to take a lot of hard work and focus.”
The fifth-place Lakers (10-15-0-0) resume action Friday when they host the fourth-place Dryden GM Ice Dogs (10-11-2-1) at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.
Then they’ll travel to Dryden on Wednesday (Dec. 19) before wrapping up first-half play at home against the third-place Thief River Falls Norskies (13-8-3-1) next Friday (Jan. 21) at 7:30 p.m.
“Our compete level and winning 1-on-1 battles,” Strachan replied when asked what the Lakers would be working on in practice this week.
Reece Hopfner wasted little time in getting the Lakers going Saturday night, opening the scoring just 84 seconds into the game with his fourth goal of the season.
Red Lake got that one back midway through the frame off the stick of Keegan Tiringer but Noah Loveday put Fort Frances back on top a few minutes later.
The back-and-forth affair saw the Miners’ Connor Jacobs tie it at 2-2 with the lone marker of the middle stanza.
Taking advantage of a power-play chance, Kirk Coppock put the Lakers back in front at 5:41 of the third with his 10th of the season.
He also dished out two assists for a three-point night.
Robideau then doubled the Fort Frances cushion with 6:20 left in regulation time.
Continuing to battle, Red Lake drew within one when Bryce Young notched his league-leading 33rd goal with two-and-a-half minutes to go.
But Nick Lucas sealed the victory with an empty-netter in the late stages.
Matt Booth made 33 saves to earn the win while Zach Willms faced 38 shots in taking the loss.
On Friday night, Dante Tisi tallied once and added two assists as the Miners rolled to a 7-3 win over the Lakers at the Cochenour Arena.
Fort Frances did score first on a Brett Hahkala effort at 1:43 but Red Lake countered with a trio of tallies before the opening frame came to a close from Tisi, Young, and Caleb Paisley.
Stratton Pickett, Jacobs, and Spencer Milne (short-handed) then added second-period goals as the hosts jumped out to a 6-1 lead.
Lucas got one back for the Lakers later in the frame as he clicked on the power play at 14:34 to trim it to 6-2.
Cole Allan picked up another for Fort Frances midway through the third to halve the lead but Young rounded out the scoring late with his second of the night to seal the win.
Willms made 32 saves to earn the win while Lakers’ starting goalie Jacob Gnidziejko allowed three goals on 10 shots in just over 13 minutes of work.
Booth suffered the loss in lengthy relief while handling 22-of-26 attempts fired his way.
“I felt our focus was much better. We had a positive vibe on the bench,” Strachan said about the biggest differences between Friday and Saturday night’s games.
“Our goaltending made key saves and we went to the net with pucks and bodies,” he added.
“Friday was a tough game,” Strachan conceded. “I liked that we didn’t give in to them, we battled hard all game.
“Saturday, I liked that it was a team win,” he enthused. “We worked together, were positive, we battled, and attacked the net.”
As for players who caught his eye in the two games against the Miners, Strachan noted Hopfner has picked up his game of late.
“I liked how Matt Booth played Saturday,” he added. “He was focused, battling, and made some key saves.
“I thought the [Noah] Loveday line with [Kirk] Coppock and [Chase] Robideau had good chemistry on Saturday,” Strachan lauded.