Lakers lose pair to North Stars


The Fort Frances Lakers were taken to school over the weekend by the defending SIJHL champs.
After dropping a 5-1 decision to the league-leading Thunder Bay North Stars on Friday at the Ice For Kids Arena, the Lakers didn’t fare much better the following night as they fell 4-1 at the Fort William Gardens.
The North Stars improved to 12-1-1 with the home-and-home sweep while the Lakers slipped to fourth in the standings with a 7-8-1 record and have now lost four straight.
The North Stars tallied twice in each of the second and third periods to propel them to victory on Saturday night in Thunder Bay.
Despite pumping 16 shots on Lakers’ goalie Dylan Kosik in the first period, the North Stars could not solve him.
But they did finally connect four minutes into the second frame, however, as Evan Nicholas slammed home his third of the season from close range.
A North Stars’ power play helped them go up by a pair at 15:52 when Jacob Brown went top shelf to the left of Kosik.
The Lakers finally got on the board later in the second on a man advantage opportunity of their own as Jack Lane calmly drifted towards the net and neatly wired one high from a sharp angle over the shoulder of North Stars’ goalie Seth McKay to trim it to 2-1 after 40 minutes.
Some nice passing from Robert Tyska and Nikolas Campbell helped affiliate player Kyler Belluz notch his first SIJHL goal midway through the third as Thunder Bay went up by three.
Campbell then snapped in a high shot at 17:47 to round out the scoring for the hosts.
McKay turned aside 31 shots to earn the win while Kosik made 34 saves in a losing cause for Fort Frances.
On Friday night, Brown’s goal with just 10 seconds left in the first period proved to be the game-winner as Thunder Bay claimed the opener of the home-and-home set at the Ice For Kids Arena.
An unlucky bounce off an official’s skate on a clearing attempt went right to Thunder Bay’s Jayden Mrakic in the slot as he fired in his second of the season to open the scoring just over six minutes into the game.
Brown then put the North Stars up by two later in the frame as he skated out of his own zone, cut in and had a low shot attempt find its way between the post and right pad of Lakers’ goalie Alex Bugeja.
Then in the second, the visitors extended their lead moments into a man advantage opportunity as Tyska’s sharp cross-ice pass found Cody Bruchkowski waiting for a one-timer in the left circle as he notched his 12th of the campaign.
Joel Willan then went top shelf on Bugeja from the right wing at 8:25 to make it 4-0 for the visitors.
Sporting “Pink the Rink” jerseys, Fort Frances finally got on the board before the middle frame was complete when Flynn Perry’s seventh of the season completed a set-up from linemates Lane and Noah Loveday.
The North Stars rounded out the scoring in the third off a late dump-in from Belluz that the Bugeja couldn’t control, allowing the puck to find a waiting Ben Erwin, who buried his sixth into the open side to finish things off.
Thunder Bay also held a 42-27 edge in shots with Jordan Smith picking up the win while Bugeja suffered the loss.
The Lakers will look to end their slide this Friday (Nov. 8) when they welcome the Dryden GM Ice Dogs (7-9-1) at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.
Fort Frances then will cap the week the following night with another home game against the visiting Thief River Falls Norskies (7-7-2), also at 7:30 p.m.