Lakers open season with pair of wins


The Fort Frances Lakers couldn’t have asked for much of a better start to the SIJHL season.
The Lakers routed the Thief River Falls Norskies 8-2 in their home-opener on Friday night before following that up the next night with a comeback 3-2 overtime victory on the road to sweep the home-and-home series.
Local forward Ethan Carlson-Jourdain had a three-point night in his home debut on Friday night to pace the Lakers (2-0) to a convincing victory at the Ice For Kids Arena.
The Lakers also honoured the late Karen Angus in a touching pre-game ceremony.
Angus was a proud Lakers’ sponsor, fan, billet mom, volunteer and board member and touched the lives of everyone she came across involved with the team.
Each Lakers’ player will dawn the letters “KA” on their helmets this season to honour and remember her.
Ben Hoefler opened the scoring for the Lakers 6:57 into the first period of Friday’s game when he corralled the puck and tucked a low shot past the pad of Norskies’ goalie Seth Purcilly for a man-advantage tally.
Fort Frances then blew it wide open in the second frame in scoring three times within the span of a minute.
Nick Swain potted his first SIJHL goal 4:20 into the period on a 2-on-1 rush.
Carlson-Jourdain then rifled a shot off the crossbar and in over Purcilly just seven seconds later before tallying again with a slapshot just past the five-miute mark to put the goalie’s night to an end early.
Purcilly then was lifted in favour of Caleb Sauer.
Sauer didn’t fare much better as he was welcomed to the game with another goal as Noah Loveday, who has been tabbed as the Lakers’ captain this season, took a feed from Jack Lane through the middle before deking out the Norskies and potting his first of the year to put the hosts ahead 5-0.
The Norskies (0-2) finally got on the board with a couple of quick markers from Mason McIntosh and Tyler Johnson that beat Lakers’ goalie Alex Bugeja just under a minute apart to trim it to 5-2 after 40 minutes.
But showing some more offensive dominance, the Lakers got markers from Stone Stelzl and Lane early in the third to make it a 7-2 game.
Carlson-Jourdain then feathered a beautiful pass to fellow local forward Kaleb Bruyere, who sprung past a pair of Norskies’ defenders before depositing a shot past Sauer at 11:33 to cap the scoring.
Bugeja turned aside 35 shots to earn the win while Purcilly suffered the loss in allowing four goals against on 23 shots.
Sauer stopped 17-of-21 attempts in nearly 35 minutes of relief.
On Saturday night, the Lakers rallied from a 2-0 hole in the third period to stun the Norskies with a 3-2 overtime win for their second win in as many nights at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.
After a scoreless first period, Thief River Falls opened the scoring on an early power play in the second stanza as Cole Carpenter nailed down his first SIJHL goal at 2:16.
That held up until the opening moments of the third, when McIntosh put the hosts up by a pair in the first minute.
The Lakers began their comeback at 3:56 as Lane finally put the visitors on the board.
Fort Frances then tied it four minutes later Hoefler tallied to force extra time.
Heading into OT, it was Fort Frances that prevailed as Hoefler started the play behind his own net before getting up to Isaac Baron, who skated in on the left wing and fired a shot off the pad of Purcilly that bounced right to Matthew Dyck.
Dyck promptly lifted in a backhand for the game-winner.
The Norskies did hold the edge in shots by a slim 36-35 margin, with Bugeja again earning up the win and Purcilly suffering the loss.
The Lakers will resume action this Friday (Sept. 27) as they open another home-and-home set, this time against the Dryden GM Ice Dogs, at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids arena.
Fort Frances then will head to Dryden on Saturday night to complete the series.