Lakers open with win

Dan Falloon

The Fort Frances Lakers kicked off the SIJHL regular season on the right note here Friday night, doubling the Fort William North Stars 4-2 at the Ice For Kids Arena.
The Lakers (1-0) were led by captain Tyler Stevenson, who tallied the first two goals before setting up Jace Baldwin’s eventual game-winner with two seconds left in the second period.
Fort Frances came out a little flat as Fort William hemmed the home team in its own zone for the first half of the first period.
But the momentum began to swing in the Lakers’ favour when assistant captain Blake Boaz fed Stevenson, who deked out North Stars’ goalie Guillaume Piche to make it 1-0 at the 11-minute mark.
The North Stars rallied quickly, however, as defenceman Kevin Hamel’s seeing-eye wrister from the point found its way through a crowd in front of Lakers’ goalie Jameson Shortreed to clank off the post and in.
The goal came just seven seconds into a penalty to Lakers’ forward Zach McCool, whose hooking infraction was the home side’s only sin of the night.
Stevenson roared back, taking a feed in the slot from defenceman Cody Hasbargen on the power play and sliding a change-up past Piche to restore the lead at 16:25.
The Lakers went up 3-1 late in the second period after Fort William’s Matt Valley and Dan Usiski were penalized at 19:18.
Fort Frances made the most of the two-man advantage as Stevenson fired a cross-crease pass to Baldwin, who batted home the puck with just two seconds on the clock.
The North Stars came out flying in the third period as Riley Marsh beat Shortreed at 6:22 to bring the visitors to within a goal, but Shortreed shut the door the rest of the way.
Byron Katapaytuk iced the victory, wiring an empty-netter from the Lakers’ end in the dying seconds.
Baldwin had a goal and an assist to help pace the Lakers while defenceman Morgan McNeill also had a multi-point game with a pair of assists.
Shortreed made 20 saves in the victory while Piche turned aside 24 Lakers’ shots in a losing cause.
After the game, the Lakers congregated at centre ice and saluted the crowd of 592 in attendance.
The Lakers continue their season-opening homestand tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. when the Dryden Ice Dogs (2-1) invade the Ice For Kids Arena.
Fort Frances beat Dryden twice in the pre-season by scores of 6-5 (OT) and 7-1.
But head coach Wayne Strachan doesn’t expect the Ice Dogs will go down as easily as they did in the pre-season game here.
“They’ve made a few changes in personnel,” he noted after Friday’s game.
“It’s going to be a different team than when we last saw them,” he warned. “I don’t expect it to be a 7-1 score.
“I expect it to be just as hard as tonight, and we’re going to have to work 60 minutes to get a victory,” Strachan stressed.
The Ice Dogs, who hosted games Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, are in the midst of a stretch where they play six games in nine nights to start the season.