The Fort Frances Lakers don’t need to look at the standings to know how big their next two games are as SIJHL teams jostle for position heading into the post-season.
The Lakers will host the Dryden Ice Dogs tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena, then will make the trek up Highway 502 tomorrow night to conclude the home-and-home series.
Heading into tonight, the Lakers currently sit second in the SIJHL standings with 63 points—10 points back of the league-leading Wisconsin Wilderness, who the Lakers edged 6-5 in a shootout in their last game Thursday night.
The Ice Dogs, meanwhile, are in fourth place with 56 points—just four behind the third-place Thunder Bay North Stars.
“It’s changing nearly every day,” Lakers’ captain Tyler Stevenson said of the battle for the top four spots.
“We’re trying to get some separation here,” he added. “And of our last eight games, six of them will be against those top four teams.
“We’ll need to win those to make sure that we stay where we are in the standings,” Stevenson stressed.
Having snapped a three-game losing streak with a 3-0 triumph over the Duluth Clydesdales on Sunday, the Ice Dogs will be wrapping up a seven-game road trip tonight before they open a five-game homestand starting tomorrow against the Lakers.
“They have games in hand on us now, which makes it all that more important of a game,” Lakers’ coach and general manager Wayne Strachan noted.
“We haven’t played that well against them all year, so maybe we can show Dryden the real Lakers’ team here over the next little while because I don’t think they’ve seen us at our best yet,” he remarked.
Both Stevenson and Strachan felt the key to the Ice Dogs is goalie Ian Perrier, who enters tonight’s game with a 22-13-2-0 record and 2.31 goals against average.
“He’s a really good goalie and he’s the backbone to their team, so we’ll have to get some shots on him early to try and beat him,” Stevenson said.
“They are a team that relies heavily on their defence and their goaltender is one of the best in the league,” echoed Strachan.
“We’ll need to be mentally focused and ready to play because this could be a team that we could be facing in the playoffs, so we’ll need to have a good set of games against them here,” he stressed.