With the Wisconsin Wilderness already having clinched the regular-season crown, the Fort Frances Lakers now are looking to solidify the second seed come playoff time.
The Lakers certainly helped their cause Saturday night at the Ice For Kids Arena, doubling the Sioux Lookout Flyers 4-2 to move them five points ahead of the third-place Thunder Bay North Stars.
“I’m not sure that was totally our best effort, but all in all it was a much-needed two points,” Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan said.
“They [Sioux Lookout] are a team that has improved a lot as of late and they play a hard in-your-face brand of hockey,” he noted.
“So to get the two points tonight [Saturday] really puts us in a good spot for the last five games.”
Forward Jace Baldwin led the way with a pair of goals, including one on a nice breakaway in the first period, as the Lakers earned their second-straight win.
“We started off kind of slow, but I thought we got better throughout the game,” Baldwin said.
“We wanted to push the pace up a little bit and get back to scoring some goals, so I think it was a good win overall,” he remarked.
Matthew Caulfield and Jordan Sinclair also scored for the Lakers while Tyler Stevenson and Blake Boaz each had a pair of assists.
Tyler Ampe, meanwhile, turned aside 28 shots to earn the victory and also drew an assist on Sinclair’s first-period goal.
“That doesn’t really happen a lot for a goalie, and I’ve never had an assist in my entire career,” Ampe smiled.
“Usually when you toss the puck up the ice, it ends up going to five other guys before it goes on net.
“But when I tossed it up tonight [Saturday], I was actually able to get a helper,” he noted.
Flyers’ forward Darnell Ferland was the only player to solve Ampe, scoring both goals for the visitors, while goalie Jesse Wilkins made 36 saves in a losing effort.
“In the last six days we’ve had five road games, so that’s got to be pretty hard on anyone,” Flyers’ coach Kurt Walsten reasoned.
“[But] in every game we were competitive, with just one or two goals being the difference all the way through,” he stressed.
“We had a couple of mental breakdowns in our own zone tonight [Saturday], and that’s why it ended up being a 4-2 win for them.”
The next week surely will set the stage for who the Lakers will face in the upcoming SIJHL playoffs.
They head to Dryden to face the Ice Dogs on Wednesday night before hosting the North Stars on Thursday.
Then after holding their team banquet this Friday evening (Feb. 18), the Lakers will welcome the league-leading Wilderness to town Saturday night before hosting the Ice Dogs on Tuesday, Feb. 22.
The Lakers then will wrap up their regular-season schedule on Thursday, Feb. 24 in Sioux Lookout.