Lakers shrug off back-to-back losses

Joey Payeur

Wayne Strachan was looking for a response.
Matt Vela gave him just the right one.
Vela countered the English River Miners’ go-ahead goal in the third period with an equalizer 30 seconds later to set the Fort Frances Lakers in motion towards a 4-2 victory here Saturday night.
“I tell the guys all the time the biggest shifts are the ones right after you kill off a penalty or give up a goal,” said Strachan, whose team rebounded from a home-and-home sweep at the hands of the Minnesota Iron Rangers and retained its spot at No. 10 in the latest CJHL top 20 weekly rankings.
“That was the best line we had going all night,” Strachan added.
“We get a lucky bounce around their net and Matt puts it in to get us back in the game.”
Vela’s chip shot over Miners’ goalie Greg Harney at 10:50 of the third came on the heels of Jake Staples’ second of the game for English River half-a-minute earlier, which he wired top shelf past Lakers’ goalie Devin Tappenden, who admitted he was out of position on the play.
“I didn’t like that second goal,” confessed Tappenden, who finished with 21 saves for the win to improve to 4-3 on the season.
“But we showed character to bounce back and get the lead back,” he added.
Bowen Alcock netted the game-winner with 2:52 to go for the Lakers (8-3-1), taking a cross-ice pass from Dylan Kooner on a 2-on-1 and stuffing the puck underneath Harney and in.
Vela, who scored the lone goal of the first period, then capped his hat trick with an empty-netter with one second on the clock.
“That was a much-needed win,” Vela stressed. “We were feeling pretty down about ourselves after the two losses [to the Iron Rangers].
“Now we can go home with a smile on our face,” he added.
“But we have to come here ready to work next week.”
Strachan was thrilled to see Vela break out of his mini-slump, where he had scored just once in the previous five games.
“[Vela] had a strong start to the season and contributed right away, then the last few games he’s been snake-bitten,” Strachan noted.
“Tonight, he came to play and worked hard . . . he can be a big part of our offence.”
Staples tied the game with the lone goal of the second period, when he broke free on a short-handed breakaway.
His original shot was stopped by Tappenden but he muscled the rebound past the netminder.
Harney made 37 saves in a losing cause for English River (1-8-1), which had posted its first win of the season the previous night with a 4-3 upset of the Iron Rangers down in Hoyt Lakes.
But the Miners cost themselves a late power-play opportunity after Jake Holland already had been whistled for boarding with 2:10 to play.
In an effort to avenge their downed teammate, Liam Watson (slashing) and Kirk Coppock (roughing) also were sent to the sin bin—turning it into a Laker power play instead.
“I don’t want to say we’re too young but we’ve got a lot of guys who are learning to play at this level,” admitted Miners’ head coach and general manager Kevin Kahoot.
“We didn’t play 60 minutes tonight.
“Our discipline is still a process,” he added “Those were two stupid penalties taken by a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old.
“Emotion got in our way.”
The Lakers hosted the Dryden GM Ice Dogs last night (the outcome was unknown as of press time).
Fort Frances next heads to Hoyt Lakes to face the Iron Rangers on Friday before once again hosting the Ice Dogs on Saturday.
The Lakers currently are without the services of defenceman Max Kaercher, who is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury.
But the squad will get leading scorer Colton Spicer back for Friday night’s contest after completing a three-game suspension for a hit to the head he delivered last week against Minnesota.
In related news, Thunder Bay North Stars’ defenceman Ryan Walsh was named the Amyotte’s Awards & Promotions Corp. player-of-the-week after collecting five points in two games.
Lakers’ defenceman Sam Schultz was one of those under consideration for the award.