Saturday night’s outcome may not have turned out in their favour but taking three of four games to start the season still is commendable.
After claiming their home-opener 6-5 against the Minnesota Iron Rangers on a late goal by Noah Loveday on Friday night, the Lakers fell 5-3 to the Thunder Bay North Stars here the following night for their first loss of the season (3-1-0-0).
The first-place North Stars (4-0-1-0) capped a successful three-game road trip with a third victory in as many nights.
Fort Frances started strong–skating out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period on tallies by Kendyn Faragher and Chase Robideau.
The tally was Faragher’s first in the SIJHL.
But the North Stars cut the deficit in half before the period was over when Robert Tyska finished off the work by teammates Jacob Anttonen and Jonathan Kilby.
Thunder Bay then was quick out of the gate to start the second as Keighan Gerrie netted his league-leading seventh goal of the season just 21 seconds in.
Michael Vecchio later notched his first SIJHL goal to put the guests ahead for good.
The visitors capped a strong period as Ryan Mignault set up Joel Willan with 45 seconds left to make it 4-2.
The Lakers trimmed it to 4-3 with 3:35 to go in regulation time when Nick Lucas was left with a tap-in–giving him points in five-straight games dating back to last season.
Fort Frances then pulled starter Matt Booth in favour of an extra attacker to try and force overtime but Ryan Mignault iced it with an empty-netter from long range.
Brock Aiken earned the win for the North Stars, making 29 stops, while Booth faced 39 shots in taking the loss.
The previous night, it was the Lakers taking a wild 6-5 decision against the Iron Rangers (0-3-0-0).
In his first action of the season, Fort Frances native Noah Loveday notched the game-winning goal with just 26 seconds left in regulation to lift the Lakers to victory in their home-opener.
Lucas also scored twice and added an assist.
A free-wheeling first period saw each side tally twice, with former Laker Christian Ward and Lukas Lundgren scoring for Minnesota while MacKenzie Flett (power play) and Lucas (even-strength) countered for Fort Frances.
Special teams were pivotal in the second period as Wyatt Phaneuf and Aaron Koivunen each connected on the man-advantage to put the visitors up 4-2.
But the Lakers, who had the recently-signed Reece Hopfner miss on a penalty shot earlier in the frame, battled back late in the period when Kirk Coppock scored his third goal of the season on a power play at 17:21 to trim it to 4-3.
Lucas then knotted it 4-4 with just 11 seconds remaining in the frame when his shot bounced off a few skates and into the Minnesota net.
A lengthy man-advantage to begin the third helped Fort Frances take their first lead when Dustin Roitelman found the back of the net at 5:31.
It stayed that way until late in regulation, when Minnesota’s Evan Hendrickson notched the equalizer with a 1:40 left.
But with overtime looming, Loveday struck when he tipped a point shot past Iron Rangers’ goalie Nick Corneliusen to eke out the victory.
Fort Frances outshot Minnesota 58-24, with Booth registering the win while Corneliusen made 50-plus saves in defeat.
The Lakers next are in action this Friday (Oct. 5) when they cap a three-game homestand by welcoming the Thief River Falls Norskies (1-2-0-0) at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.
Then they’ll hit the road the following night to battle the Iron Rangers at 7 p.m. in Hoyt Lakes.