Lakers split pair of games

Joey Payeur

Sometimes even the best can slip up.
Fort Frances Lakers’ centre Lucas DeBenedet, who is having a player-of-the-year type of season, lost his footing and his man—resulting in Jay Routheau shaking loose to score the game-winning goal at 3:33 of overtime to give the Minnesota Iron Rangers a 4-3 victory here Saturday night.
“Defensive breakdowns cost us,” noted Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan, whose squad had its modest four-game winning streak snapped.
“Our forward left his guy coming off the wall, and then he goes the net and puts it in,” he remarked.
“It’s a live-and-learn situation.”
The Iron Rangers never led the entire game—tying the score with just 1:18 left in regulation time on Noah Anderson’s goal with netminder Alex Reichle on the bench for the extra attacker.
“Our guys battled hard and there was a lot to battle through,” jubilant head coach Chris Walby said outside a Rangers’ dressing room that was in full celebration mode.
“I’m proud of the boys . . . this could be a game to turn our season around.
“We definitely have a lot of work left to do,” Walby conceded. “But for the rest of the season from here on in, we want to get better every night.”
The Lakers (37-6-2-2) looked to have the Iron Rangers (27-12-2-4) under control early, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Patrick Sofer and Brent Aiken.
But the game turned later in the frame as Minnesota killed off back-to-back double minors—part of an outstanding effort that saw the Lakers held to one power-play goal on 11 chances while also netting a short-handed goal by Evan Erickson in the second.
The Lakers also were snake-bitten Saturday night—hitting three crossbars in the opening frame alone.
Tanner Fricke also scored for the Lakers while Jon Losurdo had the other marker for Minnesota.
Reichle was phenomenal with 54 saves on the night while Jordan Cartney stopped 21 at the other end.
The Lakers were coming off a 7-1 thrashing of the host Thunder Bay North Stars on Friday night in the final regular-season match-up between the two squads.
Fort Frances pounced on the North Stars (31-9-1-4) early, vaulting to a 4-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Lyndon Lipinski netted a hat trick as part of a four-point night for himself and a 10-point night for the DLM Line, with DeBenedet getting four assists and Mason Meyer adding two helpers.
Bryce Lipinski, Donovan Cousineau, Cam Gobeil, and Cody Wickstrom had the other Lakers’ goals while Daniel Del Paggio notched the lone tally by Thunder Bay.
Devin Tappenden, whose father, Eric, came within inches of collecting $1,200 in the Lakers’ “Shoot to Win” contest here Saturday, had 23 saves in the victory.
Eric Mann was pulled after Cousineau’s goal at 12:15 of the first after giving up three goals on seven shots.
Nathaniel Dupuis cleaned up in relief with 19 saves.
The Lakers finished the season series with a 6-3-0-1 record against Thunder Bay, including wins in their last three meetings.
The squad next travels to Dryden on Wednesday to take on the Ice Dogs (18-24-5).
Their next home game is this Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the Iron Rangers.