Lakers start off with pair of wins


Talk about a picture perfect start.
The Fort Frances Lakers (2-0-0-0) kicked off the SIJHL regular season in style with a pair of road wins over the weekend.
Kirk Coppock scored in overtime Friday night to help Fort Frances pull out a 4-3 win over the two-time defending champion GM Ice Dogs in Dryden before cruising to a 6-2 romp over the host Minnesota Iron Rangers the following night.
Jaedin Ness had a pair of goals, including the game-winner, and assisted on another while Ethan Knutsen dished out four assists to pace the Lakers’ victory in Hoyt Lakes.
After a scoreless first period, Fort Frances exploded for four second-period goals to take a commanding 4-0 lead.
Brett Hahkala opened the scoring 1:18 into the second before Ness added a power-play and even-strength markers to give the visitors a three-goal cushion.
Bryce Kopp’s first SIJHL goal for the Iron Rangers with just under two minutes to go in the frame trimmed it to 3-1 but Dane Bateman connected just before the horn during a late man-advantage opportunity to put the Lakers back up by three.
After Colton Bodnar made it 5-1 with a short-handed effort in the third, Minnesota’s Lukas Lundgren scored on a power play to cut into the lead.
But Coppock came through with a late tally to cap the scoring.
Tyler Szturm earned the win in his SIJHL debut for the Lakers, finishing with 16 saves on 17 shots in just over 46 minutes of work.
Matt Booth handled five-of-six attempts he saw in third-period relief.
The previous night, Coppock’s goal 43 seconds into overtime was the difference as the Lakers eked out a 4-3 win over the Ice Dogs in the season-opener for both teams at Dryden’s Memorial Arena.
Dryden outshot Fort Frances 13-8 in the opening 20 minutes and were rewarded with the night’s opening tally courtesy of captain Trey Palermo.
The Lakers countered in the second frame by notching a pair of markers, beginning with Brett Hahkala’s first SIJHL goal at 1:26 before Chase Robideau’s initial league effort put the visitors in front 2-1 three-and-a-half minutes later.
Evan Walls drew Dryden level early in the third, only to see MacKenzie Flett put Fort Frances back on top at 3-2 at 4:35.
But the Ice Dogs answered once more, with Walls notching his second of the period with 7:17 left to help send it to extra time.
In overtime, the Lakers prevailed when Nate Drobnick fired the puck around the end boards from his own zone over to Ness, who then sent a cross-ice pass to Coppock on a 2-on-1.
Coppock darted down the left side and wired the game-winner past Ice Dogs’ goalie Jordan Wilde to give the visitors their first opening-night win since 2015.
Booth was stellar in goal for the Lakers, making 41 saves to earn the win while Wilde faced 23 attempts in taking the loss.
The Lakers next are in action this Friday (Sept. 28) when they host the Iron Rangers at 7:30 p.m. in their home-opener at the Ice For Kids Arena.
Make sure to get to there early as a special pre-game ceremony will be held to honour the Humboldt Broncos.
The Lakers then will welcome the Thunder Bay North Stars (1-0-1-0) the following night in another 7:30 start.