Lakers still ranked 10th despite loss


Instead of 13 being their unlucky number, the Fort Frances Lakers finally were tripped up by No. 14.
Their baker’s dozen winning streak was derailed by the Thunder Bay North Stars, who nipped the Lakers 4-3 last Thursday in the second of two games for both teams at the annual SIJHL Showcase in Hoyt Lakes, Mn.
Thunder Bay (23-16-4) crept to within 11 points of first-place Fort Frances (30-8-0-1) with just their third win in 10 tries against the Lakers this season, although Fort Frances does hold four games in hand.
The defeat also didn’t hurt the Lakers in the CJHL’s weekly top 20 rankings—maintaining their hold on the #10 spot they earned last week.
It also didn’t keep forward Lucas DeBenedet from being selected as the Gongshow Gear performer-of-the-month -for January.
DeBenedet, the reigning SIJHL scoring champ and rookie of the year, had a bit of a stuttering start upon his return from the NAHL’s Minot (N.D.) Minotauros at the start of November.
But after getting eight goals and 12 assists in his first two months back, the 18-year-old International Falls native has rediscovered his form of a year ago in the past four weeks.
DeBenedet had an 11-game point streak that lasted well into January and finished the month with six goals and 11 assists in only nine games.
He’s now third on the Lakers in scoring with 37 points in 23 games.
The Lakers gave the multitude of pro, college, and junior scouts on hand for the “Showcase” plenty to ponder in the first period last Thursday, outshooting the North Stars 19-4.
But goalie Nathaniel Dupuis, who had removed himself from the game near the end of a 9-0 debacle in the teams’ last meeting here back on Jan. 16, was outstanding in keeping the game tied at 1-1 through 20 minutes.
Wyatt Cota’s power-play goal was matched by Cashen Tighe’s tally.
A more prepared North Stars’ squad took to the ice in the second as they owned the frame with a 13-4 shot advantage and took the lead with the period’s only two goals.
Both came via the power play from Nicholas Nigro and Matthias Gardiman.
Miles Nolan tried to revive the Lakers’ chances at 11:11 of the third to make it 3-2.
But the North Stars didn’t wilt under the pressure this time—bouncing right back just 34 seconds later on Avery Siau’s shot that beat Lakers’ goalie Nathan Park.
A.J. Kapcheck later connected on the power play off a feed from Cota but it wasn’t be enough for Fort Frances, who played without forwards Bowen Alcock and Marco Romano (undisclosed).
Park made 21 saves in suffering his first loss in a Lakers’ jersey (5-1).
Despite giving up the most goals he’s allowed since joining the Lakers in December, Park still leads the SIJHL in GAA (1.54) and save percentage (.945).
He also is tied with Kyle Carignan (Minnesota Iron Rangers) for the most shutouts with two apiece.
The Lakers had extended their winning streak with a 5-3 triumph over the cellar-dwelling English River Miners (9-30-4) in their first game at the “Showcase” last Wednesday.
Fort Frances led 3-2 after the first on goals by Lucas DeBenedet, Dylan Robertson, and Mason Meyer, who earned consideration for the Amyotte’s Awards & Promotions player of the week honour which went to Cole Golka of the Dryden GM Ice Dogs.
Kirk Coppock and Alex Maticic replied for the Miners.
The Lakers turned on their defensive game in the second, limiting English River to four shots while moving ahead 5-2 on tallies from Nolan and Meyer.
Coppock netted his second of the game in the third but the Miners got no closer.
Pierce Dushenko made 22 stops in what was his second-straight start—the first time that’s happened for him since becoming a Laker in December.
P.D. Melgoza had 33 saves for English River, which is on a three-game losing skid.
The Lakers had forwards Carter Chorney and Colton Spicer out of the lineup for the game (undisclosed).
Fort Frances was back in Hoyt Lakes last night to take on Minnesota (20-14-6), with the outcome unavailable as of press time.
The Lakers then headed to Thunder Bay to face the North Stars tonight.
The team’s lengthy road trip finally will end Saturday when they visit the Ice Dogs (21-18-2) in the opener of a home-and-home series.
The back half goes Tuesday (Feb. 10) at 7:30 p.m. at “The Duke” (Couchiching Arena).