This season isn’t last season but the champs are still the champs until somebody knocks them off the top of the SIJHL mountain.
The Fort Frances Lakers are off to a 3-0 start after a pair of weekend home wins at the Ice For Kids Arena.
In a rematch of last season’s league finalists, Pierce Dushenko made 30 saves to backstop the Lakers to 3-1 victory over the Dryden GM Ice Dogs (3-1) on Friday.
The following night, three second-period goals propelled the Lakers to a 5-1 win over Minnesota—handing the Iron Rangers (5-1) their first loss of the season.
Brandon Bodnar stopped 27 shots in his Junior ‘A’ regular-season debut.
“[Saturday] we played a lot better than [Friday],” said Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan, whose team sits in second place—four points behind the Iron Rangers but with three games in hand.
“We were smarter with the puck.
“A couple of times [Bodnar] had to bail us out,” Strachan noted.
“But our puck management was better and we didn’t allow that many [scoring] chances.”
Dylan Kooner has the hot hand in the early going—scoring once in each of the Lakers’ first three games after notching just eight tallies in 56 regular-season contests last season.
In the second period Saturday, Kooner used his speed to win a race for the puck, then wheeled around and hit Isaiah Olschewske zipping down the middle.
Olschewske went to his go-to move—dekeing to the backhand and flipping it over Iron Rangers’ goalie Kyle Carignan to make it 3-0 just 20 seconds before intermission.
Kooner then scored himself at 8:36 of the third on the power play—sliding the puck into an almost vacant net with Carignan caught on the wrong side of the crease.
“We started a little sloppy in our first game [against the English River Miners last Tuesday], but it’s starting to come together as we go,” Olschewske said.
Matthew Ray, Dylan Robertson (power play), and Fort resident Cole Tymkin, with his first Junior ‘A’ goal, had the other Laker tallies.
Dawson Merchon spoiled Bodnar’s shutout bid with 1:27 to go on a power-play redirection that the goalie had no chance to block.
On Friday, Dustin Deugau and Kyle Folson wrapped second-period goals around one by former Laker Ben Smaha for the Ice Dogs.
Kooner capped the scoring just 1:19 into the third.
The Lakers next hit the road this Thursday to face the Thunder Bay North Stars (0-2).
Their next home game is this Saturday (Oct. 3) at 7:30 p.m. at the IFK Arena, with Minnesota once again providing the opposition.