The Fort Frances Lakers may have had their game on Saturday night postponed but the front office was still busy over the weekend.
The Lakers on Sunday traded defenceman Michael Chapman to the Cochrane Crunch (NOJHL) in exchange for fellow blueliner Jaden Wake.
“The biggest reason [for the trade] was we were trying to move a ’99 birth year for other plans we had yesterday to make moves,” Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan told the Times on Monday.
“We watched Jaden a few games through video and sought advice of others to get a feel for his game and we believe we have a good puck-mover, a guy who can log a lot of minutes in key areas of the game and make an impact once he joins the team.”
Wake, a Saskatoon, Sask. native, tallied seven assists in 25 games with the Crunch this season while Chapman, of Swartz Creek, Mich., notched a goal and nine helpers in 18 games with Fort Frances.
The Lakers also acquired goalie Dean Bucholz from the Lindsay Muskies (OJHL) for a player development fee on Sunday.
In 19 games with Lindsay this season, the 20-year-old posted a 4.10 GAA and a .886 save percentage.
Wake and Bucholz join forward Kyle Uzelman and defenceman Matthew Binguis as the team’s most recent acquisitions.
Strachan said he has been pleased with what he has seen so far from both Uzelman and Binguis.
“Kyle has brought veteran leadership both on and off the ice. He makes us deeper up front and has made his linemates, at this time, better players,” Strachan lauded of the 20-year-old.
“He is smart, reads the ice well and makes good plays. We are very pleased with him at this time.
“Matthew has made steps in a positive way every game he has played,” he said of Binguis,
“From watching, the more involved he is in the play and on the physical side of things the better his game is. . .he has some areas to develop in but he is making a big jump from high school hockey to being a regular at this level,” Strachan lauded.
“With some hard work, his game will grow.”
of down time
As mentioned, the Lakers were slated to play the Thief River Falls Norskies at the Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday night but it was postponed due to a winter snow storm and unsafe highway travel conditions in the area.
A make-up date hadn’t been announced as of press time today.
“We took Saturday off and went back to work Sunday and will practice through to Wednesday night’s game,” said Strachan, whose team sits fifth in the six-team SIJHL with a 10-10-1 record heading into Wednesday night’s game when they open a home-and-home series against the rival third-place Dryden GM Ice Dogs (12-10-1).
“We went pretty hard Sunday in practice and will continue to work on skills and our game plan Monday and Tuesday.”
Fort Frances then will host the finale on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.
Strachan also noted that his team has been streaky throughout the first half of the season and that he is expecting more from his players as they move forward.
“Through the first 12 games we seen a lot of good traits and had early success, the team was clicking and growing together,” he recalled.
“We go into a funk at the end of October/early November where we just didn’t have that extra push or drive to win some hockey games. In the last three, we get back to where we were at working hard, playing simple hockey, moving pucks, creating more opportunities to the net and because of it are being rewarded with some wins.”
Strachan said the Lakers are a team that needs to come to work every day and do the little things in games that makes them successful and playing to their identity.
“We cannot be complacent, we need to get better each and every day on and off the ice,” he stressed.
“Follow our rules, our training plan, eat well and get proper rest to develop through the year. We need our first-year players–no matter their age–to realize what it takes at this level daily to develop on and off the ice in order to be successful.
“We need our leaders to lead by example in all aspects of the team, lead in the weightroom, be on time for events, help prepare the guys for battle in games and play to their roles on the team,” Strachan urged.
“This has come a long way from day one of camp, but we are not consistent enough as a whole and need some guys to improve in the areas I just mentioned.
“Obviously, we need our special teams to improve and help us win hockey games, through our losing streak our power play wasn’t having success and we were losing the special teams part of the game nightly . . . that’s on me,” he conceded.
Since tweaking their power play, Strachan said that through the last three games that the Lakers have won it had looked better and come up huge for them.
“Our penalty kill we have also altered versus different opponents, but what is different from now until the first part of the year where our P.K. percentage was higher is we weren’t taking bad penalties or penalties in areas of the rink where we shouldn’t be,” he lamented.
“We are now and putting more of a burden on our P.K.”
Heading into this week’s games, the Lakers’ power play ranks fifth (14.6 percent) while the penalty kill is dead last (75.7 percent).