Lakers unveil first signings

Dan Falloon

The newest member of the Fort Frances Lakers knows a thing or two about winning championships the hard way.
Brett Wur, who officially signed with the team on Sunday at the Memorial Sports Centre, helped his Selkirk Fishermen to a Keystone Junior Hockey League (Junior ‘B’) title earlier this spring.
But to do so, Wur and the Fishermen were forced to overcome a 3-0 series deficit at the hands of the Arborg Ice Dawgs.
“The whole room stayed calm and positive, and kept their emotions under control,” Wur recalled.
“The toughest game was probably [Game 4] in Arborg, where we just squeezed it out 4-3 and then we shellacked them the next two games.”
The highlight for Wur, however, was Game 7 as he tallied three points, including the goal that stood to be the game-winner after Selkirk let a 5-1 third-period lead dissolve to 5-4.
“That was the great highlight. That was my first-ever [championship],” he remarked.
“It was a great experience, and I ended up scoring the championship winner to win it all.”
Wur had kicked off the season as a rookie grinder, but gained more responsibility as the points began to pile up.
His 43 points (20 goals and 23 assists) were one off the team lead,
“They wanted me to be a checker, and I started off the season being a checker,” Wur explained.
“Then I started to put up a lot of points, too.
“I was a rookie, and I didn’t get a lot of ice time at first, but I started making it count when it came down to it,” he added.
Wur prides himself in his versatility, describing himself as a man for all situations.
“If I had to say one word about me as a player, it would probably be ‘all-around,’” he noted. “I can make plays, I can score, and I like to get in the dirty work.
“I’m not afraid to get into the corners.”
That’s exactly the attitude and skill set Lakers’ head coach Wayne Strachan is seeking for next season’s roster.
“Brett’s a player that has size, has work ethic, plays gritty, which I think we need to add a little bit more to our game,” lauded Strachan.
“If you check out his numbers, he can obviously put the puck in the net.
“We’re looking to get a little bigger, especially up front,” Strachan added.
“[We want] guys that are going to come in and work hard, which I’m not saying we didn’t have, but we want to build that trend continuing into next season.”
Wur will be in the team’s main camp when it kicks off Aug. 25 alongside Lakers’ rookie of the year Byron Katapaytuk, who also signed on for another year Sunday.
Strachan has a hunch the two could be paired up when the team begins training.
“Where he [Wur] totally fits in, we’ll see when main camp comes around,” Strachan explained.
“The first thing that comes to mind in speaking with [director of scouting] Grant [Perreault] is that he might fit in with Byron and we wanted to, obviously, get Byron signed right away.”
Meanwhile, the 18-year-old product of St. Andrews, Man. felt the Lakers provide an ideal fit for his goals of bringing an SIJHL title here.
“Fort Frances looks like a perfect team,” Wur enthused. “They’re young, they’re looking for a good chance to run at a championship, and I’d like to be a part of that.
“I thought that this year could be a turnaround and [we could] give them [Dryden and Fort William] a good run for their money for a championship.”
The jump from Junior ‘B’ to Junior ‘A’ will take some transition, but Wur already has started to read up on some of the competition he’ll be up against when the season kicks off in September.
“I looked at a lot of the rankings and saw Dryden and Fort William up there,” he noted.
“I looked at some of the games that they [the Lakers] played against them, and they [Fort William and Dryden] were pretty stacked, and they [the Lakers] did fairly well.”
For his part, Katapaytuk is looking to build off of an injury-plagued campaign that saw him net 13 goals and 21 assists in 43 games.
“I played half the season with a broken hand,” noted the Moose Factory, Ont. product.
“It wasn’t my best year, but it was good, though. I had a lot of fun.”
Katapaytuk, who will turn 19 on June 7, did his part in the Lakers’ playoff run, notching a pair of game-winning goals.
He said he’s driven to advance further in 2010-11.
“The main goal is to get this team as far as it can possibly go,” he stressed. “I think we’ll have great scorers next year and go far.”
Strachan also cited Katapaytuk’s importance in the post-season after Fort Frances dropped a narrow 2-1 decision in Dryden to spot the Ice Dogs a 3-2 series lead in the semi-finals.
Dryden then won Game 6 here by a 4-2 final.
“He [Katapaytuk] got his bell rung there, and I think it may have been a determining factor with Dryden beating us, with him not playing in Game 5, but that’s neither here nor there,” Strachan remarked.
“It was unfortunate,” he added. “Every time he got on a roll, an injury kind of crept into his game.
“I think you saw him at his best in the playoffs.”
If Katapaytuk gets in a full season of SIJHL action, Strachan forecasts the 6’2” forward could find himself near the top of the scoring race.
“I see him coming in, if he has a good off-season, and furthers his development strength-wise and gets a little more solid in his body structure, I foresee him to be one of the top players in the league this year,” he said.
“He definitely has all the tools to be that player.”
Strachan also said he was relieved to have the chance to start constructing his roster over the summer—a luxury he was not afforded a year ago as the future of the Fort Frances Jr. Sabres remained in limbo.
By the time the Sabres folded and the Lakers were founded, Strachan was forced to cobble together an early-season lineup under the wire.
“We wanted to start signing some players and showing our fans that we’re getting ready,” he remarked. “We’ll continue this throughout the weeks of signing players that are going to return.”
In other Lakers’ news, Strachan announced Perreault will add the title of assistant general manager in addition to his role as director of scouting.
He also mentioned early-bird season tickets still are available for $175 each.