If the Fort Frances Lakers hope to have success against the Thief River Falls Norskies going forward, they had best heed a lesson learned from their last game.
Get off to a better start.
“We were flat in the first 12 minutes of the game and watched them, allowing them to jump out to the 2-0 lead,” head coach Wayne Strachan said via e-mail of Saturday night’s 3-1 loss here to the Norskies.
“Overall, I thought we played a strong 55 minutes of hockey,” he noted.
“In my opinion, we were the better team for the last 40,” Strachan added. “We just couldn’t solve their goalie and to be [among] the top teams, you have to capitalize on your opportunities.”
Alec Daman and Parker Simonson gave the visitors a 2-0 lead before the first period was 10 minutes old.
Noah Loveday got one back at 5:30 of the second but Simonson netted his second of the game at 16:45 to cap the scoring.
Brock Lefebvre made 29 saves to earn the win while Rob Ivy faced 40 shots in taking the loss.
The Lakers don’t have to wait long to avenge Saturday’s setback. They head to Thief River Falls this Friday and Saturday to cap a stretch of three-straight clashes against the first-place Norskies.
“We will go with our normal routine,” Strachan said of the team’s focus in practice this week.
“[On] Tuesday, we will go through our defensive systems and battle hard,” he noted.
“[Then] as the week goes on, we will get into our offensive game and spend some extra time on both special teams,” he added.
“We need to be better in our penalty kill and our power play has to get going.”
As for playing the same team three-straight times?
“I would definitely like more variety, for sure,” Strachan conceded. “Playing the same team too many times in a row can cause animosity.
“However, both teams play a pretty honest game so I don’t really see that being a factor,” he noted.
“We are rival teams so we see each other 14 times through the [season], so it is probably an instance where it couldn’t be avoided.”
The Lakers were riding a three-game winning streak going into Saturday’s game, including a 9-4 romp over the Minnesota Iron Rangers the previous night down in Hoyt Lakes.
Loveday led the way offensively by notching his first-ever SIJHL hat trick.
Loveday, Hunter Buzzi, Ian Jarvis, and Jack Bernie gave the Lakers a 4-0 lead just past the midway point of the first period–chasing Iron Rangers’ starting goalie Jackson Nelson.
After Mark Sanchez made it 4-1 before the first intermission, Loveday and Max Sturko traded second-period goals.
Zach Hayes got the Iron Rangers to within 5-3 just 33 seconds into the third before Jaedin Ness and Matt Butler traded goals a couple of minutes later to make it 6-4.
But it was all Fort Frances after that as Loveday, Nick Lucas, and Buzzi added insurance goals.
Ivy faced 28 shots in earning the win while Tyler Thompson took the loss in relief of Nelson.
The win streak began with a 6-3 win over those same Iron Rangers there back on Oct. 14, followed by a 5-3 victory against the visiting English River Miners here last Tuesday (Oct. 17).
“I really liked our hunger in the three wins,” said Strachan. “We were fast and didn’t give our opponents time to make decisions.
“We caused turnovers and we were hungry for the net, and we found success.
“The two wins over the [Iron] Rangers, we were solid for the most part, fast and aggressive,” Strachan added.
“In the win over the Miners and [Saturday’s] loss, we had periods where we were not ourselves and that hurt us in the loss,” he noted.
“We couldn’t rebound from it.”
Strachan also said the team still needs to have consistency for 60 minutes.
“We need to have more poise with the puck and we will continue to work on areas in our defensive zone, especially not being puck-focused,” he stressed.
The Lakers have played 12 games so far during the regular season (the most in the six-team SIJHL to this point) while sporting a 5-5-1-1 record to sit alone in third place with 12 points.
The Norskies (10-0-0-0) hold down top spot with 20 points, with the Dryden GM Ice Dogs (8-0-2-1) right on their heels with 19.
The Thunder Bay North Stars (4-5-2-0) remain in fourth place with 10 points, followed by the English River Miners (4-6-0-0) in fifth with eight.
The Iron Rangers (1-7-0-2) round out the standings with four points.
“We knew the first part of the season was more than likely going to be a work in progress and an adjustment period,” Strachan admitted.
“I like the direction our team is going in,” he added. “We have improved a bunch since the first day of camp.
“Our staff knows where we need to improve on the ice and personnel-wise, and we will continue to work on getting us to where we need to be.”
On the injury front, Strachan said defenceman Connor Keith (upper body) is skating now but forward Dominick Allan (upper body) has decided to call it quits for the season.
Forward Damien Caringi (illness) and goalie Brett Akins (knee) also remain out for the Lakers.