Tuesday was a great night for Fort Frances hockey.
While the Muskie boys’ hockey team was busy trying to secure their trip to the all-Ontarios on the other side of the Memorial Sports Centre against the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints (Kenora) in the third-and-deciding game of the NorWOSSA final, the Lakers were creating some magic of their own at the Ice For Kids Arena.
Flynn Perry’s second goal of the game, coming 65 seconds into overtime, was the difference as the Lakers withstood a late comeback by the Thunder Bay North Stars to win 6-5 in SIJHL action.
“I thought we played another solid game,” said Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan.
“I know we give up five [goals] and let them back in the game to tie it up with a few mental mistakes, however, we had the commitment and intensity needed to have success.”
Stone Stelzl also scored twice while Ben Hoefler and Kyle Uzelman also lit the lamp for the Lakers, who improved to 21-27-4-2 and are now tied with the Wisconsin Lumberjacks (21-27-5-1) with 48 points with two games remaining in the regular season for both clubs.
Alex Bugeja made 29 saves to earn his second win in as many games against Thunder Bay.
Jacob Brown netted a hat trick while Hunter Foreshew found the back of the net twice for the league-leading North Stars, who fell to 34-16-4.
Former Laker Dylan Kosik turned aside 41 shots in taking the loss.
It was the visiting North Stars who opened the scoring just past the 16-minute mark of the first period on a tally from Brown as they carried a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.
But the Lakers countered quickly in the second stanza with Stelzl connecting from the left wing to even it at one.
It was more Lakers midway through the frame as Hoefler picked up his 12th to make it 2-1 before Perry collected his initial marker of the night a couple of shifts later to put the hosts up by a pair during a power-play opportunity.
“Our special teams were good again,” Strachan lauded.
“Our defensive game, for the most part, was strong and we sacrificed and had intensity for sixty-plus minutes of hockey.”
On the power play themselves late in the session, Thunder Bay got one of those back with Foreshew putting one into the top corner with a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle on Bugeja.
Stelzl then got another four-and-a-half minutes into the third as he picked off a clearing attempt and darted in to score on Kosik to make it 4-2.
After Brown bagged another at 12:11 for Thunder Bay, Kyle Uzelman found the mark for Fort Frances at 15:37 as the Lakers went up by two late.
Brown then completed his hat trick with his 35th of the season of a nice deflection on a Logan Mihalcin attempt to bring the guests back to within one.
With time running down, and their goaltender on the bench for an extra attacker, Thunder Bay tied it with 20 seconds left in regulation as Foreshew lifted a backhand high over Bugeja to knot the affair at 5-5 and force overtime.
However, Perry helped the Lakers prevail early in the extra frame as he buried a rebound into the open side of Kosik off a Noah Loveday shot to pull out the home ice victory.
Jett Leishman and Mihalcin had three assists apiece for the North Stars in defeat while Colton Bodnar and MacKenzie Flett had two helpers each for the Lakers in their triumph.
The Lakers will resume action tomorrow night with a crucial home game against the Lumberjacks at 7:30 p.m. The fifth seed in the upcoming Bill Salonen Cup Playoffs will be up for grabs.
Fort Frances then will wrap up the regular season on Saturday night when they welcome the second-place Red Lake Miners (32-18-3-2) to town for a 7:30 p.m. start.
Both games will take place at the Ice For Kids Arena in Fort Frances.