Rested Lakers prepare for league final

Joey Payeur

The coaching staff of the Fort Frances Lakers must feel more like travel agents lately with all the extended vacations they’ve had to plan.
Head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan first had to deal with a 12-day stretch between the Lakers’ last regular-season game and its first playoff contest.
Then there’s the current break, which hit six days today and could end up being 10 before the two-time defending SIJHL champs face their next opponent.
Fort Frances took care of its own business in crisp fashion last week—sweeping its best-of-seven semi-final series against the English River Miners.
But as of last night, the other semi-final still was up for grabs, with the Dryden GM Ice Dogs leading the Thunder Bay North Stars 3-2.
Game 6 was scheduled for last night in Thunder Bay, with the outcome not known by press time.
An Ice Dogs’ win means Game 1 of the SIJHL final will be at the Ice For Kids Arena possibly tomorrow night. But if Thunder Bay prevails, Game 7 of that series would be pushed to Friday in Dryden.
That likely would translate into the final not getting underway until Sunday here.
Strachan has tried to keep his team’s preparation routine as normal as possible throughout the extended gaps between games.
“It’s not really that much of a different approach this time,” he said, referring to maintaining the squad’s level of sharpness during the two breaks.
“We took a couple of days off again to recuperate,” he noted.
“Sunday, we skated and had an off-ice activity, and now we will run a regular schedule working on the same tendencies to prepare for Game 1 and our next opponent.”
Strachan is pleased with how the Lakers don’t seem to have lost their edge despite their relative inactivity in recent weeks.
“I thought our intensity and jump was good through our last two skates,” he remarked.
“Sunday we did a bunch of flow and conditioning drills,” he noted.
“Monday, we got more into flow drills and started to emphasize our defensive game, and we will further get into systems as practice goes on in the week.”
One of the worst interview questions, with the most predictable of answers, always has been inquiring which opponent a team would like to face in an upcoming playoff series.
Hardly anybody wants to respond truthfully at risk of ending up providing bulletin board material.
If the Lakers were vaccinated with truth serum, though, it’s probable they would confess to leaning towards an encounter with Dryden.
That would be understandable, given the squad went 12-1-0-1 against the Ice Dogs during the regular season as opposed to only 7-7 versus the North Stars.
“We believe both teams are very similar and play us similar in trying to work hard and be physical against us,” said Strachan.
“Our train of thought does not stray too far from playing our own game.
“We know both teams are going to be aggressive against us,” he added.
“We will have to match that, but we need to stick to what makes us successful, use our speed, play our systems, be strong in our own end, and win the special teams battle,” Strachan stressed.
“If we are focused and doing these things, we will have an opportunity for success,” he noted.
“If we don’t, things will be a lot harder on us playing a solid opponent.”
The Lakers, meanwhile, are fully healthy for their drive to a third-straight SIJHL title, save for veteran defenceman Robbie Bonthron.
He remains out indefinitely with post-concussion syndrome.