Sabres rewarded for team effort vs. North Stars

Mitch Calvert

The Fort Frances Jr. Sabres had some rare success against the Fort William North Stars over the weekend.
Despite losing their first four meetings this season, the Sabres grabbed three of a possible four points in back-to-back road games against the SIJHL’s front-runners thanks to a strong effort from goalie Ryan Faragher in Friday night’s 5-4 shootout loss before rolling to a 5-1 win Saturday.
“To sum up the weekend in words: ‘great team effort,’” Sabres’ head coach Wayne Strachan enthused. “We had a goal to get two points and a split, [but] we came away with three and it was good for our team.”
Despite being outplayed and outshot Friday, the Sabres (19-9-2) dug deep and were two seconds away from an improbable victory before Trevor Gamache tied it for the host North Stars (24-4-3).
After a scoreless overtime, Gamache and teammate Michael MacDonald iced the comeback win with goals in the shootout.
Mitch Cain and Colton Kennedy scored two apiece for the Sabres. Joel Langevin replied with a pair for the North Stars while Cale Brown had their other goal in regulation time.
“[Fort William] came out with a lot of hard work and we had to weather a storm the first 10 minutes of the first,” Strachan noted. “In the second is where Ryan was huge as we had to kill a few penalties off, and they got a lot of shots this period.
“The third, I think, we sat back too much and they came hard at us,” he added.
But rather than dwelling on Friday’s disappointment, the Sabres jumped out to an early lead Saturday night—getting first-period goals from Chris Sinclair and Brendan Baumgartner.
Gamache scored before the end of the period to cut the Stars’ deficit in half, but Baumgartner notched his second of the game early in the middle period to restore the Sabres’ two-goal lead.
Kenny Carpenter added another before the end of the second, with Kyle Turgeon rounding out the scoring with the lone goal of the third.
“Good, low support from our forwards for our defenceman,” Strachan said of Saturday’s solid 60-minute effort. “We skated and moved the puck well, making smart decisions, [and] our special teams were good, and again we had solid goaltending.
“Our big players did their job,” he added “Sinc’s [Chris Sinclair] goal to open the game was a beauty, and the bench and his line fed off of it.
“It lifted us and we played a good, solid game after [that]. My hat goes off to the team for their effort.”
Strachan credited a solid special teams’ effort and the play of Faragher between for the successful start to the team’s stretch of five-straight road games. The Sabres scored three goals with the man advantage in Friday’s game, and held the North Stars without a power-play marker in nine chances Saturday.
“Our special teams and goaltending are the reasons we got three points,” he stressed.
“These are things that help win games or keep you close to squeak points out,” he reasoned. “It is, as I have mentioned before, something I take pride in and I try to instill this in our players.
“Special teams win games and is a huge component in winning championships.”
Strachan also credited his players for battling through adversity this season.
“We have been undermanned for most of the year,” he noted. “When you only carry 20 guys, you have to expect this as there are suspensions, injuries, and unforeseen personal things that take place through a hockey year.
“Our guys in our dressing room have fought through this, worked hard, and persevered through a lot as a team.
“I hope we can keep it up as a team and [the] hockey gods will reward these young men in the end,” Strachan added. “These young men in our locker-room deserve credit, and myself and our staff have a lot of faith in them.”
The Sabres face three more tough road tests this week, beginning tomorrow (Jan. 15) in Schreiber against the fourth-place Diesels.
The Sabres then will have a chance to gain ground on the second-place Thunder Bay Bearcats (they trail them by five points but with two games in hand) by playing a pair of games there Friday and Saturday (Jan. 16-17).
The squad finally returns home next Thursday and Friday (Jan. 22-23) when they host the Diesels.