The organization and its nickname may change but Wayne Strachan’s coaching prowess remains the same.
The Fort Frances Lakers’ head coach and general manager was named the SIJHL’s coach of the year for a record-tying fourth time, beating out Jeremy Adduono (Thunder Bay North Stars) and Kevin Kahoot (English River Miners).
Strachan first won the award in 2002 with the Borderland Thunder, then again with the Fort Frances Junior Sabres in 2008 and the Lakers in 2011.
The CCM first all-star team selection for both general manager and head coach, Strachan tied former North Stars’ coach Todd Howarth for the most wins in that category in SIJHL history.
The Lakers finished in first place during the regular season for the first time in the franchise’s existence with a 46-6-2-2 record—good enough to finish the campaign ranked No. 5 in the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s top 20 rankings.
The 46 victories also was the most by any Fort Frances junior ‘A’ squad.
In related news, Lakers’ goalie Jordan Cartney lost out to Eric Mann (North Stars) for the league’s top goaltender honour.
Mann ended the season 21-5-4, along with a 2.94 GAA, .909 save percentage, and one shutout.
He got the nod—despite trailing Cartney in all four major statistical categories.
The Lakers’ netminder, whose bid for the award may have been hurt by the fact he lost his starter’s job to Devin Tappenden in mid-January, led the league in wins with a 24-4-1 record.
He also was tops in GAA (2.48) and save percentage (.911) while tying Greg Harney (English River) for the most shutouts with three.
Alex Reichle of the Minnesota Iron Rangers was the other finalist.
On the ice, the Lakers are scheduled to clash with Thunder Bay here tonight in the second of their two-game, total-goal series.
Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena (weather permitting).
The Stars won the opener 4-3 at home last Saturday—meaning the Lakers need to win by at least two goals tonight to clinch the series and earn the right to pick their semi-final opponent.
A one-goal win in regulation, overtime, or via a shootout will require a tie-breaking shootout to decide the series.
In other playoff action last night, English River doubled the host Dryden Ice Dogs 6-3 to even their best-of-seven quarter-final series at 2-2.
Game 5 goes tomorrow night in Ear Falls, with Game 6 back in Dryden on Monday.
Meanwhile, Minnesota leads the Wisconsin Wilderness 3-0 in the other quarter-final after a 3-2 win in Spooner on Wednesday.
The Iron Rangers can complete the sweep with a road victory in Game 4 tonight.