T’hawks look forward to test against Lakers

Dan Falloon

With nine goals against the Manitoba Lightning over the weekend, the Fort Frances Thunderhawks have proved they can score.
It’s keeping the puck out of their own net the local senior ‘AAA’ squad hasn’t fully grasped yet.
After a fine performance from goalie Chris Medicine in a 4-1 win here Saturday night, the T’hawks didn’t provide Jay Flatt with as much support in Sunday afternoon’s 6-5 loss.
The home side just couldn’t recover from a 4-1 first-period deficit.
“We need to work on a little bit more coverage in our own end,” coach Larry Beck observed afterward the game.
“The high slot man was beating us today, that was the biggest difference,” he noted.
“We’ll keep improving. We’ll keep plugging away,” he stressed.
“We’re happy with a win and a close loss.”
Beck was thrilled with the play of Medicine on Saturday night while also noting it would be unfair to hang Sunday’s loss on Flatt, especially in his debut with the T’hawks.
“Chris Medicine was a stalwart for us last year, as well as last night [Saturday], and today we put in Jason Flatt,” Beck said.
“He [Flatt] responded quite well,” Beck added. “It was his first time thrown in the fire, and we didn’t give him a whole lot of support in the first [period].
“He settled in decently, and it was a good learning experience for him.”
One issue Beck noticed over the weekend was the team’s conditioning, stressing that’s an area they must improve.
However, with only an hour of ice time per week to go over team play and fundamentals, it’s up to each individual player to be responsible for his own fitness.
“We’ll work on our conditioning,” Beck remarked. “We’ve got a few guys right now that are getting their eyes opened.
“The onus is on them to get themselves in shape.”
While the Lightning admittedly were a test, Beck is looking ahead to an exhibition game with the Fort Frances Lakers next Tuesday (Dec. 28) to get a true handle on the shape his team is in.
“They’ll give us a good run,” he conceded. “They’re young and they get lots of ice time.”
T’hawks captain Ian Lockman, who tallied in both games against the Lightning, agreed.
“They [the Lakers] have a bunch of kids that are faster and in shape,” he remarked. “We’ll see what we’ve got against them, anyway.”
While the weekend games were physical affairs, Beck said next Tuesday’s exhibition will be less about hitting and more about speed and skill, which actually should play right into the Thunderhawks’ hands.
“We’re just going to try to make it a speed and skill game,” he explained. “We don’t need anyone hurt and neither do they.
“We have some speed,” Beck noted. “Often, we got some nice goals, some pretty goals.
“That’s what we are is a skating, puck-control team.”
On Sunday, Ross Johnson was one of the few locals who seemed to display that type of game, notching the lone Fort Frances goal of the opening frame.
The T’hawks started to fight back early in the second, though, as Sean Councillor buried a shot that had come out to him in the slot just 82 seconds in.
The hosts then climbed to within one at the 6:30 mark when Jake Esselink took a feed and ripped one home blocker side at 6:30.
But the Lightning restored their two-goal advantage at 8:20 with a screened shorthanded snipe to Flatt’s glove side.
The see-saw battle continued as Tyler Barker hustled into the Lightning zone to collect a puck to the left of the Manitoba net.
Barker then put on the brakes, spun around, and centered to a wide-open Trevor Abraham, who made no mistake by roofing the puck at 13:15.
Manitoba went up 6-4 before the period was out, however, jamming a puck from underneath Flatt.
Then with 47 seconds left in the frame, Lockman slammed home a Tom Biondich shot.
But Fort Frances could climb no closer as there was no scoring in the third period.
It was a different story Saturday night as Myles Kuharski, A.J. Tucker, Lockman, and Rustyn Dolyny all scored, and goalie Chris Medicine stood tall between the pipes, to help the T’hawks nab their first win of the 2010-11 season.
Fort Frances never trailed, opening up a 2-0 lead before Manitoba got on the scoreboard.
However, Lockman’s tally restored the two-goal advantage less than a minute later before icing the game in the third.
After the poor first period on Sunday, an undisciplined third unpinned any comeback hopes the T’hawks had.
“We took it to them in the second and then we got into penalty trouble,” noted Beck. “We got into penalty trouble in the third, and we were shorthanded too much to make a comeback.
“You can’t get the right personnel out there all the time, and we maybe played a couple of the guys a little too much, but certain guys do certain things,” he reasoned.
Lockman felt the effort was lacking in the opening 20 minutes. But in Saturday’s game and part of Sunday’s, Fort Frances was effective when it wanted to be.
“We were just out-working them, finishing our checks, putting heads up and seeing if guys are open,” he explained.
“We were putting pucks to the net—and then crashing it.”
Meanwhile, both Beck and Lockman were happy to finally play on home ice.
“It’s always nice to play at home,” Lockman said. “Here, there were some nerves, so we had to get that out.
“It’s good to get that first one out of the way, and show fans that we can play,” he added.
Beck concurred, saying fans should have gone home from both games pretty happy with the level of play.
“I think we put on a good show for everybody with two pretty decent games,” he remarked.
“We were maybe a little jittery the first couple minutes [on Saturday].
“The fellas, they’re enthusiastic,” Beck added. “They want to play and have a good time with it.”
After next Tuesday’s game against the Lakers, the T’hawks will resume senior action Jan. 11 when the Kenora Thistles visit the ’52 Canadians Arena for an 8 p.m. start.