Three-game roll lifts Lakers into third


There’s nothing like home cooking to lift a team’s spirits—or their place in the standings, for that matter.
The Fort Frances Lakers put the cheers of the friendly faces at the Ice For Kids Arena to good use this past weekend, edging the Duluth Clydesdales 3-2 on Friday before doubling the Dryden Ice Dogs 6-3 the following night to extend their winning streak to three games.
The weekend wins moved the Lakers (22-11-3) into third place in the SIJHL standings, four points up on the fourth-place Thunder Bay North Stars (21-16-1).
As well, Fort Frances is just one point behind second-place Dryden (24-14), with two games in hand on the Ice Dogs, and only four back of the league-leading Wisconsin Wilderness (24-6-3).
It was the best weekend of Dan Smith’s season as the Lakers’ blueliner proved pivotal in both contests.
On Saturday against Dryden, with the game tied 2-2 after 40 minutes, Smith went wild in the third period—exploding for a natural hat trick that gave him six goals and nine points in only eight games with Fort Frances this season.
His power-play goal at 2:35 of the third gave the Lakers the lead, which quickly was followed by Davis Smith’s fifth of the campaign at 4:09.
Dan Smith was back for more exactly three minutes later with his second man-advantage goal of the period to make it 5-2, but Ben McClellan pulled the Ice Dogs closer with his power-play tally at 9:10.
That was it for Dryden, however, who watched Dan Smith net his hat-trick goal into an empty net at 18:44, with Byron Katapaytuk assisting on all three of them.
The Ice Dogs’ cage may as well have been unguarded for the whole period as Dryden goalie Ian Perrier (19 saves for the game) made only one stop in the final 20 minutes, with the Lakers scoring on five of their six shots during the period.
Tom Kuhn put Dryden on the board first at 4:52 of the first, with Connor Hady replying for Fort Frances with his fourth of the year at 6:13.
Alex Galbraith put the Ice Dogs back in front with 36 seconds left in the opening stanza, but Jon Sinclair’s eighth of the season—a power-play marker at 4:06—pulled the Lakers even and was the lone goal of the second period.
Tyler Ampe made 25 saves to improve to 15-7-1 on the season.
The Lakers also fell behind a night earlier against Duluth, but Dan Smith didn’t wait as long to play the hero.
Clydesdales’ co-captain Tom Paine netted his team-leading 19th goal during a Duluth power play two minutes into the game for a 1-0 lead.
That edge vanished at 12:35 when Henry Gutierrez sniped his 10th of the campaign for Fort Frances, which came out of the period tied 1-1 despite being outshot 14-7.
The lethal Lakers’ power play (first in the SIJHL at 27.9 percent) then went to work in the second, cashing in on both halves of a two-man advantage.
After Luke Burghstahler was whistled for tripping and Jason Haydon nabbed for unsportsmanlike conduct at the same time, Jace Baldwin made good on the 5-on-3 opportunity with his 14th of the year at 5:36 for a 2-1 Lakers’ lead.
Just 27 seconds later, Dan Smith notched the eventual game-winner on a set-up from Phil Jennrich and Katapaytuk to stretch the lead to two.
Matt Jerulle trimmed the deficit to one at 16:43 of the frame, but Jameson Shortreed took over from there.
The Lakers’ goalie was the key to a scoreless third period. Although Duluth outshot the home team 35-25 overall, his 33 saves helped make the difference as he upped his record to 6-4-2.
Jeff Dunaisky made 22 stops in a losing cause for the last-place Clydesdales (9-25-2).
Fort Frances will aim to make it four-straight wins when they head to Sioux Lookout tonight for a showdown with the fifth-place Flyers (8-22-5) to start what will be a busy seven days for the local squad.
The Lakers’ next home game will see Duluth return to the Ice For Kids Arena this Friday night (Jan. 14), followed by an appearance by the North Stars on Saturday night (the puck drops at 7:30 p.m. for both games).
Fort Frances then wraps up the hectic week next Tuesday (Jan. 18) in Dryden against the Ice Dogs.