High school hockey may be done for the season now following the excitement of hosting the OFSAA 'A'/'AA' boys' championship last week and the Muskie girls' run to the quarter-finals at their provincial showdown in Stratford.
Fortunately, local fans can continue to get their hockey fix thanks to our Fort Frances Lakers.
The Lakers will be the first to admit to having a disappointing regular season, in which the Junior 'A' club finished in fifth place in the six-team SIJHL with a 24-25-3-4 record for 55 points.
But the three-time defending SIJHL champs aren't ready to relinquish their grasp of the Bill Salonen Cup just yet. The Lakers ousted the fourth-place Thief River Falls Norskies in their first-round, best-of-five “Survivor Series” to earn a best-of-seven semi-final showdown versus the first-place Dryden GM Ice Dogs that gets underway there tonight.
On paper, at least, the Lakers look to be in tough against the Ice Dogs, who dominated the SIJHL this season with a 45-7-4-0 record—their 94 points well ahead of the second-place Thunder Bay North Stars (68)—while scoring a league-high 297 goals and giving up the fewest (148).
The Lakers, however, embraced the underdog role to perfection against the Norskies and no doubt will have that same mindset taking on Dryden. Despite a hiccup in Game 3 here Friday night, Brandon Bodnar has been stellar between the pipes so far this post-season—making 50-plus saves in both games down in Thief River Falls that resulted in Laker victories.
Everyone knows teams can ride a hot goalie to playoff success. And with the Lakers close to having all of their injured players back in the lineup, it should make for some exciting hockey as the squad vies for a fourth-straight league crown and another berth at the Dudley Hewitt Cup.
Let's go, Lakers!