The Thunder Bay North Stars were like that one lone mosquito continually buzzing around one’s ear to ruin a good night’s sleep.
Pierce Dushenko believed enough was enough and took steps to swat the pesky Stars.
The 20-year-old goalie from Coquitlam, B.C. was unbeatable Saturday night, stopping all 27 shots he faced as the host Fort Frances Lakers blanked Thunder Bay 3-0.
Having lost their first two meetings of the season to the Stars (their only two setbacks so far), Dushenko and the Lakers (9-2) tightened the screws on defence and found enough offence to get the win.
The victory also moved them into first place by one point over the Dryden GM Ice Dogs (8-2-1).
As well, the Lakers rose from “honourable mention” status last week to No. 13 this week in the CJHL’s weekly top 20 rankings.
Dushenko’s work Saturday night, coupled with his previous 26-save outing last Tuesday against the English River Miners, was enough to be named the Amyotte’s Awards & Promotions player-of-the-week.
“Pierce was focused for 60 minutes,” noted Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan
“He played with poise and kept his game simple.
“I thought our defensive game was much better,” added Strachan. “We were more physical, our gap control was good, and we competed.“
Going into Saturday’s game, Strachan had his team look back to realize how they best could move forward.
“We evaluated our first 10 games as a team,” he noted.
“Grades that were given were anywhere from a B+ to a C in our play throughout the 10 games.
“We talked about where we could improve, what we could do to improve, and talked about challenging ourselves—challenging one another and getting prepared to play at a high intensity,” Strachan remarked.
“We have goals and we had to decide how we are going to achieve them,” he explained.
Following a scoreless first period, Carter Chorney put the Lakers on the board at 11:05 of the second.
“Carter walked out of the corner after the end of our power play, took advantage of room in the high slot, and buried a bar down shot over the goalie’s glove,” Strachan recalled.
The Lakers doubled the lead just as a two-man advantage expired early in the third, with Dustin Deugau firing home a power-play marker at 3:10.
Ryley Bosman added extra insurance at 10:28 as the Lakers finally solved North Stars’ goalie Riley Corbin, who had been brilliant in the teams’ first two meetings this season.
“We looked at the two games we had played them and how many shots we had in those two games, where we scored our goals from, and talked about having more traffic and attacking the net with bodies more,” said Strachan.
“In the two previous games, we had put a lot of shots on him [Corbin] but most were from the perimeter with no traffic,” he noted.
“I thought we did a better job of getting to the net,” Strachan added.
“It’s something we need to improve on as a whole in our game.
The Lakers went into last night’s game against the third-place Minnesota Iron Rangers (6-7-1) having a patchwork lineup due to injuries and other circumstances.
With defencemen Brandon Zajicek (out two-three weeks with an ankle injury) and Nick Minerva (who left the team for unspecified reasons) unavailable, the Lakers brought back a familiar face from last season to fill the blueline void in George Roblin.
The 19-year-old from Winnipeg made his Lakers’ debut for this season on Saturday after being picked up from the English River Miners for a player development fee.
Also missing from the Lakers’ lineup right now is forward Colton Spicer (ankle), who is out indefinitely.
Forward Dylan Kooner (illness) was questionable going into last night’s game, as was back-up goalie Brandon Bodnar (lower-body injury).
The Lakers begin a three-game road swing Friday in Dryden before heading to Thunder Bay on Saturday for a Hallowe’en showdown with the North Stars.
Their next home game isn’t until Nov. 7 against Thunder Bay.