Heading out on the road to play two of the top teams in the SIJHL would be tough for any squad.
It would be even tougher if you didn't have confidence in who you were starting between the pipes.
But that's not the case for the Fort Frances Lakers.
The team faces the front-running Thief River Falls Norskies tonight at 7 p.m., the will be in Thunder Bay on Friday to battle the North Stars.
Lakers' head coach Wayne Strachan believes his team will perform just fine no matter who's in goal between Ismael Ralsten, who made his first two SIJHL starts over the weekend, and Brett Akins.
“We believe we have two guys that can go on any given night,” Strachan said yesterday via e-mail.
“Both of them compete hard and work hard off the ice,” he noted.
“We are still in the evaluation stage with Izzy [Ismael Ralsten], as we have only really seen him now for a week, but we like what we have seen.”
Meanwhile, Strachan said Akins has shown and proven he can win games.
“He competes hard, makes himself big in net, and continues to work hard after being injured and just recently coming back four games ago,” he noted.
The Lakers face an uphill battle tonight against a Norskies' squad that only has lost once in 19 games this season (18-1-0-0).
Then they head out to face the North Stars—a team that shut them out the last two times they've faced each other.
“We need to get confidence in ourselves and in our ability,” Strachan had said following Saturday night's 5-4 loss to the visiting Dryden GM Ice Dogs.
“If we come to play the way we're capable of playing on a nightly basis, we can do good things,” he stressed.
“We'll keep honing our systems, and the guys are getting them and starting to play them much more than they had early on in the season,” Strachan added.
“We'll continue to work on those, and if we have the work ethic and play to our game plan, it'll give us a chance to be in hockey games and win them.”
As for the challenges both the Norskies and North Stars will present, Strachan knows his squad will have to play at its best.
“They're both good hockey teams and both kind of have our number lately,” he conceded.
“The last time we played Thief River, I think ultimately that's probably the best game we played all season and deserved a better fate in that game,” he recalled.
“But they're the [second-ranked] team in the country for a reason,” Strachan added.
"They're a team that once you get the lead, you need to get that killer instinct and bury them.
“You can't let them hang around," he reasoned. ”They're too good and they come at you hard, especially when they're down.
“With Thunder Bay, we gotta go in there and play similar to how we did Friday night [a 2-0 loss here],” said Strachan.
“But we have to take advantage of our opportunities or their breakdowns,” he stressed.
“That was the difference [in the outcome] on Friday night.”