There is no doubt the Fort Frances Lakers want to finish higher in the SIJHL standings next season.
After finishing fifth in the six-team league this past season with a 15-32-3-6 record, a lot of work will be involved to get the franchise back to the form that saw it capture three-straight titles earlier this decade.
Head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan knows exactly what he'll be expecting from his players at the team's annual summer camp, slated for July 6-8 at the Lake of the Woods Arena in Baudette, Mn.
“We'll be looking for character, how the players compete, hockey stick sense, work ethic, and speed,” he noted.
“We would like to see two teams, and up to 40 skaters and four goalies, [attend the camp].”
Strachan felt some of his players didn't put the work in that's necessary to succeed at the Junior 'A' level this past season, which was a major factor as to why the Lakers placed so poorly in the standings.
“It's unfortunate as it played its toll on the guys who did care, who did come to work every day, and who took care of themselves off the ice and they suffered because of these other factors I mentioned,” he said after the Lakers were eliminated in five games by the eventual champion Dryden GM Ice Dogs in the best-of-seven semi-finals.
“We were a young team that did grow," Strachan noted. ”And once we got rid of some attitudes and guys who brought others down, we started to play some good hockey for one another.
“As a coaching staff, you always want to see growth as players and people, development on the ice, and coming together as a family to try and achieve greatness,” he added.
Strachan believes the summer camp can help the coaching staff identify potential players early and get them prepared to join the team come main camp.
“As well, you may find a diamond in the rough that you didn't know about,” he reasoned.
Strachan also already has an eye towards how he wants his squad to compete next season.
“We need to improve our character, defensive play, add more size, and our special teams, so we will be looking to address those areas,” he remarked.
“Our mindset from the type of team we want to be will not change,” Strachan stressed.
“We want to be fast, hard on pucks, strong defensive-minded, and a puck possession team that transitions quickly.”
For those interested in attending, the 2018 camp itinerary and registration information can be found at www.fortfranceslakers.com and clicking on the 2018 Camps tab.