The Fort Frances Lakers are mired in a five-game losing streak but head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan still feels optimistic the team can snap out of its slump.
Strachan made a number of transactions on Friday to help improve the squad, acquiring forwards Adam Withers from the Waywayseecappo Wolverines (MJHL) and Christian Ward from the Oklahoma City Blazers (WSHL).
He wrapped up the day by landing defencemen Dustin Roitelman and MacKenzie Flett from the Thunder Bay North Stars.
Strachan believes Roitelman and Flett will bring some much-needed attributes to the Lakers' blueline.
“I think we needed to strengthen the team on our back end and make some moves to get better in that aspect,” Strachan said following the Lakers' 7-3 loss to the Thief River Falls Norskies here Friday night.
“Roitelman, he's a smaller energy guy, skates very well and moves the puck very well, and will bring an aspect to the power play that I think we need in a puck-mover,” he noted.
"[He's] a guy who can set us up to create opportunities.
“MacKenzie Flett's a bigger guy, plays physical, and makes good passes,” Strachan added.
“He's a kind of player that I've seen that doesn't panic in situations," he noted. ”He's calm in his demeanour and plays with the poise that I think our back end needs.
“So we hope both will bring those aspects and help us improve.”
With the Lakers currently sitting in fifth place in the six-team SIJHL but with still half-a-season to go, Strachan believes getting the team heading in the right direction remains a realistic goal.
“We know we're a little behind the eight-ball right now but last time I checked, nobody's won the league on Dec. 1,” Strachan stressed.
“We have a lot of time to improve and that'll be our goal.”
The Lakers were scheduled to face the host English River Miners last night but that game was postponed due to poor road conditions.
A make-up date has not been set.
Next up for the team is a home-and-home series against the front-running Norskies, with the first game set for this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.
The two squad will clash again the following night at 7 p.m. at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls.
It was all Norskies to start last Friday night's game here as the visitors jumped out to a 5-0 lead here Friday night before Ian Jarvis finally got the Lakers on the board.
Jaedin Ness and Carter Chorney later netted third-period goals less than 20 seconds apart to narrow the gap but it was too little, too late.
Ismael Ralsten started in goal for the Lakers but was replaced by Brett Akins after giving up three first-period goals.
Despite the score, the Lakers actually outshot the Norskies 36-35.
Strachan acknowledged the team has made too many mental mistakes in its own zone, and will need to rectify that in order to have success this week and moving forward.
“Our work ethic was there [in Friday's loss]," he stressed. ”We had our opportunities and we just have trouble scoring when we need to.
"But again, you watch the goals and, you know, there's a guy standing at the side of our net, back door, and we have a guy standing in front covering nobody and just little things like that in coverage situations.
“We need to work on our 'D'-zone play and continue to hammer away at the things that our hurting us,” Strachan reiterated.
“[We need to have] our heads on a swivel, picking up coverage, being in the right position defensively to take away plays and outnumber them to cause turnovers,” he remarked.
“We'll just continue to keep doing the things we've been doing and hope to continue to grow in those areas.”