All aboard, Fort Frances Lakers’ fans—the regular-season train is getting ready to leave the station.
The two-time defending Bill Salonen Cup champs will be the last team in the SIJHL to play a game where the points count when they visit the English River Miners in Ear Falls on Sept. 22.
It will mark the first of 56 regular-season contests for the Lakers, with their final game on that slate coming March 19 when they host the Miners.
The Lakers will face the Dryden GM Ice Dogs in their home-opener on Friday, Sept. 25 at the Ice For Kids Arena—the team they eliminated both in last year’s SIJHL final and then during the Dudley Hewitt Cup.
One night later, the Minnesota Iron Rangers will be in town for a meeting of the two combatants from the 2014 SIJHL final, which the Lakers captured in a seven-game thriller.
The Lakers will enjoy a very balanced schedule this season, with the team playing no more than three games in a row either at home or on the road.
The squad also should benefit from a pre-Christmas schedule that has them playing back-to-back nights only five times in three months before the two-week holiday break.
But come the start of 2016, things pick up in a hurry for the Lakers, who will play four games in seven days upon their return to action Jan. 2.
The annual SIJHL “Showcase” will take place Jan. 25-27 in a still-to-be determined location, when all five teams gather to play in front of wide array of scouts from the professional, junior, and college ranks.
A special Family Day matinee on Feb. 15 will see the Lakers host Dryden at 2:30 p.m.—the team’s only afternoon start time of the season (other than their Jan. 27 game against English River at 3 p.m. as part of the “Showcase”).
The lone Lakers’ home game outside of the IFK Arena will take place Feb. 19 at the Couchiching Arena versus the Thunder Bay North Stars.
As for pre-season competition, the Lakers will tackle the Steinbach Pistons, the MJHL runners-up from last season, in a home-and-home series.
Fort Frances gets home-ice advantage for the first game Sept. 4 at 7:30 p.m., with the rematch taking place Sept. 11 in Steinbach.
The Lakers also tentatively are scheduled to face Minnesota in another home-and-home series.
Dates for those two games were not set as of press time.