After a tough road trip that saw the Fort Frances Lakers drop a pair of games to the Thief River Falls Norskies (4-2 last Wednesday) and Thunder Bay North Stars (5-1 on Friday), the team will be looking to regroup this week.
Mired in a four-game losing streak, the annual SIJHL all-star game, which takes place tonight at the Hippodrome in Eveleth, Mn., could come as the right tonic as it would give the players a mental break.
Tonight's game will feature a “border battle” format, with one team comprised of all Canadian-born players and the other featuring all American-born ones.
Lakers' head coach Wayne Strachan and assistant Nick Wreggitt will be joined by Dryden GM Ice Dogs' head coach Kurt Walsten and Rob DeGagne of the North Stars behind the Canadian bench.
Representing the Lakers at the game on Team Canada will be forwards Carter Chorney and Ian Tookenay, along with defenceman Charlie Wilkie.
Team U.S.A. will feature Lakers' forwards Nick Lucas and Jaedin Ness, along with defencemen Anthony Antonelli and Mark Richter.
“It's a great honour for our players selected,” Strachan said in an e-mailed response to the Times.
“Hopefully, they soak it all in, enjoy the experience, and have some fun with it,” he added.
Goalie Rob Ivy also was included on the U.S. squad as a Lakers' member but he since has been dealt to the Minnesota Iron Rangers.
The players for each team were selected from the league's six member clubs based on their citizenship, as well as by their respective efforts on the ice through the first two-and-a-half months of the regular season through league voting among each team.
Also included in the all-star festivities is a skills competition, beginning at 5 p.m., with the game scheduled for a 7 p.m. puck drop.
The Lakers then will return to action this Friday night (Dec. 1) when they host first-place Norskies at 7:30 p.m.
Strachan believes a full, 60-minute approach is key to success against both Thief River Falls and moving forward.
“[We need to] limit our soft mental errors, attack their net with pucks and bodies all night, and we need a 60-minute disciplined effort,” he stressed.
“As a team, we need to come together and work for one another if we are going to have any success through our last games before Christmas.”
Strachan also noted the team will be working on its defensive game, as well as special teams, during practice this week.
“I believe repetition is key for our team right now,” he remarked.