The Fort Frances Lakers are having a solid start to the SIJHL regular season but it remained to be seen how they would stack up against the defending champs.
Turns out just fine, thank you very much.
Fort Frances erased a 3-0 first-period deficit to pull out an exciting 6-5 overtime win over the league-leading Thunder Bay North Stars on Friday night at the Ice For Kids Arena.
Captain Noah Loveday put the team on his back, scoring the tying goal in the second period to knot it at 3-3 before burying his ninth of the season with 45 seconds left in overtime on a splendid individual effort, to lift the Lakers (6-4-1) to their sixth win of the season.
“I felt we had a good start, the boys were flying off the bat there but we had a couple giveaways, couple defensive breakdowns, and they capitalized and we just regrouped in the second [period], really talked through it and came together as a team,” Loveday said after the game.
“I felt we really took it to 'em in the second, seemed like the ice was tilted the whole time and I even felt like we carried that into the third. They might have got a couple, but I felt like we carried most of the play the whole game.”
Flynn Perry also scored twice for the Lakers, while Nick Hahkala and Stone Stelzl both got on the board. Defenceman Michael Chapman dished out a pair of assists.
Jacob Brown tallied twice while Logan Mihalcin, Cody Bruchkowski, and Dawson Lampi also replied for the North Stars (8-1-1).
The Lakers got off to another slow start as Mihalcin, Brown, and Bruchkowski all lit the lamp as the visitors raced out to a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes.
But refusing to fold, the Lakers rallied to tie it before the second intermission.
Nick Hahkala snapped a shot home from the high slot 5:18 into the frame for his first of the campaign to trim it to 3-1.
Stelzl then tapped home a feed from Tyler Malpass while Loveday rifled home an unassisted goal at 14:08 to knot it at 3-3 after 40 minutes.
“We had a pretty good talk after the first period and I kind of challenged them to show me that they cared and I think they came out and played the way we're capable of playing [in the second],” noted Lakers' head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan.
"Our three keys tonight is we knew we had to work hard against them, we knew we had to be on pucks and not give them any time and space and we knew we had to do whatever it took to have success and sacrifice and pay the price.
“I think that's what we did through the second period," he lauded. "We were all over 'em, we hounded them when they had the puck to cause turnovers and we chipped away and put pucks to the net.”
In the third, Perry potted his first of the night as he banked one in off a North Stars' defender past Jordan Smith in the Thunder Bay net to give the Lakers their first lead of the game less than a minute in.
That good fortune didn't last, however, as Lampi lit the lamp at 11:55 when he buried a feed from Robert Tyska after a turnover to knot it at 4-4.
After Ben Hoefler was whistled for hooking, Brown made the Lakers pay on the ensuing man advantage as he fired one past Alex Bugeja at 14:57 to give Thunder Bay the lead once again.
With time winding down, Perry deflected home Chapman's shot from the point for his second of the game—and fifth of the season—to force extra time with 2:56 to go.
In overtime, Loveday found some room behind the North Stars' defence and fired a wrist shot up high on Smith and in to end it with 45 seconds remaining for his team-leading ninth of the campaign.
Bugeja made 31 saves to earn the win while Smith turned aside 32 shots to suffer the loss.
The Lakers will resume action this Friday (Oct. 25) when they hit the road to face the Red Lake Miners (6-3) at the Cochenour Arena.
Fort Frances then will cap the week with another road game against the Dryden GM Ice Dogs (3-6-1) on Sunday (Oct. 27) at the Memorial Arena.