The long road to a “three-peat” begins tonight for the Fort Frances Lakers, but it just got a little smoother.
The Lakers announced the return of forwards Dylan Kooner and Carter Chorney heading into tonight’s regular-season opener in Ear Falls against the English River Miners.
Kooner was dealt with goalie Nathan Park to the RBC Cup champion Portage Terriers (MJHL) on July 31 for forward Quinn Linehan and future considerations.
While Linehan never reported to the Lakers, the squad winds up getting back the player who now becomes their top returning scorer from last season.
“Dylan was one of our most improved players last year and should be primed to build on his season,” Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan said about the 19-year-old from Abbotsford, B.C.
“He was rolling pretty good in the playoffs before an injury brought his season to an end,” added Strachan, referring to a lower-body injury suffered in the SIJHL final that kept Kooner out of the entire Dudley Hewitt Cup tournament.
Meanwhile, Chorney, an 18-year-old from Rainy River, had spent the past few weeks trying to latch on with a team in the NAHL.
“Carter had somewhat of an up-and-down year last year with injuries and illness, but still managed to produce at times and contribute to the lineup,” said Strachan.
The pair, along with fellow forwards Dylan Robertson and Colton Spicer and defencemen Robbie Bonthron and Nick Minerva, will be the skaters counted on to lead the mostly new-look roster through the early part of the season.
But scoring is likely to be more difficult to come by with the team’s top five point-getters from a season ago having departed.
That means the onus will be on veteran goalie Pierce Dushenko, backed up by Fort Frances native Brandon Bodnar, to be on top of his game right from the start as he takes over for Park as the starter.
Other forwards to make the roster include Fort residents Cole Tymkin and David Pryde, along with Jaden Gustafson of Rainy River.
Christian Ripley, Francois Lemelin, Ryley Bosman, John Cuni, Andrew Willner, Matthew Ray, Kyle Folson, and Zach Bennett comprise the rest of the forward troops.
On the back end, Bonthron and Minerva will be joined by newcomers Isaiah Olschewske, Craig Murray, Aaron Beauchamp, and Dustin Deugau.
The Lakers will play their first home game this Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the Dryden GM Ice Dogs, then will host the Minnesota Iron Rangers the following night.