These are trying times for the Fort Frances Lakers.
Mired in a seven-game losing skid, the team continues to fight to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan believes mental mistakes at inopportune times during games really has hindered his squad, which came to a head specifically in the first period of Friday night's 5-1 loss to the Thief River Falls Norskies at the Ice For Kids Arena here.
“I thought our overall effort was good and we showed up to play,” Strachan said after the game.
"It's just again those mental mistakes that are hurting us.
“In the first period, [we had] a bad pinch and they get their first shot on goal two-and-half minutes into the game and it's a goal,” he noted.
"It's just those little things that are hurting us right now.
“It's a pretty quiet locker-room but I thought, for the most part, we played a pretty good hockey game, especially in the second [period],” Strachan added.
“I thought we carried the play and just didn't capitalize on our opportunities.”
Not only was it a tough night for team but also for the Lakers' newest additions in defencemen MacKenzie Flett and Dustin Roitelman.
The duo were on the ice for all three goals against in the first period.
“I thought Roitelman and Flett got better as the game went on [but] they had a tough first period,” Strachan admitted.
"Whether it was nerves from being with a new team, or whatever it was, but I thought they settled in and played pretty good through the last 40 minutes.
“Obviously, Roitelman moves the puck well and it's something our team needed,” he noted.
“And like I said, MacKenzie plays a calmer game and you saw his puck-reading ability, which is nice to see.”
Captain Julian Uhryniuk netted the Lakers' lone goal—on a power play—with less than 10 seconds to go in the first period.
It was a better game for the Lakers on Saturday night in the back end of the home-and-home series, but the first-place Norskies still prevailed 4-3 at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls.
The Lakers opened the scoring in that one when Adam Withers netted a short-handed tally late in the first period.
Fort Frances native Noah Loveday, at 10:14 of the second period, and Nick Lucas, just 1:46 into the third, added the other Lakers' goals.
Ismael Ralsten took the loss in goal both nights—making 31 saves on Friday night and then 28 on Saturday.
The Lakers won't have long to mull over what went wrong on the weekend as they face the second-place Dryden GM Ice Dogs twice this week, including tonight in Dryden.
The Ice Dogs then will visit the Ice For Kids Arena this Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Strachan knows both games will be a battle, and believes his team will have to play at a high tempo in order to come out victorious.
“They're definitely an aggressive-natured team in how they play,” he said of the Ice Dogs.
“They come [at you] hard, they have scoring power, and if you're not going to match their intensity, it's going to be a tough game and tough on the team throughout the game,” Strachan warned.
“We have to prepare in a manner that we're gonna go up there and play hard, and we'll work on some things to beat their aggressiveness and try to get pucks behind them as quick as we can,” he noted.
“If we play to our strengths, I believe we're a pretty good hockey team,” Strachan remarked.
"We just have to start believing in ourselves and grow from those soft mental errors we make.
“If we do can that, I think we'll be heading in the right direction,” he said.