A change of scenery proved to be the right tonic for Matthieu Harrold last week.
The newest Fort Frances Laker had a home debut to remember as he scored once and helped set-up Noah Loveday's game-winner in the third period to lift the hosts to a 5-4 win over the Dryden GM Ice Dogs on Friday night at the Ice For Kids Arena.
Harrold, who the Lakers recently acquired from the Steinbach Pistons of the MJHL, looked more than comfortable in his new surroundings as he helped the Lakers earn the home-and-home split against the Ice Dogs and improve their record to 11-11-1 overall.
“It's a really good group of guys and I think we clicked right from the start,” the 18-year-old forward said after Friday's game here, who first suited up for the Lakers in their 5-2 loss in Dryden last Wednesday night.
“I feel like I've been fitting in good and can't wait to keep going.”
MacKenzie Flett scored twice while local forward Ethan Carlson-Jourdain also lit the lamp for the Lakers, who improved to 2-5 against their SIJHL rivals this season.
Dylan Kosik made 29 saves to earn the win.
Xavier Halterman, Curtis Magas, Nolan Marshall, and Dylan Winsor replied for the Ice Dogs (13-11-1) while Knute Loe turned aside 43 shots to take the loss.
With the Lakers leading 4-3 late in the third period, the rebound of Harrold's shot was corralled by Loveday in the high slot and he made no mistake in snapping one past the right side of Loe to put the hosts up by a pair with 5:45 to go.
That goal proved vital as defenceman Matthew Dyck was whistled for high-sticking shortly after, giving the Ice Dogs a late man advantage.
Dryden also pulled Loe to make it a 6-on-4, with Winsor potting one past Kosik to make it a one-goal game with 58 seconds left.
But the Lakers held firm from there to secure the win on home ice.
“It was a must-win,” Lakers' head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan said after the game.
"Our goal was to get four points this week and obviously losing on Wednesday hurts. It was a lot better game than the score indicated. If you look at the analytical numbers, we carried a lot of the play and a lot of the numbers were on our side but in the end, you gotta score more goals.
“Tonight, they [the players] came through,” he lauded.
“They worked hard. We just told them that it may have been the best game in that we he had contribution from everyone that was dressed. Right from the drop of the puck they were into it, we caused a lot of turnovers and offence because of it and it took us a while to solve their goalie. He played very well, but the third period they stuck with it, showed a little resilience, and found the back of the net when they needed to.”
After Halterman opened the scoring for the Ice Dogs just 1:29 into the first on a deflection, Carlson-Jourdain knotted at 1-1 at 6:50 as he fired home a bullet from the slot past Loe.
Flett then gave the Lakers their first lead as he potted his first of the night at 17:22 on a power play, only to see Magas tie it for the Ice Dogs just over minute later on a man advantage of their own to make it 2-2 after 20 minutes.
Marshall made good on another power-play opportunity for Dryden 9:05 into the second as the visitors carried a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.
But fighting back, Flynn Perry found Flett with a crisp pass out front and he made no mistake in firing a low shot by Loe just 25 seconds into the third to level it once again.
Then just past the eight-minute mark, Perry connected with Harrold on a perfect tape-to-tape feed at the left side and he made no mistake in rifling his first SIJHL goal over Loe to make it 4-3.
“He's a player that we had a lot of talks with Steinbach about in what he can do and their coach, Paul Dyck, really believes that the kid has a very good upside to his hockey game,” Strachan said of Harrold, who was held scoreless in six games with the Pistons this season.
"He maybe never really got a chance with the two teams in the Manitoba league, but they wanted him to get an opportunity to go to a team where he's going to play and get the opportunity to be in the lineup all the time and develop. We watched some video on him, he skates very well and obviously has an offensive game to him.
“Coming from that organization and just being involved with their team and seeing how they play and practice, I think it's a really good addition for us,” Strachan enthused.
“He works hard all the time, he's eager, he's hungry, he's working hard and we need that in our lineup. We need that daily.”
The fifth-place Lakers were slated to resume action last night as they opened a three-game road trip against the second-place Red Lake Miners (13-8-2-1) at the Cochenour Arena, with the outcome not known as of press time.
Then they'll conclude the road swing with back-to-back games against the league-leading Thunder Bay North Stars (17-6-2) on Friday and Saturday. Both contests will take place at the Fort William Gardens.
The Lakers next are at home next Tuesday (Dec. 17) when they welcome the expansion Wisconsin Lumberjacks (5-17-2) at 7 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.