It may be a new year but the same old problems are plaguing the Fort Frances Lakers.
A rough first period ultimately proved too much to overcome as the Dryden GM Ice Dogs rolled to a 6-1 victory over the visiting Lakers on Saturday night in both teams' return from the SIJHL's holiday break.
Dryden exploded for three goals in the first 20 minutes, which Lakers' head coach/general manager Wayne Strachan conceded negatively impacted the morale of his squad.
“Our start, when you're down by three less than six minutes in, makes it hard on your confidence,” he remarked.
"Our attitudes of many players is awful and affects our team camaraderie and chemistry.
“We did not take smart penalties and it hurt us in key situations of the game,” Strachan added.
“We still make the small mistakes that have hurt us all year," he noted. "We didn't attack their net with enough consistency.”
The fifth-place Lakers (11-18-0-0) have little time to put Saturday's disappointing effort behind them as they are back in action tonight on the road against the third-place Thief River Falls Norskies (17-9-3-1).
Then they'll cap the week by hosting the fourth-place Ice Dogs (14-12-3-1) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.
“We need full commitment of all players, everyone on the right page on and off the ice,” Strachan stressed.
"Until we get this, success is going to be hard for our team.
“We are playing two solid hockey teams," he said of both the Norskies and Ice Dogs. "The biggest challenge will be can we put in 120 minutes of consistent, hard working Lakers' hockey?”
As for Saturday night's loss, Dryden scored early and often in cruising to victory.
Malcolm Huemmert scored twice and added an assist to pace the Ice Dogs to their 14th win of the season.
Rayman Bassi wasted little time in getting the Ice Dogs going as he opened the scoring just 10 seconds into the game.
Kevin Parra-Vaughan doubled the lead two minutes later before Huemmert made it 3-0 at 5:47 to spell an early end to the night for Lakers' starter Jacob Gnidziejko, who was replaced by Matt Booth.
The score stayed that way until the final moments of the second period when Jaedin Ness finished off a Reece Hopfner feed to trim it to 3-1 after 40 minutes.
But Dryden tacked on three more markers in the third to put the game away.
Eric Stout's 19th made it 4-1 midway through the final frame before Jacob Siebenga and Huemmert capped the scoring.
Kyle Sargent and Evan Pakkala chipped in with two assists apiece for Dryden.
Jordan Wilde made 35 saves to earn the win while Gnidziejko suffered the loss in allowing three goals on just eight shots.
Booth handled 43-of-46 attempts fired his way in lengthy relief for Fort Frances.
“When we played with intensity, and to the game plan, we had our opportunities to battle back, especially through the second and early third period," Strachan said of Saturday's loss, adding their "penalty kill was strong.”
As for the players who stood out to him, Strachan said the efforts of Ethan Knutsen and Both caught his eye.
“I liked the way Ethan Knutsen played," he lauded. ”He worked hard, had jump in his step, and created some offensive chances with his skill.
“I felt Matt Booth came in and made some huge saves for us in relief to give us a chance to battle back.”
On the injury front, Noah Loveday will be out for “a period of time” after suffering a hand injury.
As well, Strachan noted local defenceman Colton Bodnar has left the team to pursue an apprenticeship job in Kenora.