Lakers turning ‘IFK’ into fortress
It may not strike the same fear NHL teams had back in the day when they would visit the Spectrum in Philadelphia to take on the “Broad Street Bullies.”
But the rest of the SIJHL quickly is finding out that the Ice For Kids Arena is a tough place to play when they come here to do battle with the Fort Frances Lakers.
“We just seem to be playing really well at home right now,” noted first-year forward Mason Meyer.
“That’s where we are getting the majority of our wins, which is nice, but we still need to step up our road showings if we want to succeed,” he stressed.
Monday’s win, which saw the Lakers vault into third place in the standings with a 6-4-0-1 record, was an interesting affair early on for the home squad, which traded goals with the Ice Dogs before taking a 3-2 lead after 20 minutes.
“Our start was pretty good as we jumped on them right away,” noted head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan.
“We were pressuring them, causing turnovers and creating chances to score, which we did in the first minute [on a shot by Jon Carlson].
“We quit doing that, though, and we allowed Dryden to take advantage and take the lead back,” Strachan added.
“But it was good to see our character as we kept fighting back.”
Helping in the comeback was the line of Jacob Nolan, Kevin Kurm, and Meyer, who had a hand in four of the Lakers’ six goals.
“I think they just stuck to the game plan,” Strachan explained.
“The number-one thing that we talked about going into the game was about intensity and speed, and pushing the pace on their defencemen as they had just played two games against the Wilderness,” he remarked.
“They pressured them all game long and took advantage of their breakdowns, and I really think they could have had two or three more goals.”
Kurm led the way with two goals and a pair of assists, with Meyer scoring a goal and getting two helpers.
Nolan assisting on two others on a line that’s only been together for a couple of weeks.
“I’ve never had a connection with someone so early,” said Nolan, who joined the team from the Sioux Lookout Flyers after they suspended operations.
“Usually it takes about a month or so for everything to come together, but it’s coming along quickly with them [Kurm and Meyer].
Owen Stauber, Carlson, and Davis Smith also scored for the Lakers.
Prior to that victory, the Lakers were on the winning end of a 4-1 decision over the Minnesota Iron Rangers last Thursday, with returning goalie Jameson Shortreed turning aside 35 shots.
“It feels really good to get a win in my first game back here,” said Shortreed, who was acquired by the Lakers in a trade with the Drumheller Dragons last Wednesday.
“I had a little bit of nerves,” he admitted. “But I also had a sense of comfort in being back where I have played before, so it was easy to settle into the game after the first couple of minutes.
“Our team played well and the guys all stepped up and played big in the third period, and that was big for us.”
Offensively, Jordan Christianson led the way with three assists, with Colton Spicer, Brendan Cawston, and Carlson all beating Iron Rangers’ goalie Chase Hollander.
Despite the win, both Christianson and Strachan lamented the start the Lakers had as the Iron Rangers controlled the game early.
“We didn’t play the way that we wanted to,” Christianson stressed.
“Our start was nowhere near where it’s been in some of our previous games, but we picked things up a little bit towards the third period,” he noted.
“We’ll take the two points, but I thought that our effort was similar to what we had in our loss to Dryden [last] Monday,” Strachan said.
“We were very sloppy, we didn’t have a lot of jump, and we weren’t really as intense as it had been during our four-game win streak.
“But nonetheless, we found a way to win,” he reasoned.
The Lakers will look to continue their winning ways on the road tonight, when they travel to Cloquet for a clash against the league-leading Minnesota Wilderness.
Then they’ll return to the Ice For Kids Arena on Saturday to host the Iron Rangers.
“If we can match the intensity and limit our mistakes against the Wilderness, we should put ourselves in a good situation down there,” Strachan said.
“When it comes to the Iron Rangers, we just have to forget about our last two games against them and just play our game, as I think we can play at a higher level and tempo and be successful,” he added.
Following those contests, the Lakers will take on the Ice Dogs in three-straight contests, starting next Monday (Oct. 29) in Dryden.
The teams will return to the Ice For Kids Arena on Friday, Nov. 2, then head back to Dryden the following night.
“It’s always a challenge when you are up against them,” Kurm stressed.
“They’ve beaten us and we’ve beaten them, but it’s a great game to watch if you’re a fan and to play in as a competitor,” he remarked.