Lakers romp over North Stars
Except for an overtime loss at the Fort William Gardens back on Oct. 5, the Fort Frances Lakers have had their way with the Thunder Bay North Stars so far this season.
Having won their previous two meetings in convincing fashion, the Lakers dominated the North Starts en route to a 5-1 triumph Thursday night at the Ice For Kids Arena, which also snapped the home squad’s two-game losing streak.
“We had two bad games against Dryden and we were down a little bit,” he admitted. “But everybody in the room is up again now after getting a good win like that.
“Nobody wants to go on a three-game losing streak, so everyone knew that this game was a must-win,” stressed teammate Patrick Sofer.
“When we play as a team, we can beat anyone—and that is exactly what we did here,” he reasoned.
The Lakers led 1-0 less than two minutes into the game after Peyton Ruter made a slick backhanded feed to a wide-open Brendan Cawston in the slot—and the Fort Frances native scored his third marker of the season.
After North Stars’ goalie Eric Ouelett robbed Jordan Christianson and Mason Meyer on close chances to keep it 1-0, the Lakers extend their lead early in the second on Jacob Nolan’s power-play goal.
A few minutes later, Merritt Rysavy beat Ouelett five-hole, which gave the hosts a three-goal cushion heading into the third.
“We were just playing our style of game in the second period,” said Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan.
“When we use our speed, play with intensity, and cycle the puck, we play a very effective game and we can play against anyone in the league when we do that,” he noted.
“We kept the game a lot simpler, we finished our checks, and we also used the boards for better support.”
The Lakers’ special teams unit struck again early in the third when Sofer hit the twine after another shift where he and fellow linemates Meyer and Nolan gave the North Stars fits.
“I thought they did a good job out there,” lauded Strachan, who moved Sofer up to the second line to replace the suspended Kevin Kurm.
“After the first period was over, I thought that they took the lead on our end and they really got the ball rolling for us.
“Patrick’s a player that can probably play in our top six forwards, and we are fortunate to have as not only an extra guy that can fill in, but to also be an effective player on the third line with Miles Nolan and Brendan Cawston,” Strachan added.
After North Stars’ forward Wade Garbett spoiled Jameson Shortreed’s shutout bid near the nine-minute mark of the period, Spicer regained the Lakers’ four-goal spread shortly afterwards, which rounded out the scoring.
However, the talking points were far from finished as a pair of fights broke out shortly after Spicer’s goal.
Christianson and Trevor Hynes dropped the gloves on the ensuing face-off, which was followed nearly a minute later with a tussle between Lakers’ forward Davis Smith and Bryce Martyn of the North Stars, which left Strachan fuming afterwards.
“I’m not going to hold back,” he stressed. “I thought that what they did at the end was class-less, and it was definitely not needed in game like this right now in the season.”
On the North Stars’ side of things, head coach Kevin Kahoot was pleased with overall effort of his team in the third period, especially when it came to Martyn’s showing in his fight with Smith.
“He more than held his own with a veteran in the league, and I think it showed something to our older guys that they need to bring a lot of what a younger guy like Bryce can bring,” he remarked.
“Even though we lost 5-1, I did see good things from the guys when they stuck to the game plan in third period.
“But we weren’t sticking to the game plan early on and we didn’t have a sense of urgency until the end,” Kahoot conceded.
Following nearly a week break from SIJHL action, the Lakers currently are preparing for a pair of games this weekend, with the first going Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the visiting Minnesota Iron Rangers.
“We’ve got to come out strong in that one,” Spicer warned. “We feel like we should walk all over that team, and we have to bring it every single time we play them.
“We can’t take them lightly,” he stressed.
Then on Saturday night, the Lakers will head to Cloquet for a date with the league-leading Minnesota Wilderness, who have won five-straight games since a loss to the Lakers back on Oct. 24 and now are ranked fifth in the CJHL top 20.
“I think we will do well if we come prepared,” Jacob Nolan said. “It will be a tough game on Saturday, but we’ve got to go in there ready to play and we can’t take it off.
“Otherwise, we will pay for it.”