Lakers rally for pre-season win
It is safe to say Billy Grillo has the clubhouse lead when it comes to this season’s title of fan favourite in the eyes of Fort Frances Lakers’ fans.
The defenceman’s power-play blast at 3:03 of overtime gave the Lakers a 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Iron Rangers here Friday night in the SIJHL pre-season opener for both teams.
“One of the Lipinskis—I’m not sure which one [it was Lyndon]—found me coming in the back door as I was creeping down from the point,” he recalled.
“I hit it well enough to find the twine.”
Fort Frances trailed 4-1 midway through the second period and let a two-man advantage for 1:09 slip away without scoring.
But instead of hanging their heads, the Lakers suddenly responded—with Bryce Lipinski taking his twin brother’s feed and firing it past Iron Rangers’ goalie Patrick Anderson at 12:33 of the frame.
Blueliners Ben Smaha and Brandon Sinclair then lit the lamp 1:51 apart in the last half of the third to put the Lakers on even terms.
Ryan Ferguson, who replaced Jordan Cartney in the Lakers’ net after the Iron Rangers had scored twice in 33 seconds in the opening two minutes of the second period, was stellar in the third with two breakaway saves to keep his team alive.
Jay Routheau then took a cross-checking minor 1:22 into the extra frame, setting the stage for Grillo’s heroics.
“[Grillo] is smart with the puck in their zone,” noted Lakers’ general manager and head coach Wayne Strachan.
“The puck doesn’t stay on his tape very long, whether he’s shooting it or making a play.
“He’s a 20-year-old whom we need to take a leadership role with our defensive guys,” Strachan added.
Bryson Jaspers had the other Laker goal.
Gus Karkinen notched a pair for the Iron Rangers, with Eric Madison and Thomas Fazion adding singles.
Jacob Garvey started between the pipes for Minnesota, with head coach Chris Walby noting the pre-game plan was to split the duties for the netminders in the game.
“Give credit to Fort Frances,” said Walby. “They capitalized on some of our mistakes. . . .
“Going back to last season, it’s always been a competitive battle between these two teams,” he added.
The Iron Rangers won’t have to wait long for a shot at redemption as they host the Lakers in a rematch at Hoyt Lakes on Wednesday.
The Lakers’ next home game is this Saturday (Sept. 14), when they close their pre-season schedule against the Wisconsin Wilderness at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.