Lakers reign over Rangers
A 30-second outburst equalled a third-straight win for the Fort Frances Lakers.
Mason Meyer and Hunter Leishman scored in lightning succession early in the third period Friday night to break open a close game and help send the Lakers to a 5-3 win over the visiting Minnesota Iron Rangers.
Kevin Kurm raced in on the left-wing and centered a pass to Meyer, who made a nifty deke before depositing the puck behind Iron Rangers’ goalie Alex Reichle at 2:48 of the third for Meyer’s fifth of the year and the Lakers’ third power-play goal in three chances.
A half-minute later, the Lakers’ fourth line struck on a night when they showed first-line capabilities.
Aaron Wesley-Chisel, moved up from his blueline spot two games ago, passed the puck to Fort Frances native Donovan Cousineau, who was acquired in a trade with the Portage Terriers of the MJHL the previous day and debuted in front of his hometown crowd.
Cousineau fed Leishman at the top of the left face-off circle and Leishman wired a shot past Reichle for his first of the
campaign and a 4-1 advantage.
“We had mental lapses and weren’t prepared to play coming out of the break, and it cost us the game,” said Minnesota head coach Chris Walby.
“We had lots of chemistry out there,” Leishman said of his newly-formed line.
“Donovan and I played shinny together during the summer, and Aaron has really made the transition up front really quick,” he noted.
Cousineau admitted he felt a few butterflies in his Lakers’ premiere, but was glad to take part in his first competitive game in four years here.
“It was definitely cool seeing everyone you know in the stands,” said Cousineau, who was acquired for a player development fee.
“It was a little nerve-wracking and I was feeling some pressure out there,” he conceded.
“But I have to remember this game is a team thing.”
Cousineau confessed to some disappointment in leaving the Terriers since Portage is slated to host the 2015 Royal Bank Cup, which would have guaranteed Cousineau a chance to play on the national stage.
“We had 13 rookies playing in Portage this year and . . . I didn’t fit into their plans,” reasoned Cousineau, who had no points in two games this season with Portage after registering seven in 27 games last year.
“I guess I’ll have to take the long road to get there instead.”
But Strachan was pleased with what he saw out of the 19-year-old forward and his playing partners.
“Bringing in Donovan is a big plus for the team,” stressed Strachan, who rewarded the trio with some time on the penalty-killing unit in the third period.
“He has experience and fits our mold. He’s got speed and adds finesse.
“Aaron worked hard tonight and Hunter had a little more energy out there,” added Strachan.
“That was his best game all year.”
Trevor Hoth’s power-play goal at 5:04 trimmed the Lakers’ lead to two before Billy Grillo’s screen shot eluded Reichle for his second of the season at 11:12 to make it 5-2.
Gus Karkinen added a late goal on a rocket from long distance that beat Lakers’ goalie Ryan Ferguson (25 saves) at 18:16 but it was not nearly enough for the Iron Rangers, who also got a goal from Jason Reynolds.
John Dora’s second goal of the year and Torrin Grange’s first, both coming on power plays in the first and second period, respectively, put first-place Fort Frances (4-1-0-1) up 2-0 against fourth-place Minnesota (2-3).
Reichle made 33 saves in defeat for the Iron Rangers, who lost 7-5 at home to the Lakers last Wednesday.
SIJHL leading scorer Lucas DeBenedet had a four-point night in that game, including a pair of goals to give him eight for the season.
Lyndon Lipinski also notched two goals, including the game-winner at 14:11 of the third, after Minnesota had scored three-straight to erase a 5-2 second-period deficit.
Meyer, Miles Nolan, and Patrick Sofer (empty-netter) had the other Laker goals.
Matt O’Dea tallied a unique hat trick by striking on the power-play, shorthanded, and even strength for the Iron Rangers while Hoth added two more.
Ferguson made 21 saves for the win as he continues to get the call with Jordan Cartney on the shelf indefinitely with a lower-body injury suffered Sept. 25 against Dryden.
Lakers’ defenceman Cody Wickstrom, meanwhile, is struggling to overcome an undisclosed illness that’s kept him off the ice so far this season.
“The doctors are taking care of him and helping him keep the symptoms under control,” said Strachan.
“I was talking to him and he’s getting a little better,” he added.
“The most important thing is for him to get his health in order.”
Fellow blueliner Kyle Lipinski also missed the second Minnesota game with a lower-body injury.
His status was questionable heading into last night’s game here against the second-place Thunder Bay North Stars (4-0).
That score was unavailable by press time.
On the same day they picked up Cousineau, the Lakers also announced a deal to acquire forward Brent Aiken from the Winkler Flyers of the MJHL for a player development fee.
Aiken, 18, had not played for the Flyers this season after being part of the Kenora Thistles Midget ‘AAA’ team the last two years.
It was uncertain as of press time when Aiken would be available for action with the Lakers.
Fort Frances heads to Ear Falls for the first time this Friday to face the expansion English River Miners (0-4-0-1) before returning home to take on the Wisconsin Wilderness (1-2) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.