Meyer magic for surging Lakers
If Mason Meyer’s play gets any hotter, the spring thaw might come a little earlier than expected.
His stellar work over the past week helped the Fort Frances Lakers to three-straight wins and move the squad within hailing distance of clinching first place in the SIJHL.
Meyer had an assist in Saturday’s 3-2 win by the Lakers (40-6-2-2) over the Minnesota Iron Rangers (28-14-2-4) down in Hoyt Lakes.
That came 24 hours after a Herculean effort by Meyer in a 6-2 victory here in the first of the home-and-home series against Minnesota.
The Lakers trailed 1-0 on Friday night after an Eric Madison tally at 2:21 of the first before scoring six-straight goals.
Meyer helped set up Lyndon Lipinski’s power-play marker at 4:49 before Patrick Sofer gave Fort Frances the lead at 7:25.
The second period was “Mason-mania” as Meyer had power-play goals at 12:04 and 18:07 before completing the natural hat trick with his 36th of the season with only 14 seconds left in the frame.
“Until [Meyer] scored his first goal in the second, we were controlling the play, I thought, but we were kind of snake-bitten,” noted Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan.
“Mason has led like this in the past and he kind of said, ‘Watch me, follow my lead,’ and took us on his back for about 10 minutes,” said Strachan.
“As a result, he scores three nice goals.
“When he moves his feet, powers pucks to the net, and gets his shot off, he is a threat and it was nice to watch on this night,” Strachan added.
Donovan Cousineau added his fifth of the season at 3:46 of the third before Evan Erickson tallied short-handed at 7:24 for Minnesota to close out the scoring.
Devin Tappenden had 23 saves in the win while Alex Reichle made 38 saves for Minnesota.
The night wasn’t without its downside for the Lakers, though, as Sofer suffered a separated shoulder that will put the Lakers’ captain on the shelf for the next while.
“Patrick kind of took an awkward hit or push to the back in which he fell forward and more or less slid along the boards,” recalled Strachan.
“His shoulder was out and had to be put back in.
“At this time, I would say he will be [out] two-four weeks, with maybe a return in the last week of [regular-season] play but most likely the playoffs.”
Strachan said Sofer’s injury affects the team greatly.
“He is our captain and leader,” he noted.
“In my opinion, he has been playing some good hockey on both ends of the rink for us lately, picking his defensive game up and contributing on the scoresheet since Cousineau joined their line, as well as being strong on our penalty kill.
“With other guys out, it gives players like Miles Nolan and Bryson Jasper time in a top-six role with Bryce [Lipinski] and Donovan,” Strachan added.
Then on Saturday night, Kyle Lipinski opened the scoring on the power-play with his fifth of the campaign 33 seconds into the second period.
The Iron Rangers tied it on an Austin Frank goal at 1:57.
But Lucas DeBenedet, who became the first player to reach 100 points for the season the previous evening, notched his 43rd of the year at 5:47 to make it 2-1 heading into the third.
Jason Reynolds brought his team back on even ground 44 seconds into the final stanza with a short-handed marker.
The Lakers got the last laugh, however, as Lyndon Lipinski bulged the twine with 27 seconds left in regulation time for the squad’s second man-advantage goal of the night.
“We were on the power play and the puck came down into our end,” recalled Strachan.
“Our defenceman [Cam Jackson] picked the puck up in the corner and hit Lyndon with a pass, who had come through the middle to support.
“He then drove down the ice wide with Lucas [DeBenedet] on his right, did a nifty back pass off the wall, and then continued on past their forward and defenceman.
“Lucas stepped off the boards and sent a backhand pass down between the two defenders,” Strachan added.
“I don’t think Lyndon realized all the time he had. But when he did, he drove from the corner to the front of the net and slipped the puck far side on the goalie.
“It came at a big time and was a big goal,” lauded Strachan.
Tappenden won for the second time in two nights, making 30 saves in the process, as the Lakers finished the season series with a 9-1-2 mark against the Iron Rangers.
Erick Majerle had 21 saves in a losing cause.
Besides Sofer, the Lakers also are without forwards Kevin Kurm (back) and Colton Spicer (shoulder) and defenceman John Dora, who had a setback in his recovery from a head injury and is out at least another week.
With only six games left in their regular season, the Lakers lead the second-place Thunder Bay North Stars by 11 points, with the Stars (34-9-1-4) holding two games in hand.
All the Lakers need is five more points to nail down first place and home-ice advantage throughout the SIJHL playoffs.
The drive for five starts tonight at 7:30 p.m. when Dryden (19-26-5) visits for the second of two games being held this season at the Couchiching Arena.
Fort Frances then doesn’t play again until next Tuesday (Feb. 25) when the Wisconsin Wilderness visit the Ice For Kids Arena for a 7:30 p.m. clash.