Friday, July 31, 2015

Lakers clinch top spot

The race for first place is over.
With a 3-2 win over the Wisconsin Wilderness here Tuesday night, the Fort Frances Lakers clinched first place in the SIJHL for the first time in franchise history.

It also is the first time a junior team in Fort Frances accomplished such a feat since the former Borderland Thunder did so back in 2003.
The Lakers then ran their current winning streak to six games with a 3-1 triumph over the English River Miners last night in Ear Falls.
Kevin Kurm’s 22nd of the year opened the scoring for the Lakers (43-6-2-2) on the power play at 17:43 of the first.
The Miners (20-27-4) then tied it on Paul Lamoureux’s tally at 10:23 of the second.
But the quick-strike Lakers’ offence showed its teeth in a span of 15 seconds late in the frame.
Mason Meyer netted his 39th of the season at 18:50 before Aaron Wesley-Chisel, who had only two goals in 39 games before Tuesday, scored at 19:05 to make it two goals in the last two games for the defenceman.
Devin Tappenden took care of the rest, making 31 saves in helping the Lakers kill off all six Miners’ power plays.
P.D. Melgoza had 32 stops in a losing cause for English River, which trails the Dryden Ice Dogs (20-27-5) by one point for fourth place, with the Miners holding a game in hand.
The Lakers came out flying in the first period Tuesday night to grab a 2-0 lead.
Wesley-Chisel caused a turnover just outside the Wilderness blueline and dashed in before cranking a shot five-hole past goalie Griffin Strain.
“I never really score that often so that felt great to get pumped up and get the team pumped up, too,” noted Wesley-Chisel.
“Aaron made a nice play and stepped up with the puck when he had the chance,” lauded Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan.
“Then he had another chance later and hits the bar.
“He played well defensively for us tonight to help our cause, as well,” Strachan added.
Meyer doubled the lead with a highlight-of-the-night effort that saw him reel in Cam Jackson’s short pass inside the Wisconsin blueline and leave three defenders in his wake before roofing a backhander.
Wisconsin halved the lead with the lone goal of the second when Alex Rezansoff slapped home a rebound past Lakers’ goalie Jordan Cartney.
The Wilderness had several chances to tie it but Cartney kept them at bay.
Lucas DeBenedet supplied what proved to be the decisive goal at 12:04 with a dart from just inside the Wilderness blueline that eluded Strain for his league-leading 45th of the season.
It also was the only goal in eight Laker man-advantage opportunities on the night.
The International Falls product has three games left to try and reach the magic 50-goal plateau.
He currently holds a seven-point lead over Daniel Del Paggio of the Thunder Bay North Stars (104-97) in the chase for the SIJHL scoring title.
Del Paggio has put a dent in DeBenedet’s shot at the Triple Crown, however, as he now leads DeBenedet in assists (62-59).
“I’m not huge on individual awards or statistics,” noted Strachan.
“But getting 50 goals would be a nice way to cap off the season for Lucas.
“He’s earned everything he’s gotten this year and been an excellent leader for us,” Strachan said.
Darrick Howard made it close with his marker with 37 seconds left in regulation time and Strain on the bench for an extra attacker.
“I’m definitely very proud of the team,” Strachan said about securing top spot.
“They worked all season to get this. It’s well-deserved.
“But this is just one of our goals for the season,” he stressed.
The Lakers next host English River for the back end of the home-and-home series tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.

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