Lakers drop playoff opener
If the Fort Frances Lakers want the right to choose their next playoff opponent, they need to take care of business against their current one better the second time around.
Kris Kellaway’s goal with 3:39 to go lifted the host Thunder Bay North Stars to a 4-3 victory over the Lakers in Game 1 of their two-game, total-goal series Saturday night.
A two-goal or better win would give the Lakers the series and the chance to select its semi-final opponent from the two quarter-final survivors.
“We need to forget about the game, put it behind us, and have an intense week of practice,” said Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan.
“I don’t feel we are in a bad position and obviously still have an opportunity to win the showdown series,” he noted.
“As much as I believe we carried the play in Game 1, I do not feel we were at the level we are capable of playing at,” Strachan added.
“We had many big players for us not bring their ‘A’-game and that’s something that can’t happen if you want to win a championship,” he stressed.
“We need to stay positive and come out Friday with one thing in mind—playing intense hockey.”
The opener was tied 1-1 heading into the third period on goals by the Stars’ Cary Brown in the first and SIJHL scoring champ Lucas DeBenedet (power play) in the second.
Brent Aiken put the Lakers in front at 6:44 of the third, but Thunder Bay countered with goals 1:19 apart by Trevor Hynnes and Brandon Mihalus near the midway point.
Aiken struck again for his second at 14:43 but Hynnes set up Kellaway for the game-winner just 1:38 after that.
The Lakers top-ranked power-play unit got a late chance when Brandon Wolframe took an interference penalty with 2:28 to go, but couldn’t manufacture the equalizer in ending the night just 1-for-5 with the man advantage.
Stars’ goalie Eric Mann played a big part in the triumph on a night where his team was outshot 42-21, making 39 saves.
Miles Nolan set up both of Aiken’s goal while Devin Tappenden lost his first start since Jan. 28 after 10-straight victories, making 17 saves.
On the injury front, captain Patrick Sofer is expected to be back for Game 2 here Friday after being out since injuring his shoulder Valentine’s Day against the Minnesota Iron Rangers.
Defenceman Aaron Wesley-Chisel, meanwhile, has not skated since his undisclosed injury suffered March 3 against the Wisconsin Wilderness and is not expected back for Friday.
In other SIJHL playoff action, heavily-favoured Minnesota took a 2-0 lead over Wisconsin in their best-of-seven quarter-final after winning at home 5-2 on Friday and then 4-3 yesterday.
The other quarter-final series between the English River Miners and Dryden Ice Dogs is tied 1-1.
The Miners cruised to a 6-2 victory Friday night, but then surrendered home-ice advantage after a 3-2 Ice Dogs’ win yesterday in Ear Falls.
Game 3 in both series will be held Wednesday in Spooner and Dryden.
In other news, Jonathon Losurdo of the Iron Rangers was chosen as the SIJHL’s best defensive forward while Matthias Gardiman of the North Stars was picked as the most sportsmanlike player.
Losurdo beat out the Lakers’ Lyndon Lipinski and Hynnes for his award.
But he couldn’t secure the double win as he and Wisconsin’s Sawyer Jacobson lost out to Gardiman for the other award.