Lakers claim series
With their semi-final fate in their own hands, the Fort Frances Lakers quickly put an end to what little mystery there was about their future opponent.
The Lakers blanked the Thunder Bay North Stars 3-0 here Friday night to win their preliminary two-game, total-goal series 6-4.
“Towards the end of the period, we started to move the puck better and create some offence.”
The Lakers were bolstered by the return of captain Patrick Sofer in his first game since suffering a shoulder injury Feb. 14.
After a 4-3 loss in Thunder Bay in Game 1 on March 15, the Lakers were aiming for at least a two-goal win to eliminate any tie-breaking shootouts.
Following a scoreless first period, the hosts took advantage of a two-man advantage midway through the second when Kyle Lipinski rifled a one-timer off a feed from fellow blueliner Tanner Fricke past North Stars’ goalie Eric Mann.
Then with 2:01 left in the frame, Mason Meyer caused a turnover inside the Thunder Bay blueline and zipped a pass across to Lucas DeBenedet, who made no mistake on the redirection for a 2-0 lead.
DeBenedet refused to acknowledge the goal as sweet revenge after being passed over earlier in the day for the Pizza Hut player-of-the-year award, losing out to North Stars’ forward Daniel Del Paggio.
“It’s a team sport,” said DeBenedet, who missed out on the MVP honour despite being named the CCM rookie of the year over Del Paggio last Wednesday after winning the SIJHL’s scoring title (112 points) and goal-scoring crown (48).
“It would have been nice to get [MVP],” he remarked.
“But getting to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup is more important.”
Bryce Lipinski added an empty-netter with 34 seconds to go and Devin Tappenden took care of the rest with 25 saves to register the shutout.
“It took a while for me to get sharp,” noted Tappenden, who was hard on himself after allowing four goals on 21 shots in Game 1.
“But the way the team was playing in front of me, they kept down the number of tough scoring chances,” he added.
“It’s as much their shutout as mine.”
The victory gave the Lakers the right to pick their semi-final opponent.
And to no one’s surprise, the Lakers announced yesterday they would challenge the winner of the best-of-seven quarter-final series between the English River Miners and Dryden Ice Dogs.
The Miners currently lead the series 3-2, with Game 6 slated for tonight in Dryden.
Game 7 (if necessary) would go Wednesday night in Ear Falls.
That means the North Stars draw a significantly more difficult match-up against the Minnesota Iron Rangers, who completed a sweep of the Wisconsin Wilderness with a 6-4 win Friday night in Spooner.
Whether the Lakers end up against English River or Dryden, Game 1 of the best-of-seven semi-final tentatively is scheduled for this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.