When you're playing some of the top teams in the SIJHL, nothing is going to come easy.
The Lakers know that first-hand after losing a pair of weekend games to the host Red Lake Miners.
The second-place Miners (5-1-0-0) roared out to an 8-2 rout Friday, then staved off a late Lakers' comeback attempt the following night to pull out a narrow 4-3 victory.
The fourth-place Lakers (4-4-0-0) was slated to host the third-place Dryden GM Ice Dogs (3-2-2-0) last night (the outcome wasn't known as of press time) before capping their week with a game Friday night against the front-running North Stars (7-0-1-0) in Thunder Bay.
Lakers' head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan knows things won't get any easier for his team this week against two highly-skilled teams.
“Both [are] solid hockey teams,” Strachan said of both the Ice Dogs and North Stars.
“Dryden brings a hard, physical, in-your-face philosophy to the game, which you have to remain focused, control your emotions, and play your game,” he stressed.
“The North Stars have some electrifying players on offence that can hurt you,” he added.
“So keying on them defensively, and keeping them off the power play, will be keys to having success.”
Strachan said the Lakers' focus will be strictly on their defensive systems during practice this week.
“We need to drive home that our systems will work [if we] believe in them, the roles within the defensive zone coverage, and being accountable for your role,” he remarked.
“[Also] taking time and space away and eliminating your coverage.”
As for the weekend games at the Cochenour Arena, Bryce Young tallied twice, and assisted on the game-winner, as the Miners held on for the victory Saturday.
After beating the Lakers handily the previous night, Red Lake came out strong in grabbing a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes on markers by Ethan Stuckless and Young (power play).
The Miners padded their lead 1:59 into the second when Young notched his second of the night (and team-leading eighth goal) on a man-advantage.
Up a skater once again, the hosts pushed it to 4-0 six-and-a-half minutes into the frame as Spencer Milne tallied his fourth of the season.
Nick Lucas finally put the Lakers on the board at 12:27 when he connected on a man-advantage to trim it to 4-1 after 40 minutes.
Battling back in the third, Cole Allan and Nik Hahkala each netted their first SIJHL goals to bring the visitors to within one with 7:46 to go in regulation.
But the Lakers' comeback bid fell short as the Miners'