You'll find Noah Loveday's name on the scoresheet more often than not so far this SIJHL season.
The Fort Frances native is in the midst of a career year for the Fort Frances Lakers, racking up a league-best nine goals to go along with four assists for 13 points in just 11 games.
Those totals also have him sitting second in the league's scoring race.
After registering just nine total goals and 12 assists in 41 games last season, Loveday's offensive emergence this season has been a pleasant surprise for the Lakers, who currently sit in third place in the six-team league with a 6-4-1 record.
There could be a few reasons for his early-season success. He was tabbed as the team's captain at the start of the season and the pride of wearing the 'C' for his hometown Junior 'A' team may have put a new spring in his step.
He may have also found some great chemistry with his linemates, Flynn Perry and Jack Lane, who sit sixth and eighth in league scoring, respectively.
Perry has tallied five goals and eight helpers while Lane has notched four markers and eight assists to make them one of the most potent scoring trios in the SIJHL.
Another reason could be that Fort Frances is hosting the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Junior 'A' Championship next spring and the excitement of that has him even more motivated.
Whatever the reason is for Loveday's early-season success, he—and the Lakers—are hoping it continues as they have both Bill Salonen Cup and Dudley-Hewitt Cup title aspirations this year.
“Honestly, I haven't done anything different. Even on the ice I try to keep my game the same game in, game out, season in, season out, shift by shift,” Loveday, who scored twice including the winner, noted after the Lakers' thrilling 6-5 overtime win over the defending SIJHL champion Thunder Bay North Stars on Friday night at the Ice For Kids Arena.
"I like how it works out for me.
“It's a huge honour and a dream of mine and I take such pride in this jersey,” he said of captaining his hometown Lakers this season.
“Let alone to captain it, it means just the world to me and to be able to do this for my town, especially on the year that we're hosting the 'Dudley,' I put lot of pride, and I don't wouldn't like to say pressure, but responsibility on my shoulders. I'm looking forward to the rest of [the season].”
The Lakers got off to another slow start in Friday's game here as Logan Mihalcin, Jacob Brown, and Cody Bruchkowski all lit the lamp as the North Stars (8-1-1) raced out to a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes.
But refusing to fold, the Lakers rallied to tie it before the second intermission.
Nick Hahkala snapped a shot home from the high slot 5:18 into the frame for his first of the campaign to trim it to 3-1.
Stone Stelzl then tapped home a feed from Tyler Malpass while Loveday continued his torrid offensive pace by rifling home an unassisted goal at 14:08 to knot it at 3-3 after 40 minutes.
Then in the third, Perry potted his first of the night as he banked one in off a North Stars' defender past Jordan Smith in the Thunder Bay net to give the Lakers their first lead of the game less than a minute in.
That good fortune didn't last, however, as Lampi lit the lamp at 11:55 when he buried a feed from Robert Tyska after a turnover to knot it at 4-4.
After Ben Hoefler was whistled for hooking, Brown made the Lakers pay on the ensuing man advantage as he fired home his second of the night past Alex Bugeja at 14:57 to give Thunder Bay the lead once again.
With time winding down, Perry deflected home Michael Chapman's shot from the point for his second of the game—and fifth of the season—to force extra time with 2:56 to go.
In overtime, Loveday found some room behind the North Stars' defence and fired a wrist shot up high on Smith and in to end it with 45 seconds remaining for his league-leading ninth of the campaign.
Bugeja made 31 saves to earn the win while Smith turned aside 32 shots to suffer the loss.
“It's definitely one of our identity topics, I guess, to be relentless and resilient and I was a little worried when they scored the power-play to go up [in the third period],” Lakers' head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan admitted.
"I didn't know how we'd respond but the bench stayed positive. Guys like Nick Hahkala were still cheering the guys on, obviously, and telling them 'we can do this boys, we can do it'.
“And we stuck with it," he added. ”We kept working hard. The Lane line went out shortly after that and put some pressure on 'em and Chapman makes a good shot and obviously we get men in front and Flynn tips it in to tie it again and gives us a chance to have success through overtime.
“Our captain [Loveday] played a big part in the entire game, comes through with a big clutch goal and gives us an opportunity to win,” he lauded.
Strachan feels as though Loveday faced a tough year last season due to a variety of factors, some off-ice, but has been working hard and is determined for the team to do well this season.
“Last year was really tough for him, he had some things away from the rink that I think played a toll on him a little bit as well,” he noted of the 20-year-old.
"He has the opportunity for a fresh start this year and he's certainly taken advantage of it.
“He wants to be our leader, he puts a lot of pressure on himself and so far through the early part of the season here he's really risen up to that challenge and definitely put the team on his back some nights,” Strachan lauded.
The Lakers will resume action on Friday when they hit the road to face the Red Lake Miners (7-3) at the Cochenour Arena.
Fort Frances then will cap the week with another road game against the Dryden GM Ice Dogs (5-6-1) on Sunday (Oct. 27) at the Memorial Arena.
The Lakers' next home game is set for next Tuesday (Oct. 29) when they host the Miners at 7 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.