Coming off a 3 – 2 overtime win on January 20th in Fort Frances over the Thunder Bay North Stars, the fourth place Lakers headed to Red Lake, Ontario to meet the fifth place English River Miners at the Cochenour Arena in a Superior International Junior Hockey League action.
Jared Janke finds the back of the Lakers net to give the Miners a 1 -0 lead 57 seconds into the game with Dante Tisi and Dane Raposo adding the assists. Braedan Pearce scores English River’s second of the period at 8:30 of the period with Colton Johnson and Tisi drawing the contributors on Pearce’s goal. With Fort Frances on a power play four seconds before the halfway mark of the opening period, veteran Matt Tustin fires his 14th of the season with Brandon Zajicek and Ryan Gazich registering the helpers. Pearce gives the Miners a 3 – 1 lead 11:01 into the first with Dwayne Auger and Matt O’Neill setting up English River’s third of the game.
Pearce registers a hat trick for the Miners at 11:48 of the first to increase English River’s lead to 4 – 1 with Michael Di Lullo adding the assists. Jared Virtanen brings the Lakers with his 14th within two at 13:36 of the first with a pass from Tustin of Fort Frances. Fort Frances Virtanen scores his second of the game on a Laker power play 5:13 into the middle stanza with a pass from Dylan Kooner. 8:26 into the second, Virtanen registers his first hat trick of the 2016 – 2017 season with Jack Bernie and Kooner setting up Virtanen’ s go – ahead goal to give the Lakers a 4 – 3 lead. Dawson Waddell sinks the Lakers fifth of the game 4:49 into the final period with Julian Uhryniuk and Tustin drawing the contributors.
Raposo evens the game for the Miners at 5:25 of the third with Janke and Jamie Driedger setting up English River’s fifth of the game. At 8:14 of the period of the third, Fort Frances Connor Keith sinks the game winner for the Lakers with Virtanen and Kooner adding the assists on Keith power play winner.
Coach Wayne Starchan told the Junior Hockey Network that “we got off to a slow start. English River was fired up and jumped on a team not ready to play. We made far to many soft turnovers in our zone and we were not moving our feet. As a result we gave up some good scoring chances and didn’t help our goalie at all. We found ourselves down in a bad way four to one. Throughout the period something’s happened in the game that fired us up and we started to play with some emotion and competing. The second we came out hungry and fired up. Battled back to make it a tie game and put ourselves in shape to have success in the third. We got timely saves, we continued to battle and put pucks to the net. Even when they tied it back up at five there was no quit on our bench. Special teams was one of our five keys to success and our power play was huge for us going three for four and our penalty kill was strong in not allowing a goal but also killing a five minute penalty and two fiv on three’s. It was a good win for our team as a group and I feel it brought us closer together as a whole. We paid the price and we fought back as one unit to come out successful.”
“We needed a leader(s) to step up in the game and get us going. Like I said there was some emotion after the first period and our guys responded. Jared is a good player and has the ability to produce in games with his ability. He stepped up in a huge way for us in coming up big on the score sheet. He just raised his level of okay with his line and team. He showed why he is a leader and really this was a true team win” said Strachan.
The Lakers will play their first game of the 2017 SIJHL Showcase in Thief River Falls in a 1:00 p.m afternoon matinee against the Minnesota Iron Rangers on January 24th.