By Gary Moskalyk

25 Games 5-17-3 Points 13 Pct .260 Streak 0-5-2 Last 10 2-6-2

7th place.

Goals for 62. Goals against 109. Goal differential -47

Goals for per game 2.48. Goals against per game 4.36.

Penalty minutes per game 23.8.

Powerplay 12.2%. Penalty kill 82.8%, Shorthanded GF 2, Shorthanded GA 2. Shutouts 0


Clark Scaddan (23 GP, 8G-8A-16 PTS), Brady Krentz (20 GP, 8G-7A-15 PTS), Jack Wood (25 GP, 4G-11A-15 PTS), Ryker Watt (21 GP, 7G-7A-14 PTS), Josh Greene D (23 GP 3G-8A-11PTS), *Pierce Gouin (25GP, 5G-5A-10 PTS), *Evan Kabel D (23 GP, 2G-8A-10 PTS).               

GOALIES  GP W-L-OT  GAA  SV% Shutouts Minutes) 

Jack Orchard (14 GP, 3-10-1, 3.90, .908, SO 0, 814) 

Lukas Toth (8 GP, 1-5-1, 4.50, .893, SO 0, 454)

Gunner Paradis (4 GP, 1-2-1, 4.71, .896, SO 0, 242)

Injury-free and ready to rumble: the Fort Frances Lakers are looking forward to a better second half, playoffs, and a return to former glory.

“We’ve developed our players. We went over the stats at Christmas break,” said Fort Frances head coach Tyler Miller, via very long distance. “We’re not having a very good third period . That’s when the game is getting to be a 5-2 game or a 6-3. At the beginning of the year we played Kam River, Dryden and Sioux Lookout for eight or nine games. Those are the top three in the league, right off the bat. It took us a while. We’re still excited about the second half. We believe in our room. That’s the biggest thing.” 

Assistant coach and GM Luke Judson will be at the helm as the Lakers entertain the North Stars at home to start the 2024 portion of the regular season. Thunder Bay holds a 2-0-0 edge in the season series.

The Lakers are healthy.

“We have no guys injured. Everyone is coming back, competing,” said Miller. “Things are good at our end right now. All players are returning.”

The seven-game winless streak at the end of 2023 concluded with a pair against Wisconsin. Fort gained a point in an OT setback and then watched Riley Burnett turn in a goaltending gem for the Lumberjacks in a 3-1 Fort Frances loss. The Lakers were making inroads on the 6th place Lumberjacks before the seven-game slide. 

“We don’t make excuses. We got to be ready for every one of those games. We should have won three out of the seven. Maybe four,” said Miller. “Things got away from us. We did a lot of development work to get where we need to be. The guys were excited for a little break. Every one of those guys have texted me, and said they can’t wait to get back.”

Recruiting has been tough on the Lakers of late.

“We’re calling the same guys Kam River and Sioux Lookout are calling. They’re in first place, that’s where kids want to go. We know we need to put in the work and get the job done that way. Being on the ice more, working together more. Recruiting is a lot more challenging when you’re in the bottom three.”

The Lakers are doing two-a-day practices in preparation for the second half. Miller and staff are looking to change the recent malaise and return to the glory days.

“We’re building a strong culture. The Lakers have been a strong dynasty, in the  2013-14-15-16 seasons,” said Miller. Indeed, the Lakers were SIJHL finalists in 2012 and 2013, and league champions in 2014, 2015 and 2016. “We’re here to accept the challenge. We’re all good people on our team. There’s not one bad person on our team. That’s how we try to recruit. Just good people, with a good work ethic.”

It takes a lot of people pulling in the same direction.

“I’ve got to give a big shout out to our board, staff and everyone involved and our social media team. We’re ready to make our climb back to the top. . .” said Miller.

The fans have shown up as well. Through 11 home dates the Lakers are averaging 380 patrons at Ice For Kids Arena.

“As a coaching staff we’re learning lots. We’ve learned a lot from our players this year. We just need to continue to grow as a whole.”

All the teams make the SIJHL playoffs. Regular season success doesn’t necessarily translate to playoff success. The Lakers are banking on a strong playoffs despite their struggles so far in this regular season.

“We’ve assessed where we’re at, where we need to better. We’re working at that. We’re going to better.” said Miller. “You look at the St. Louis Blues and the LA Kings getting into the playoffs and winning the Stanley Cup. That’s what we’re looking for. It doesn’t matter September through March. You got to be hot at the right time. Good things happen to good people. That’s what we want to do.”