The Fort Frances Lakers weren’t willing to give up top rung on the Superior International Junior Hockey League’s ladder.
The Lakers (9-1-1) stormed into Fort William Gardens and easily handled the Thunder Bay North Stars, who until the mismatch against the league’s top club, had yet to lose in regulation this season.
That lone blemish came at the hands of these same Lakers, who knocked them off in a shootout on home ice two weeks ago.
Things started to go sour for the Stars in the final minute of the first, when Cary Brown and Trevor Hynnes were sent off. The Lakers took advantage, Bryce Lipinski netting his first of two on the night with three seconds to go.
The Lakers took a 2-1 lead to the dressing room, raced out and scored three more in the first five minutes of the second -- on three shots -- to chase Thunder Bay starter Eric Mann from the North Stars net, and cruised from there to the 8-4 win.
International Falls, Minn. native Lucas Debenedet, now the SIJHL’s leading goal scorer, potted three for the Lakers, the hat trick giving him 10 on the season.
Promising rookie Zach Grezelewski, Jesse Taylor, Daniel Delpaggio and Kris Kellaway scored for the Stars (7-1-1).
Thunder Bay coach Jeremy Adduono said the Stars simply couldn’t overcome the mental mistakes they made that set them shorthanded seven times.
Four times it cost them, the difference in the contest.
“The penalties at the end of the first were definitely one of the turning points. Obviously it doesn’t help when you go down 5-on-3 and you give one up there,” Adduono said. “Instead of going in up one or tied 1-1 after one were down one and still have to kill three-and-a-half minutes.
“That hurt us for sure.”
While the outcome wasn’t to Adduono’s taste, he did like the no-quit attitude in his team – at least at times.
Down four goals heading into the third, Delpaggio and Kellaway scored six minutes apart to cut the Fort Frances lead in half.
But the North Stars couldn’t capitalize with the man advantage, opening the door for Debenedet’s hat-trick goal, a power play marker with six minutes left that put the game out of reach.
“I really liked my team’s response the first half of the period. We came back, it was 6-4 and we had some great chances,” Adduono said. “But then we gave them another easy one on the power play and that was it.”
The meaning of the win was not lost on the 18-year-old Debenedet, who leads the league in goals (10), assists (12) and points (22).
“It was definitely nice to take back first place, take away their undefeated season from them,” he said.
Bryce Lipinski added a pair for the Lakers, with singles going to Brent Aiken, Donovan Cousineau and Colton Spicer.
The Stars take on the Minnesota Iron Rangers Tuesday night to conclude their four-game home-stand.
Star gazing: North Stars leading scorer Matthias Gardiman injured himself prior to the game and was scratched ... Thunder Bay was also without the services of Brandon Wolframe and Tim Cavar (suspension) and Brent Kaarela, Tyler Brower and Bryce Martyn (injury).
Scoring: 1. Thunder Bay, Grzelewski 5 (Delpaggio) 2:26. 2. Fort Frances, Cousineau 2 (unassisted) 16:40. 3. Fort Frances, B. Lipinski 4 (Kurm, Dora) 19:56 pp. Penalties: Santorelli TB, K. Lipinski FF (roughing) 5:41, Kellaway TB (holding) 6:04, Boyechko TB (interference) 8:55, Aiken FF (interference) 10:23, Hynnes TB (check to head, misconduct, served by Adduono), Brown TB (unsportsmanlike conduct double minor) 19:37.
Scoring: 4. Fort Frances, B. Lipinski 5 (unassisted) 1:42 pp. 5. Fort Frances, Aiken 2 (Leishman, Cousineau) 3:26. 6. Fort Frances, Debenedet 8 (unassisted) 4:36. 7. Thunder Bay, Taylor 1 (Brown, Hynnes) 11:34 pp. 8. Debenedet 9 (Meyer) 18:19. Penalties: Grillo FF (cross checking) 7:41, Daly FF (interference) 9:55, Kellaway TB, Dora FF (roughing) 11:34, Mihalus TB (cross checking) 14:35, Fricke FF (tripping) 18:47.
Scoring: 9. Thunder Bay, Delpaggio 4 (unassisted) 3:02. 10. Thunder Bay, Kellaway (Mihalus) 8:43. 11. Debenedet 10 (unassisted) 14:12 pp. 12. Fort Frances, Spicer (Dora) 14:55 pp. Penalties: Meyer FF (interference) 5:03, Spicer FF (high sticking) 10:42, MacLean TB (high sticking) 13:24, Taylor TB (kneeing), Santorelli TB (roughing), Debenedet FF (roughing) 14:42, Grange FF (tripping) 16:30, K. Lipinski FF (tripping) 18:09.
GAME DATA – SOG – Fort Frances 13-14-0-0, Thunder Bay 13-9-0-0; Power plays (goals-chances) – Fort Frances (4-7), Thunder Bay (1-8); Goaltenders – Fort Frances: Ryan Ferguson, Thunder Bay: Eric Mann (15 shots, 11 saves), Jordan Kelso (3:26, second) . A: N/A.
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