FORT FRANCES, Ont. – A Ben Hoefler redirection marker just over eight minutes into the third period proved to be the game-winner as the Fort Frances Lakers skated to their third Superior International Junior Hockey League victory in succession, a 5-3 triumph over the suddenly slumping Thunder Bay North Stars.
After a scoreless first frame, Fort Frances opened scoring 3:21 into the middle stanza when Nakoda Thunderchief went high on Thunder Bay starter Jordan Smith from the left side for his first SIJHL goal.
The North Stars came right back to tie it moments later as Michael Vecchio put one through Alex Bugeja in the Lakers net.
After Alex Erwin finished off a lengthy rush from Jacob Anttonen to put the visitors in front, Flynn Perry notched the equalizer at 17:39 to knot the affair at 2-2 after two.
An early power play helped the North Stars regain the lead in the third as Cody Bruchkowski collected his league-leading 17th tally.
Battling back, Fort Frances drew level near the seven-minute mark of the session when Cooper Witherspoon neatly deflected a Perry attempt heading towards the net for his initial SIJHL marker.
The Lakers then got the game-winner from Hoefler as he got enough of a right point shot from MacKenzie Flett to change the puck’s course and find its way in.
Thunder Bay pulled Smith in the late going to try and tie it and force overtime, but Flett secured the home ice triumph as he put one into an empty net from long range to round out the scoring.
Bugeja made 33 saves to record the win for the Lakers while Smith faced 35 shots in defeat for the league-leading North Stars, who dropped their fourth straight contest.
Photo credit: Clint Bruyere