December 6 is not a date one typically associates with a season opener, but 2020 has been anything but typical in the world. With restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic across North America affecting hockey, the Fort Frances Lakers finally played a game, defeating the Kenora Thistles U18 AAA 9-1.
Just one day earlier the Superior International Junior Hockey League announced an agreement with the Thistles and Thunder Bay Kings AAA to compete in the league this season. With two teams located south of the Canada-United States border the SIJHL was looking to avoid scheduling issue that come with just five teams. For now the Thief River Falls Norskies and Wisconsin Lumberjacks are idle.
Fort Frances opened the game with a pair of early goals. Flynn Perry scored first then James Pedersen made it 2-0 just 3:20 into the game. Pedersen would score a second near the end of the period to make it 3-1 Lakers.
The young Thistles, whose roster features 10 players born in 2004 and one 2005-born player, settled in scoring on the powerplay at 12:10 of the first. Former Dryden HS player Aidan Bullock scored the goal with assists from Branden Boress and Darnell Kempf.
Early on in the second though the Lakers took command of the game with a three-goal outburst in a 64-second span. Prestyn Bobyk began the rally with Ethan Jourdain and Nakoda Thunderchief all scoring their first of the season. Ben Hoefler also scored in the period and Bobyk netted a second just prior to intermission.
The Lakers dominated the 20-minute frame scoring five goals on 20 shots on net while allowing Kenora just four shots in the period.
Despite pounding Thistles goaltender Kaden King with 20 shots on net Reece Hopfner scored the only goal of the third, a powerplay tally. King, who relieved starter Darian Klem (24 saves; six goals against) at the midway point of the game, finished with 24 saves on 27 shots. Ethan Hein played the entire 60 minutes for Fort Frances stopping 23 of 24 shots.
The teams square off again on Friday in Fort Frances.