Change, Optimism Abound in Fort Frances

September 24, 2022

By: Gary Moskalyk

The Fort Frances Lakers under new GM/head coach Paul MacLean are in rebuild mode.

The Lakers finished their 41-game 2021-22 regular season with five wins, and then were swept by Dryden in the playoffs. They underwent a coaching change last December. A total of 36 players suited up for the Lakers in the 2021-22 campaign (6 goalies, 14 defencemen and 16 forwards).

The current roster has two local players–Brady Wicklund and Darrnell Kempf. Wicklund logged 40 games last year. Kempf is a graduate of the U18 AAA Kenora Thistles. MacLean and assistant coach Tyler Miller were touching up the roster prior to the Saturday season opener at the Memorial Sports Centre against the North Stars.

“We’ve had a good solid couple of weeks of practices now,” said MacLean. “We’re still looking to make improvements. . . We’re going to go with what we have to start out with, and in time we’ll have to do a little bit of tweaking.”

Fort Frances had no exhibition games this year.

Under the experienced guidance of MacLean, who was a head coach with Dryden in 2012-14, and who played in Thunder Bay thirty years ago for the Colonial Hockey League Thunder Hawks and Senators, the Lakers are looking for respectability and stability.

“Everybody’s working hard in practice. It’s just time to start playing hockey,” said MacLean.

MacLean won a championship with the Watertown Wolves in the Federal Hockey League last year. He even suited up with the Elmira Enforcers a couple of years ago, collecting an assist in his one game.

“It was time to shuffle the deck of cards,” said MacLean of his decision to move from New York to take over the Lakers. The 52-year-old Oakville, ON native is coaching his 10th different team.

Fort Frances has seven returning players. Wicklund, Ethan Elgie, Connor O’Brien, Brandon Kelly, Brandon Rossetti, Dyson Germann and Reid Zurkan, who logged eight games as a Laker last year.

Germann is one of the vets, entering his age-20 season. The Lloydminster, SK native offered his assessment of the current squad.

“We’re definitely a lot better. Hard to be worse than last year. I think we’re going to be a lot better team,” said the 6-2, 180-lb forward. “Guys are taking it more seriously. We’ve got a lot more skill up front.”

Nolan Rideout, Clark Scaddan, Ian Snooks, Dylan Wedward and Jack Wood join the forward corps.

Scaddan and Snooks, both from Thompson, MB and Norman Northstars players from last year, offer production and grit. In 41 games Scaddan had 23 goals, 26 assists and 99 penalty minutes. The 5-foot-8, 163-lb Snooks played 45 games, scoring 21 times with 34 helpers and 64 PIMs. Scaddan just turned 18 and Snooks got there January 1st. If their offense translates to the SIJHL, it’ll be a welcome commodity on the Lakers, who finished with 83 goals in 41 games last year.

Wedward, out of Eagan, MN, had 23 points in 25 contests in the USHS-MN league.

Luke Ostrom, one of four US imports, played a durable 42 games on defence for the Richmond Generals of the USPHL Premier League.

Kaden King holds the fort in net, one of three Kenora Thistles from the U18 AAA program to crack the roster.

The Lakers roster is young and still under construction, with plenty of ice time to go around.

“I’m pretty excited. All the boys are pretty excited,” said Germann. “Everyone thinks it’s going to be a much better year.”