The Lakers started the 2017-18 regular season with a split against Upper Peninsula rival Northern Michigan. Played as a non-conference home-and-home series, the Lakers beat the Wildcats 5-3 on Friday night in Sault Ste. Marie, before falling 4-1 in Marquette on Saturday.
Lakers 5, Wildcats 3
Power play was the name of the game on Friday night, as the Lakers and Wildcats both scored the majority of their goals with the man advantage. LSSU went 4 for 6, while NMU was 2 for 6.
Starting things off for the Lakers was Diego Cuglietta on the power play. Cuglietta’s goal, which came during a goal mouth scramble, put the Lakers up 1-0 6:27 into the game. Less than two minutes later, Lake Superior made it 2-0 when Max Humitz redirected a shot from freshman Lukas Kaelble past Wildcat netminder Atte Tolvanen.
The Wildcats got one back late in the period when co-captain Robbie Payne scored a power play goal on goaltender Nick Kossoff, sending the teams to the dressing room with the score 2-1 in favour of the Lakers.
Getting the Lakers back on track in the second period was J.T. Henke. Henke, the lone senior forward this season, put the puck over the right shoulder of Tolvanan, knocking the water bottle off of the net in the process.
NMU struck back less than a minute later, when Caleb Schroer scored on Kossoff to cut NMU’s deficit to one. A scrum in front of the Lakers bench with two minutes left in the second period led to a five minute major and game misconduct for the Lakers’ Humitz. A coinciding minor to the Wildcats’ Philip Beaulieu meant the Lakers would start the third period on a three minute penalty kill.
Starting off the third period on the right note, Lake Superior killed off the remainder of the major penalty (being served by Bryan Basilico). Then, less than 15 seconds after the expiration of the penalty, Cuglietta got in on Tolvanen and scored his second goal of the night, making the score 4-2 Lakers.
Lake State managed one more goal in the game, their fourth power play goal of the night. After trying a few times to beat Tolvanen, Anthony Nellis slipped the puck between the goaltender and the post on the short side for a 5-2 lead. Tolvanen was then pulled and replaced with Mathias Israelsson.
Although the Wildcats got a goal back (Robbie Payne’s second of the night), it was too little too late, as the Lakers went on to win 5-3.
Nick Kossoff made 33 of 36 saves to collect the win. Tolvanen stopped 21 of 26 in the loss.
Wildcats 4, Lakers 1
While the power plays of both teams were on display Friday night, neither team could score with the man advantage on Saturday, as the Wildcats took a 4-1 win over the Lakers, splitting the weekend series.
Northern Michigan got on the board first with another goal from Robbie Payne. Payne managed to get Kossoff out of the net and put the puck in to take a 1-0 lead.
During the second period, the ‘Cats ramped up their intensity, outshooting the Lakers 11-7. Although Philip Beaulieu scored a goal with under a minute in the period to make it 2-0 Wildcats, Kossoff was strong in net, making many big saves for the Lakers.
Lake State got on the board 4:15 into the third period when Jake Hand buried the puck under the crossbar. Hand received a pass from Diego Cuglietta, who had picked off a pass between two NMU defenders.
With the score 2-1 Wildcats, the Lakers showed their intensity, putting many shots up on Tolvanen. The Wildcat goaltender showed why he was nominated to the Mike Richter Award watch list, however, and stymied the Lakers at every turn.
With a little over two minutes to play, NMU’s Denver Pierce (a Sault Ste. Marie native) brought the puck into the Lakers zone. Pierce got around defenseman Matt McArdle and put a shot on net that managed to get by Kossoff, making the score 3-1 ‘Cats with 1:59 remaining. An empty netter from Payne wound up making the final score 4-1 Wildcats.
With the win, the Father Cappo Cup series is now tied at one win apiece. Should the season series be tied, the winner of the Cup will be determined by goal differential. Currently, the Wildcats hold a 7-6 lead in goals.
The Lakers are back home this week against their other Upper Peninsula rivals, the Michigan Tech Huskies. Game time Friday is 7:37 p.m. and 7:07 p.m. Saturday.