Month: November 2017

Alaska @ Lake Superior State – Series Preview

 

Alaska: 2016: 12-20-4. 2017: 4-10-2

LSSU: 2016: 11-18-7 2017: 3-8-3

 

Bearing Down

Coming off of a tough 5-4 OT loss Friday night against the Huskies of Michigan Tech, and a Saturday night game that they’d rather forget, a 5-1 loss to MTU, the Alaska Nanooks return to Sault Sainte Marie for a two game stretch, albeit with one less player.

Junior defenseman Jack Weiss was given a one game suspension after a contact to the head call made against the player in Saturday night’s game. The defenseman has skated for only four games this season and currently only has a single goal with no assists. Despite only skating for four games, he has enough penalty minutes to come in second for most penalized player on the team, well behind senior defenseman Zach Frye.

Backstopping the team this season are a duo of sophomores, with the lead workhorse being the Sweade Anton Martinsson, with 13 games played and posting a GAA of 3.16 and SV% of .895.

Turning Up The Heat

The Lakers are in a tough spot coming off of 6-0 showing against the USNTDP U-18s last Saturday. While the team gets back star sophomore defenseman Colin Saccoman, there were a few players missing from the exhibition game and are rumored to be injured: forwards Brayden Gelsinger and Jake Hand and defenseman & captain Aiden Wright. This is in addition to Lukas Kaelble still being out and losing C.J. Hayes to the SPHL.

Despite the injuries and losses, the Lakers will have to use this win as a springboard for the rest of the season. The rest of the first half certainly doesn’t get any easier, as the #8 Minnesota State-Mankato comes to town next weekend, and the Lakers travel to Houghton to take on the Huskies the weekend of the 15th/16th. For the final weekend of the year, they will travel to Pittsburgh for the Three Rivers Classic to take on the hosts Robert Morris University, and one of either Arizona State or Providence, who is currently ranked #9 in the country (and this reporter will be at PPG Paints Arena for the tournament).

One of the keys for the remainder of 2017, and really for the season, is to stop taking stupid penalties and making easy mistakes. The top two penalty-getters couldn’t be any different. Matt McArdle has taken 10 penalties in 14 games for a total of 23 minutes. Max Humitz has taken two less penalties  but has 27 minutes.  The Lakers have a broken D-corp at the moment, so having a defenseman in the box isn’t ideal, nor is the top goal-getter of the team.

 

Puck drops at 7:07pm both nights, and can be heard locally on 99.5  YesFM in the Sault, online at www.yesfm.net , or you can watch online at WCHA.tv.

Saccoman returns as Lakers pound Under-18’s 6-0

SAULT STE. MARIE – Lake Superior struck early and often, as they routed the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under 18 squad 6-0 in exhibition play at the Taffy Abel Arena.

Laker goalie Mareks Mitens dives to make a stop as Joel Farabee (28) looks on. Mitens stopped all 24 shots he faced against the USNTDP Under 18 squad (Mike Barrett/LHB)

“I thought it was a good, quality win for us tonight,” said Lakers head coach Damon Whitten.  “We showed good puck skills and played strong.”

Making his return to the lineup was defenseman Collin Saccoman.  Saccoman had been out since the series against Denver.

“We had the idea of letting him play a little bit tonight to get back into the swing of things, and he showed that he looks to be ready,” remarked Whitten.

Lake Superior opened the scoring with a goal from Anthony Nellis less than two minutes into the contest.  Nellis’ shot was mishandled by netminder Jonathan Mor, as it bounced off of his pads a couple of times and landed in the net.

Lake State made it 2-0 when Gage Torrel tipped a wide-angle shot behind Mor.  The goal came as Matt McArdle was off for boarding.

The Lakers climbed ahead by three goals when Torrel netted his second goal of the afternoon.  The forward from Monticello, Minnesota, got in all alone on Mor and put the puck top shelf over the shoulder. 

Team USA appeared to get a goal back, but no goal was called on the ice due to Lakers goalie Mareks Mitens being rammed into the net.  A brief review verified the call on the ice.

With Bode Wilde off on a double-minor late in the second, J.T. Henke batted the puck past Mor with the handle of his stick with 0:01.1 left on the clock.  The goal was reviewed and upheld, sending the Lakers to the dressing room up 4-0.

The onslaught continued as Max Humitz made the score 5-0.  Lake Superior added one more goal, this time from Bryan Basilico, as the Lakers kept the Under-18’s off the scoresheet for a 6-0 final score.

Collin Saccoman returned to action for Lake Superior after missing the last 7 games (Mike Barrett/LHB)

Despite even play throughout, Seth Appert’s crew could not get anything going, as Mitens turned away all 24 shots he faced to claim the win.  Mor made 20 saves on 26 shots in defeat.

“Mitens looked very good for us tonight,” said Whitten.  “Nellis was great with his two goals, as was Torrel.  He’s been somewhat snake bitten lately, so it was good for him to gain some confidence.”

In addition to the shortie by Torrel, Lake Superior was 1 for 5 on the man advantage.  Team USA went 0 for 4.

Only two Laker skaters (William Riedell and Ian Johnston) finished the day even.  Senior defenseman Ryan Renz was +5, and was also on the ice for the power play goal by Nellis.

A special promotion was put on for the game, as all families (no size limit) were admitted to the game for $13, provided they purchased a ticket that day.  As a result, many sizable families were able to attend the game for a very low price.

“It was a great win for the area families and for the casual fan,” commented Whitten.  “Hopefully we will be able to draw many of them back next weekend.”

Lake State resumes Western Collegiate Hockey Association play next weekend, when the University of Alaska comes to town.  The Nanooks will come in from a home series against Michigan Tech.  Puck drop is at 7:07 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday.

Opinion: Mid Semester Signings

Note: This article does not represent this blog at large. It is only the opinion of the article’s author, and does not mean to represent the opinion of LakerHockeyBlog, LSSU, or any media partners.

I was hoping we weren’t going to see another mid semester signing after the headache that was Owen Headrick’s departure last season, who played in one series post-Christmas, and left just a few days before the start of the next series, leaving the team scrambling to pick up the pieces and fill in his role.

Now, whereas Headrick played in nearly every game during his tenure here, C.J. had only played in three games this season for the Blue & Gold, so it doesn’t leave a large of a hole in the team as it could have.

But really, that point shouldn’t matter. What matters is that you committed to a team, and you should see through that commitment until there is a break. Leave at Christmas: it gives the coaches time to fill the gap in the team with your departure, or during the summer. Leaving in the middle of a semester, without certain outstanding circumstances, is just low.

Now, that isn’t to say that I don’t understand this departure. Wanting to play and not being able to play must really suck, and in that I can’t really blame C.J. for leaving. No matter what you’re passionate about, or if it’s something you’ve dedicated your life to, you want to do as much of that as possible, and he wasn’t getting that here for whatever reason. And when you get a chance to play, and also get paid (well, paid is probably a strong term for the SPHL), then why wouldn’t you?

It still rubs me the wrong way though. Whenever I’ve interacted with C.J., he seemed like a nice guy, but it’s hard for me to see him in that same light with this signing. Put in the time and effort to earn your spot on the roster back. Work on face offs, hand-eye coordination to tip in pucks in front of the net, basically any skill that the team doesn’t have enough individuals for. Make the coaching staff question: Should we put in X because of his Offensive prowess, or his two-way play, or should we put in Y for winning face offs, or going to those dirty areas on the power play?

Yes, the Lakers have had a rough season to say the least, but it’s easy enough to see the team through rose-colored glasses and say that there’s ‘always next weekend’ or ‘always next year’. It’s a bit harder to do that when a player up and leaves in the middle of a season, let alone a semester.

Maybe there’s more to it than playing time; something in the locker room that us, as the general public, may never know about. If that’s the case, then it needs to get resolved ASAP. But from where I’m standing, I think it’s just a matter of playing time, or lack thereof.

So, despite my feelings about him leaving, I do wish C.J. the best in Southaven and for whatever else the future may hold for him.

USNDTP U-18 @ Lake Superior State – Game Preview

USNDTP U-18 2017: 12-5-0-2

LSSU: 2017: 3-8-3

Changes are Coming

For those that are unaware, the USNTDP is broken up into two programs: U-17 & U-18. Both teams play as part of the USHL through a shared schedule, but the Under-18 team also plays against NCAA opponents, whereas the U-17 won’t. These teams mark the official start of the USA Hockey program with a number of players over the years representing the United States in the Olympics along with other IIHF events. Recent alumni from the various USNDTP rosters have included Jack Eichel (drafted #2 overall by Buffalo) and Auston Matthews (Drafter #1 overall by Toronto).

All this is to say that you can’t underestimate this team. Only 2 players from the U-17 team aren’t committed to a school yet, and 1 from the U-18 squad, though every other player, both U-17 & U-18, are committed to an NCAA Division 1 school. You’ll likely see or hear about these players coming out of the NHL draft or potentially representing our country in various international events, especially now that the NHL does not foresee themselves returning to the Olympic games any time soon.

If you’re a fan of hockey, and want to see some of the best players this country has to offer, this is the team you will want to watch.

 

Black and Blue (and Gold)

The Lakers split last week’s series against the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers, winning in regulation Friday night to earn some points. Sadly they could not keep up with the Chargers Saturday night, which seems to be the trend this season.

There’s been a lot of things to say negatively about the team this season and not as many positives, with most of the positives being made off the back of another player’s shortfalls – the same goes for this week. Goaltender Nick Kossoff played very well in net Friday night, but let in 5 goals before being pulled in favor of Mitens who shut out UAH from that point forward.

This season has been rough for everyone, and it has already taken a victim. Junior forward C.J Hayes (4-4-8 in 55GP) has officially left the team to join the Mississippi RiverKings in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). The RiverKings are currently sitting on top of the standings of the SPHL. Look for an opinion piece on this in the near future.

 

With this weekend being American Thanksgiving, Lake Superior State University is offering an amazing deal. Gather up your ‘family’ (read: anyone wanting to join), go to the Norris Center before the 5pm puck drop and pay only $13 for your entire group. This means you pay $13 for only 2 people, or $13 for 100 people. The box office will be open starting at 2pm on Saturday, November 25th to handle the large crowds we hope to see.

The puck drops early at 5pm Saturday, and can be heard on 99.5 YESfm locally, or at www.yesfm.net , YESfm on Tunein.

Hayes leaves Lake State in favor of SPHL

C.J. Hayes (20) playing in an exhibition game against Laurentian early this season. Hayes signed with the Mississippi RiverKings of the SPHL on Tuesday (Brittany Litchard/LHB)

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – The Mississippi RiverKings of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) announced Tuesday that they signed forward C.J Hayes to a standard player contract. Hayes, who hails from Margate, Florida played in 55 games for the Lakers, tallying 4 goals, 4 assists for 8 points, but he has only skated in three games for the Lakers this season as the forward ranks were bolstered in the recent offseason.

As of this posting, no official word from the school has been released. This is the second mid-semester signing of a player in two seasons, with the previous being defenseman Owen Headrick, who left the team a few weeks after the Christmas break to play with the Erie Otters in the OHL.

The 2017-18 team has now seen two early player departures, as netminder Cooper Lukenda left the team in early November to play junior hockey with the Kemptville 73’s of the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL).

We will update this post if more details come out from this departure. We wish C.J. nothing but the best as he takes his first steps into professional hockey.

Read the RiverKings’ release here: http://riverkings.com/news/posts/riverkings-sign-rookie-forward-cj-hayes-to-standard-player-contract

Lakers fall to Chargers 5-3 behind strength of Rajic hat trick

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A three goal first period doomed the Lake Superior State Lakers, as they were forced to settle for a series split against the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers after dropping a 5-3 decision at the Von Braun Center on Saturday night.

Both Nick Kossoff and Jordan Uhelski received the nod in net from their respective coaches again.  Kossoff made 26 saves on 27 shots last night, while Uhelski had 19 stops on 21 attempts.

Alabama-Huntsville (4-7-1, 3-2-1 WCHA) opened the scoring with a power play goal by Kurt Gosselin at the 10:32 mark of the opening period.

The Chargers made it 2-0 when Christian Rajic banged the puck in the back of the net behind Kossoff.  The deficit grew to 3 when Brennan Saulnier notched his seventh goal of the year.

With 15 seconds remaining in the period, Brayden Gelsinger buried the puck behind Uhelski on a power play, sending the Lakers back to the dressing room with momentum, despite trailing 3-1.

Josh Nenadal earned his second goal of the season at the 7:19 mark of the second period, cutting the deficit to one goal.

The one goal disadvantage was short lived, however, as Rajic scored back to back goals less than two minutes apart, earning a hat trick.  Rajic’s fifth and sixth goals of the year made the score 5-2 in favor of the Chargers.

Following the fifth goal, Kossoff was pulled in favor of Mareks Mitens.  Kossoff finished the night with 18 saves on 23 shots.

Down but not out, Lake Superior attempted to rally again, as Max Humitz cut the Huntsville lead to two goals.  Humitz’ goal, his seventh of the year, was the fourth goal scored by either team in under four minutes.

Despite the Lakers peppering Uhelski with 23 shots in the third period, Lake Superior could not find the back of the net again, as the Chargers held on, sealing a 5-3 win.

Uhelski earned the win by stopping 41 of 44 shots.  Mitens stopped all 11 shots he faced in relief.

On special teams, each team scored a power play goal, as the Lakers went 1 for 6, while Alabama-Huntsville was 1 for 3. 

In addition to moving into 5th place in the WCHA standings, the Chargers snapped a 5 game losing streak against Lake Superior.  Alabama-Huntsville had not beaten the Lakers since October, 2015.

With the loss, Lake Superior now sits in 6th place in the league standings with 8 points.  Alaska-Anchorage, Ferris State and Bemidji State are in a three-way tie in 7th place.  With the Seawolves in action later tonight, Alaska-Anchorage could potentially pass Lake Superior and move into a tie with the Chargers in 5th place.

Lake Superior (3-8-3, 2-4-2 WCHA) is back in action on Saturday, November 25th.  They will face the US National Development Team Program’s Under 18 team in an exhibition.  Game time is at 5 p.m.

Lakers skate past Alabama-Huntsville in series opener

The Lakers celebrate a goal against the Chargers during the 2016-17 season (Mike Barrett/LakerHockeyBlog)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Tied at the bottom of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) standings with the Alaska schools, the Lake Superior State hockey team picked up a much-needed victory over the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers on Friday night.  The Lakers (3-7-3, 2-3-2 WCHA) scored two first period goals, as they skated past the Chargers (3-7-1, 2-2-1 WCHA) 3-1 at the Von Braun Center.

Lake Superior struck first on a power tally from junior Diego Cuglietta.  With a boarding penalty to Josh Kestner, Cuglietta earned his fourth goal of the year, with assists going to senior defenseman Kyle Chatham and freshman forward Hampus Erikkson.

Late in the opening session, senior captain Aiden Wright rifled a shot at Charger netminder Jordan Uhelski.  Uhelski made the initial save, but Jake Hand collected the rebound and buried it, earning his fourth of the season.  This all came on a 4 on 4, as Christian Rajic and Brayden Gelsinger had been called for coinciding minor penalties.

Penalties were not in short supply as the second period, as 17 minutes were served between the two clubs.  The penalties forced Lake Superior into some tough situations, as Matt McArdle served a 5 minute major for grasping the facemask.  Thanks to a coinciding roughing penalty to UAH’s Brennan Saulnier, the Laker PK unit only had 3 minutes of major penalty to kill.

The Chargers cut into the Lakers’ lead with 0:53 left in the second period.  Madison Dunn put the puck in the net to make the score 2-1 Lakers.  A lengthy review took place, as Tyler Poulsen had collided with Laker goalkeeper Nick Kossoff, resulting in him being out of position.  Nevertheless, the goal stood.

After outshooting Huntsville 11-7 in the first period, the Chargers flipped the script on Lake Superior, outshooting them 17-6.  Kossoff stood tall for the Lakers, limiting the damage to just the Dunn goal.

The parade to the sin bin continued in the third period.  Lake Superior earned a 5 on 3 opportunity for 1:14.  Uhelski and the Huntsville penalty killers prevented the Lakers from capitalizing.

Late in the period, Wright was called for tripping.   The scenario from last Saturday, in which the Chargers tied the game in the final second of regulation thanks to two extra attackers, appeared to be replicating itself.  In spite of this, Lake Superior prevented Huntsville from repeating their late game magic, as Max Humitz iced the game with an empty netter with eight ticks left on the board.

Kossoff stood strong for the Lakers and head coach Damon Whiten.  The junior from West Des Moines, Iowa, made 26 saves.  His counterpart Uhelski had 19 saves in defeat.

Although he did not show up on the box score, J.T. Henke kept Uhelski busy, with 5 shots on net.  In addition to his first period goal, Cuglietta was 12-10 in the faceoff circle.

Despite all of the penalties, only one power play goal was scored in the game, as Lake Superior went 1 for 6, while the Chargers were 0 for 7.  Hand’s goal late in the first was on a 4 on 4, while the empty netter by Humitz was also a shortie.

Laker Legion group promoting team spirit

No home game?  No problem.

Some of the Laker Legion members smile for a photo as they traveled to Marquette back in January 2017 (Courtesy Photo)

While the Laker teams are on the road this season, the Laker Legion student organization has been hosting viewing parties, enabling students to gather and watch their teams.

Over 50 fans were in attendance at the first party back on October 22nd, 2016. Fans watched the Lakers erase a quick 1-0 deficit with four unanswered goals en route to a 5-2 road victory and series sweep of the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers.

Gatherings have been held ever since, with Friday games typically being broadcast in Peacock Cove (in the basement of the Walker Cisler Center), and Saturday games over in the large lecture hall just outside of the main entrance to the library.

“The Laker Legion is a new student organization,” said Marc Boucher, a member of the Laker Legion Executive Board.  “The more excitement we can generate at our athletics events, the more fun we all can have.  The teams certainly feed off the increased enthusiasm of the students, and that makes it even more fun to attend.”

The idea for organizing such a student section has come from many areas, including sports marketing intern Abbie Laajala, head hockey coach Damon Whitten, and student government member Shelbey Smith. 

The Legion is not focusing on just hockey.  Boucher has stated that the Legion is looking to increase engagement, excitement and campus pride across the entire athletics program.  “We hope that by engaging students and student athletes in multiple venues that we can broaden all students’ campus experiences,” said Boucher.

The mission of the Legion, as described by Boucher, is to present students with the opportunity to organize and participate in supporting Laker athletics, to help build a culture of Laker pride among the entire campus community, to help student athletes and non-varsity athletes gain a better understanding of each other and form bonds, and to create a fun environment to demonstrate campus pride among colleagues. 

In addition to being a raucous, yet entertaining, bunch at home games, the Legion has also organized bus trips to see the team on the road.

Organized groups such as the Laker Legion have been attempted in the past, with “We Are Lake State” in the late 1990’s (during the Scott Borek era) and the “Laker Blue Crew” existing for a time while Jim Roque was at the helm of the Lakers.  For one reason or another, each of these groups eventually dissolved.

The Legion has stated that members of the public are free to come and watch the Lakers with the students.  With that in mind, many do, including many members of the Soo Blue Liners Club.

This club is open to all students.  For more information on the Legion, contact Boucher, Laajala, Smith, or Whitten.  To learn about more viewing parties in the future, keep an eye out for e-mails regarding them.

Falcons beat Lakers 5-2, claim 5 points on the weekend

Special teams ruled the day, but not in the way the Lakers would have liked.

Two shorthanded goals (plus a power play tally) by Bowling Green crippled the Lakers (2-7-3, 1-3-2 WCHA), as the Falcons earned a 5-2 win over the boys in blue.

The Falcons (5-3-3, 4-1-3-2 WCHA) opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal by Stephen Baylis.  With Sam Craggs in the box for boarding Ryan Renz, Baylis worked his way around Anthony Nellis and Jake Hand, beating Mareks Mitens on his left side.

Brandon Kruse appeared to make the score 2-0 Falcons.  The lamp went on, the horn sounded and the team celebrated, but a review showed the puck did not cross the line, as the score remained 1-0 Bowling Green.

Late in the period, Diego Cuglietta evened things up with a goal directly off of a faceoff.  Cuglietta won a faceoff to the right of Bednard and knocked the puck behind the net to the right.  Collecting the loose puck, the native of Kamloops, British Columbia then knocked the loose puck past the left pad of Falcons netminder Ryan Bednard.

Bowling Green reclaimed the lead on another shorthanded goal.  Mitch McLain, who had the difference maker in the shootout the previous night, scored his third goal of the season from Lukas Craggs and Connor McDonald.  The Falcons tacked another goal on with 1:12 to go in the second period as Baylis earned his second of the night.

The Falcons took a 4-1 lead on a power play goal from Cameron Wright 2:01 into the final period.  Lake Superior’s Jake Hand was off for tripping.  

Lake Superior cut into the lead by the Falcons when Gage Torrel earned his first goal of the season.  A shot from Cuglietta was poke-checked away by Bednard, bouncing off of Torrel and into the net.  A collision knocked the net off of its moorings.  Initially ruled no goal, the call was reversed after a lengthy review.

Attempting to rally, the Lakers pulled Mitens for an extra skater, but McLain scored his second goal of the evening with an empty netter to salt the game away, as the Falcons prevailed 5-2.

In net, Mitens stopped 30 of 34 shots, while Bednard made 29 saves on 31 shots.  Shots were even thru two periods with 19 apiece.

Both teams partook in parades to the sin bin, as the Falcons had 8 power plays while the Lakers had 6.  Bowling Green cashed in on one of their opportunities, while Lake Superior could not come up with a goal on the man advantage.

A night after being beaten 43-28 in the faceoff circle, Lake Superior flipped the script on the Falcons, with 43 faceoff wins to 31 for Bowling Green.  Cuglietta was 22-11 on faceoffs, while J.T. Henke went 10-8 and Brendan McKay was 5-2.

With the loss, the Lakers are in a three way tie with Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska-Fairbanks at the bottom of the league standings with 5 points each.

Next week, the Lakers board the bus for a trip even further south than Bowling Green, as they travel to Alabama-Huntsville.  The Chargers (3-6-1, 2-1-1 WCHA) rallied against Alaska-Anchorage to force overtime (including netting the game-tying goal with 0:01 remaining in regulation), where the Seawolves eventually prevailed in a shootout.  Both games will start at 8:07 Eastern.