Falcons escape Lake Superior with 3-2 win, series sweep

J.T. Henke takes a faceoff against BG’s Max Johnson. While Henke and the other seniors were playing in their final home game, Henke’s linemate Yuki Miura was playing in his first. (Brittany Litchard/LHB)

SAULT STE. MARIE – Two waved off goals were the story of senior night, as Lake Superior battled back from 3-0 down to within a goal, but could not get the tiebreaker, as the fifteenth-ranked Falcons swept the Lakers with a 3-2 win on Senior Night.

“We would’ve loved to send the seniors out a chance to ring the Victory Bell, but we’re really proud of that group,” said Lakers head coach Damon Whitten.  “There are so many things they’ve done on and off the ice to really help move Laker hockey forward in this community and on this campus.”

The Lakers dug themselves into a deep hole in the first period, as a 2-0 deficit was made worse when defenseman Will Riedell was tossed for checking from behind.  The Falcons potted a third goal (the second of the night for Jason Spezia), sending the Lakers back to the locker room trailing 3-0 after 20 minutes.

“We had a tough start obviously, when you go down two goals early, you’re chasing the game all night long.”

Lake Superior appeared to get on the board when Diego Cuglietta beat Ryan Bednard.  Unfortunately for the Lakers, a lengthy review concluded that the puck did not cross the goal line.

Despite the adversity the team faced, the team did not gtive up, and a blistering shot from Hampus Erikkson got the Lakers on the board.

Lake Superior managed to close the gap further when Gage Torrel pumped a shorthanded tally past Bednard, making the score 3-2.

“I thought we had a really good push back with a strong second period,” remarked Whitten.  “We had them on the ropes in the third period, but we couldn’t catch a break, hitting posts and hitting double posts.”

Midway thru the third period, the Lakers appeared to have the tying goal, as Jake Hand got in all along on Bendard and put the puck behind him.  The puck hit the crossbar, bounced straight down and did not cross the line, per review.

Members of the Laker Legion display oversized headshots of the Laker seniors. From Left: Ryan Renz, J.T. Henke, Aiden Wright and Kyle Chatham (Brittany Litchard/LHB)

Down but not out, the Lakers continuted to play hard, but goal number three never came, as the Falcons held on for a 3-2 win and a series sweep.

Making his Laker debut was Yuki Miura.  The forward had to make it through the NCAA clearinghouse and overcome an injury in order to finally make it in the lineup.  While Miura did not wind up on the stat sheet, his speed and quickness were certainly on display.

“I thought he was a great shot in the arm,” remarked Whitten, on Miura.  “He’s one of those guys who is quick and fast.  Some guys can be quick in some areas, but not be fast.  Yuki’s both, and I think he showed that.  His stick and puck skills are really good, he makes good passes.  He had a great debut, and if he continues to play like he did, he will be a fixture in our lineup.”

In goal, Bednard stopped 17 of 19 in picking up the win.  In relief of Mareks Mitens (who made 6 saves on 8 shots before being pulled), Nick Kossoff stopped 27 of 28, taking the loss.

Prior to the game, the Lakers honoured their four seniors, as J.T. Henke, Kyle Chatham, Ryan Renz and Aiden Wright respectively took their lap around the ice.  Although the pregame ceremony was a departure from the traditional postgame ceremony, each of the four were in the starting lineup for coach Whitten, which has been the case since he took the reigns in 2014.

Senior Night was forced to be held much earlier than usual due to the remainder of the Lakers’ schedule being on the road.  Typically, there is at least one home series in February; the league schedule did not pan out in an ideal way for many teams this season.

Whitten commented that the play of his seniors will be pivotal down the stretch, noting that the team will have to be road warriors from this point out.