Month: January 2018

Smith, Bulldogs shutout Lake Superior

A scrum erupts in front of the Ferris State net, but Lake Superior was unable to get this puck (or any other) past Darren Smith (Mike Barrett/LHB)

SAULT STE. MARIE – For the fourth consecutive Friday game, the Lake Superior State hockey team could not find the back of the net, as Darren Smith and the Bulldogs of Ferris State downed the Lakers 4-0.

Entering the game, the Lakers were seven points behind Ferris State, who held the final playoff spot.  

The Bulldogs got on the board when Coale Norris and Marshall Moise got into the Lakers’ zone on a 2 on 1.  Moise fed a pass to Norris, who put the puck into a wide open net, as Moise had gotten Lake Superior goaltender Mareks Mitens out of position.

Ferris State scored two more goals in the second period, as Corey Mackin and Nate Kallen converted on opportunities, eventually chasing Mitens from the net.

Replacing him was junior Nick Kossoff.  Kossoff, who has 4 of the Lakers’ 5 wins on the year, allowed a power play goal by Ryker Killins in the third period.

Although much of the play was even, the Bulldogs managed to make the most of their opportunities.  

In goal, Smith stopped all 27 shots.  Across the ice, Mitens made 13 saves before being relieved by Kossoff, who made 11 stops.

By picking up the win, Ferris State snapped a five game losing streak.  The Lakers, meanwhile, are now 0-6-1 in their last 7 league games.  They sit eight points behind Alaska, who is in action against Minnesota State in a late game.

For the Lakers, the chances of making the WCHA Tournament continue to shrink, as they have been unable to gain any ground on teams ahead of them in the standings.  Making matters worse were the results from the late games, where Alabama-Huntsville and Alaska won their games, widening the gap.

The teams are back in action tonight for the conclusion of their series.  Puck drop is at 7:07.

Series Preview – Ferris State University @ Lake Superior State

Ferris State: 2016: 13-19-5 2017: 9-14-1

Lake State: 2016: 11-18-7 2017: 5-15-4

 

“Hey, bulldog, hey man, whats up brother?”

2017 has been a pretty disappointing year for the Ferris State Bulldogs. Currently they hold the final playoff spot for the WCHA with 19 points, ahead of the Lakers by 7 points. In the 2016-2017 campaign they finished just 2 points out of a home playoff berth.

The Bulldogs are led by a trio of upperclassmen in Corey Mackin (6-12-18), Mitch Maloney (12-5-17) and Andrew Doranties (5-10-15) for point scorers. In fact, they are the top three goal scorers, with Maloney & Mackin switching up the order of the list. In this regard, they are much like the Lakers this season, however they have managed to squeak out three more league games this season, putting the final playoff spot out of reach for the Lakers this weekend.

 

Apathy Creeping In

The headline says it all here. The Lakers were outscored, outshot and outplayed all weekend in front of a crowd that totaled 893 on Friday and 803 on Saturday. The Lakers did come out swinging on Saturday night, putting up two goals in just over 4 minutes, but the Bemidji State Beavers took control of the game from there.

So, while there haven’t been many positives to focus on this season, the way they started that game showed some cohesiveness that we haven’t seen in a while, which admittingly was nice. The Lakers need to win this weekend, a sweep is preferred. that would leave them just a single point out of playoffs. But even if they do win, they will need some help getting into the playoff picture properly

Puck drops both Friday & Saturday at 7:07pm. They can be heard locally on 99.5 YesFM, online at  www.yesfm.net, or on the TuneIn app. For those fans not in the area, or cannot make it to the arena but still want to watch the action, both games will be available on www.WCHA.tv.

Lakers relinquish early two goal lead, suffer sweep at hands of Bemidji

SAULT STE. MARIE – Lake Superior State could not protect an early two goal lead, as the red hot Bemidji State Beavers scored five 2nd period goals en route to a 6-3 win over the Lakers at the Taffy Abel Arena.

The Beavers (11-6-5, 8-4-4-2 WCHA) have now won six straight games, and are unbeaten in their last nine.

“They’re a good defensive team, especially with [Michael] Bitzer in net,” said Lakers head coach Damon Whitten.  “We’ve got to be better defensively and we need better goaltending.  It’s going to be a long night if your goaltending doesn’t give you the chance to compete.  Same thing with special teams, giving up two shorties and a power play goal.”

Lake Superior (5-15-4, 3-10-3 WCHA) opened the scoring just over a minute into the game, when Hand put the puck past Bemidji State netminder Michael Bitzer, earning his 5th goal of the season.

Later in the period, Hand picked up his second goal of the night, making the score 2-0 in the Lakers’ favour.

“Jake Hand had a good start to the game with a couple of goals, which gave us some life and energy.  We were not good enough defensively from a team perspective and we’ve got to be better that way.”

Bemidji State fought back, getting a goal from Justin Baudry.  With 0:07 left in the first, the Beavers appeared to tie the game.  The initial call on the ice was no goal, and a lengthy review of the play upheld the call on the ice.

The second period saw the Beavers rattle off three unanswered goals in 5:28.  Among the goals were two shorthanded goals, courtesy of Kayle Bauman.

“They hurt you momentum-wise,” remarked Whitten, on shorthanded goals.  “They don’t come from grade A situations, and they can be very demoralizing.”

Although Max Humitz got a goal back on the power play, goals from the Beavers’ Charlie Combs and Zach Whitecloud made it 6-3 after two periods.  Following the goal by Combs, Kossoff was replaced in net by Mareks Mitens, but returned at the start of the third period.

“I think we needed a change at the time,” said Whitten, on the change.  “We weren’t getting enough out of that position, so we switched.  [Kossoff] went back in to start the third because we wanted to give him a chance to fight through the adversity.  He’s a junior, so we wanted to give him that shot.”

While Kossoff did not allow another goal the rest of the way, the Laker offense could not find the back of the net again, as Bemidji State completed the weekend sweep.

In goal, Bitzer picked up the win by making 15 saves on 18 shots.  Across the ice, Kossoff stopped 28 of 33, while Mitens was scored on with the only shot he faced.

With 12 points in the standings, Lake Superior sits in 9th place, seven points behind 8th place Ferris State, who is playing a Sat/Sun series with Bowling Green State.  The Bulldogs (9-13-1, 6-8-1 WCHA) will visit the Lakers next weekend.  Both games are slated to begin at 7:07 p.m.

Lakers can’t slow down Beavers, fall 3-0

Lake Superior players Collin Saccoman, Diego Cuglietta and Gage Torrel attempt to converge on a loose puck. Despite a number of chances, the Lakers suffered their 3rd straight Friday shutout (Mike Barrett/LHB).

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Returning home from their third place showing in the Three Rivers Classic, Lake Superior State looked to start the remainder of their conference schedule right.

Bemidji State had other plans.

An early two goal lead, coupled with a stellar performance from one of the top goaltenders in the Western Collegiate Hockey Associaiton, aided the Beavers in picking up their fifth straight win with a 3-0 win over the Lakers.

The Beavers (10-6-5, 7-4-4 WCHA) are now unbeaten in their last eight games.  They have not lost since December 1, when they fell 3-1 to Bowling Green.

“Our back was against the wall a month ago and our guys responded,” said Beavers head coach Tom Serratore.  “We have nine road games and four home games remaining, so for the rest of the season we’re going to be on the road.  We went 4-0-2 in our last six home games, and now we’re building on that.” 

Lake Superior (5-14-4, 3-9-3 WCHA) was unable to gain any momentum from its 3rd place finish in the Three Rivers Classic.  The Lakers fell 5-0 to host Robert Morris before beating Arizona State 4-1 in the consolation game.

“It’s a tough loss, said Lakers head coach Damon Whitten.  “If you don’t score goals, you’re not going to win hockey games.  Against Bemidji, it’s going to be a low scoring game, so if you only give up two, you have a chance against that team.  Give them credit, plus we all know how good Bitzer is, but the chances were there.”

The Lakers have now been shutout in each of their last three Friday games.

“We need to spend more time in the offensive zone and get to the net for some second chance opportunities,” remarked Whitten.  “They box out and play heavy in their zone; our forwards have to get to the front of the net to create those opportunities.”

Bemidji State wasted no time getting on the board, as they took a 1-0 lead just 1:04 into the game.  Dylan McCrory collected a rebound that went off the skate of Kyle Bauman and put it past Laker goaltender Nick Kossoff, who was out of position from stopping the initial shot.

The Beavers made the score 2-0 when a long shot from the point by Zach Whitecloud was tipped behind Kossoff by Charlie Combs just seconds after going on the man advantage.

“It was nice getting a lead right away,” said Serratore.  “It was a big goal a minute into the game and we piggybacked that with a second goal right away.  It put us into a good position with a two goal lead.”

The third period saw Lake Superior bring offensive pressure, outshooting the Beavers 11-5 in the final stanza.  Bitzer, a 2017 Hobey Baker Award finalist, and one of the premier netminders in the WCHA, kept the Lakers off the board the rest of the way.

An empty netter from Gerry Fitzgerald sealed the deal for the Beavers, as they picked up the 3-0 win.

In net, Bitzer stopped all 21 shots he faced for his 4th shutout of the season (and 3rd in league play).  For Lake Superior, Kossoff made 22 saves on 24 shots in defeat.

“He’s just a winner of a person,” remarked Serratore, on Bitzer.  “He’s a goalie who takes his craft very seriously.  He was a Hobey Baker Award finalist and a 1st Team All American.  We rely heavily on him and he’s been very good over the course of the last month.”

Despite the loss, the Lakers blueliners made things difficult for Bemidji State, as Lake State tallied 15 blocked shots.

“I thought our defensive corps played pretty well overall,” said Whitten.  “I felt as though we got better as the game went along.” 

Making his debut for the Lakers was forward Alex Ambrosio.  A native of Burnaby, British Columbia, Ambrosio joined the team during the break to help shore up the depleted Laker offense.

“He’s a guy we knew about; we liked him as a hockey player,” said Whitten, on Ambrosio.  “His hockey IQ shows as well, and we’re trying to improve our depth there, so he will be an even better addition as he moves along in our program.  [Coaches] have pretty extensive lists to try and handle situations like [mid-season acquisitions], plus you have your contacts that you rely on when you need to add some bodies.”

Ambrosio most recently played for the Coquiltam Express of the British Columbia Hockey League.

The teams will conclude their series tonight.  Puck drop is at 7:07 p.m.

Forward added for second half of season

SAULT STE. MARIE – With a depleted forward corps, Lake Superior State had added Alex Ambrosio to the squad for the second half of the 2017-18 season.

Ambrosio, who hails from Burnaby, British Columbia, spent the last 2.5 seasons playing for the Coquiltam Express of the British Columbia Hockey League.  

In 134 games for the Express, Ambrosio has 30 goals and 42 assists for 72 points.  

Serving as team captain to start this season, he played in 33 games, scoring 9 goals and adding 16 assists.

Elligible to play immediately for the Lakers, Ambrosio first dressed for Lake Superior tonight against Bemidji State.

Series Preview – Bemidji State University @ Lake Superior State

 

Bemidji State: 2016: 22-16-3  2017: 9-6-5

LSSU: 2016-11-18-7 2017: 5-13-4

 

“That beaver eatin’ Taco Bell!” – Primus

This year’s WCHA standings are a bit of a surprise to everyone, arguably for the Bemidji State Beavers more than any other. The reigning MacNaughton Cup winners, and finishing second in the Broadmoor race started off a bit slow this season, getting above .500 in the two weeks before the Christmas break, sweeping both Alaska Anchorage & Alabama-Huntsville.

The Beavers are led by seniors Kyle Bauman and Gerry Fitzgerald as their scoring leaders – both have 20 points going into this weekend. Jay Dickman leads the team in goals, with 11, and also comes in third in overall scoring.

They are backstopped by senior Michael Bitzer, who has played in all but two games for Bemidji, posting a .910 Save % and a 2.26 GAA. If you remember to last season, Bitzer ended the 2016-2017 campaign as the #5 goalie in the nation, posting the most games played, games started & tied for total team games played. He also lead in minutes played, with 1389:26 & won the most games amongst goalies. He was also in a three way tie with total shutouts with 4. He ended the season with a 1.47 GAA and a .938 Save %. BSU will have to have an outstanding second half to allow Bitzer to reach those numbers once again.

 

“…you were never intended to live in the life raft, to drift years on end, in sight of land but never close enough.” – Nick Flynn

While I can’t speak for any other Laker fan, I was hoping that the boys in blue would put up a good showing at the Three Rivers Classic, hosted by Robert Morris University & use it as a launching pad for the rest of the season. Sadly, that did not happen.

The Lakers opened up the weekend against the hosts Robert Morris University Friday night. To say it was disappointing would be a huge understatement. RMU shutout Lake State 5-0, scoring three goals against Mareks Mitens in the first period, and finishing off with two against Nick Kossoff in the second. The Colonials would outshoot the Lakers in the first alone 17-4, ending the night 38-19.

Now while these stats look bad, the tape looks worse. The team left Mitens out there all alone in the first, with a defense even more porous that what we’ve been seeing of late.

While the consolation game against the Arizona State Sun Devils would have a different result, they were largely outplayed – Nick Kossoff would stop 48 of 49 goals, however ASU goalie Ryland Pashovitz would only stop 17 of 20 total shots.

This team needs a change of heart, otherwise they will end the month, which marks their last home game, with playing in an empty arena and no hope for the playoffs. As of right now, the Lakers are on the outside looking in: two games behind both Alaska and Alabama-Huntsville. If they can get on a run, there is a shot at making the playoffs.

But all of that could be for naught if the coaching staff can’t get the locker room back, and from my vantage point, it doesn’t look likely that it will happen, which is a shame as I still maintain that, on paper, this could be the most talented group of players we’ve seen in a while, based off of their previous years with the Lakers, or with their recent Juniors results.

January will be the make it or break it month for Lake State: if they cannot start closing the gap, they will miss the playoffs, and I believe that the tone for this month will be set this weekend against Bemidji. Puck drops both Friday & Saturday at 7:07pm. They can be heard locally on 99.5 YesFM, online at  www.yesfm.net, or on the TuneIn app. For those fans not in the area, or cannot make it to the arena but still want to watch the action, both games will be available on www.WCHA.tv.

Kossoff receives WCHA Goalie of the Week accolades

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – The Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) announced the recipients of its weekly awards, which are doled out to one player at each position (forward, defense, goaltender) plus one for rookie of the week, for the week of December 28-January 2.  Among the recipients was Lake Superior State goaltender Nick Kossoff.

Kossoff, a native of West Des Moines, Iowa, garnered the award when he stopped 48 of 49 shots in the consolation game at the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh on Saturday, December 30. 

In addition to leading the Lakers to 3rd place, he also made a relief appearance against Robert Morris in the first game of the tourney, where he made 19 stops on 21 shots when he came in to replace Mareks Mitens after one period.

In all, Kossoff made 67 of 70 saves, picking up a .957 save percentage on the weekend.

The other candidates for Goaltender of the Week were Northern Michigan’s Atte Tolvanen and Bemidji State’s Michael Bitzer, the latter of whom the Lakers will see this weekend at the Taffy Abel Arena.

Bowling Green State claimed the other three weekly awards in a weekend that saw them go 2-0 in the Great Lakes Invitational, claiming the championship by defeating Michigan 6-4 and Michigan Tech 4-1.  Sophomore Lukas Craggs (forward), sophomore Alec Rauhauser (defenseman) and goaltender Eric Dop (rookie) earned the other awards.

This is Kossoff’s second weekly accolade this season, as he was named Goaltender of the Week back in October for his record-setting performance against then-top ranked Denver.