BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — The Lake Superior State playoff hopes came down to the final game of the regular season.
Needing a win against Ferris State to stay alive, the Lakers could not find the equalizer late, as the Bulldogs netted two empty netters en route to a 4-2 win.
With the loss, the Lakers failed to qualify for the WCHA postseason for the second time since joining the league, and the first time under head coach Damon Whitten.
Lake Superior got the important first goal of the game when defenseman Collin Saccoman collected a pass from Bryan Basilico and beat Darren Smith. Although the Bulldogs outshot the Lakers 14-12 through the first 20 minutes, netminder Mareks Mitens kept Ferris State off the board.
Early in the second period, Coale Norris found the back of the net for Ferris State, tying the game in the process. Norris, who had the empty-netter the previous night, earned his 9th goal of the year.
At 7:37 of the third period, Norris put Ferris State ahead for good. Despite numerous chances for the Lakers (including a post for Anthony Nellis,) Lake Superior could not find the crucial goal to force overtime.
With Mitens pulled for an extra skater, the Bulldogs’ Mitch Maloney put the game out of reach by hitting the empty net. Their season in jeopardy, the Lakers pulled Mitens again, trying to surmount a two goal deficit. Again, Maloney put the puck in the back of the empty net, making the score 4-1 Ferris State.
A fair amount of action took place shortly after the ensuing faceoff. Lakers defenseman Tyler Anderson took a Ferris State player hard into the boards, which led to everybody on the ice pairing off. 43 penalty minutes were assessed on the play, including 15 to Anderson (5 for contact to the head, plus a 10 minute disqualification).
As the game was winding down, Gage Torrel managed to get around the Bulldog defense and beat Smith. Torrel’s fifth goal of the season came with just 26 seconds remaining in play — not enough time for a Laker rally.
Mitens finished the night with 34 saves on 36 shots faced. In picking up the win, Smith 30 of 32.
With the loss, the collegiate careers of Aiden Wright, Kyle Chatham, Ryan Renz and J.T. Henke came to an end. Henke, the lone forward of the group, finished his Laker career with 79 points in three seasons. Had he played his freshman season with the Lakers (as opposed to the University of Maine), he could have potentially become the first Laker to earn 100 career points since Dominic Monardo in 2013.