Month: February 2018

Mitens earns 1st shutout, Lakers earn 1st sweep of season

Mareks Mitens earned the first shutout of his Laker career in a 2-0 win over Bemidji State. Coupled with a shutout the previous night, it was the first time since 2010 that the Lakers blanked an opponent twice in one weekend (Mike Barrett/LHB).

BEMIDJI, Minn. – Looking for their first sweep of the season, the Lake Superior State Lakers made a rather unconventional move in net.

A night after Nick Kossoff picked up the first shutout for the Lakers in nearly two seasons, Freshman Mareks Mitens got the nod from head coach Damon Whitten.

The native of Ventspils, Latvia, showed he was equal to the task, stopping all 36 shots, as the Lakers (8-20-4, 6-15-3 WCHA) posted back to back 2-0 shutouts of Bemidji State in a series sweep.

With the win, the Lakers are hoping to propel themselves back into playoff positioning.  Coming into the game, they trailed the Alaska Nanooks by 8 points, as the Nanooks, like the Lakers, won the night before.

The opening period had the Beavers (14-10-6, 11-7-4-2 WCHA) swarming, outshooting the Lakers 13-3.  Mitens was sharp throughout, as the game remained scoreless after 20 minutes.

Max Humitz got Lake Superior on the board with a goal on a delayed penalty to BSU’s Adam Brody.  Humitz redirected a puck past Beavers goaltender Michael Bitzer for a 1-0 lead.

Picking up assists on Humitz’s goal were Collin Saccoman and Yuki Miura.  For Miura, it was his first point as a Laker.

Down a goal going into the final stanza, Bemidji State continued peppering Mitens with shots.  The freshman continued turning away shot after shot.

The Beavers appeared to tie the game when Aaron Miller drilled a puck past Mitens.  Upon further review, however, it was ruled that Mitens had been interfered with on the play, thus negating the goal.

Like last night, Bemidji State took an untimely penalty late, as Myles Fitzgerald was called for tripping with just 2:15 to play.  Rolling the dice, coach Tom Serratore pulled Bitzer, evening up the skaters.

After a couple of long shots missed the net and iced the puck, Diego Cuglietta iced the game away with an empty netter at the 19:38 mark, sealing the Lakers’ fate.

The last time Lake Superior had back to back shutouts was in the 2012-13 season.  Kevin Murdock shut out Northern Michigan in the final game of the regular, followed by Kevin Kapalka shutting out Bowling Green in the first game of the CCHA Conference Tournament.

To find the last time the Lakers were not scored upon in a series, one must go back to November of 2010.  Kevin Kapalka had back to back blanking of Ferris State on 12th and 13th of that month.

Kossoff, defense, stymies Bemidji State on road

Nick Kossoff (pictured here against Ferris State) earned the fourth shutout of his Laker career in a 2-0 win over Bemidji State (Mike Barrett/LHB).

BEMIDJI, Minn. – Playing their final six games of the season on the road, the Lake Superior State Lakers would need to find a way to win on the road in order to have any shot at a WCHA playoff berth.

Following last week’s games against Bowling Green, Lakers head coach Damon Whitten said “we’re going to get in the playoffs, and to do it, we need to become road warriors.”

Whitten’s club took a step in the right direction, as the Lakers (7-20-4, 5-15-3 WCHA) blanked Bemidji State (14-9-6, 11-6-4 WCHA) 2-0 on Friday night.

Lake Superior came out strong in the first period, holding a 12-7 edge in shots on net.  J.T. Henke opened the scoring when he notched his 9th goal of the season.  Assisted by Bryan Basilico and Kyle Chatham, the Trenton, Michigan native put the puck behind Beavers goaltender Michael Bitzer for a 1-0 lead.

In the second period, Bemidji State began clamping down on the Laker offense, limiting them to just four shots.  The Beavers, while getting eight shots of their own, were still being stymied by the Lake State blueliners.

An odd man rush helped Anthony Nellis widen the Lakers lead to 2-0 with his 10th of the season.

The final period saw the Beavers begin to successfully generate more shots on net than before.  Despite seeing more rubber, Lakers netminder Nick Kossoff could not be beat.

Pulling Bitzer for an extra skater, Bemidji looked to get back in the game with under three minutes to play.  Lake State’s Gage Torrel, who assisted on the Nellis goal, got the puck and attempted to ice the game away; Dillon Eichstadt took him down from behind.

While Eichstadt’s actions likely saved a goal, it essentially negated the action of pulling Bitzer.  Forced to kill a minor penalty late in the game, the Beavers could not get any good chances on Kossoff, as the Lakers prevailed on the road by a 2-0 final score.

By stopping all 28 shots, Kossoff picked up his first shutout of the season, and the fourth of his career.  His last shutout came on December 30, 2015 againt Brown in the Catamount Cup. 

In addition, it was the first shutout for a Laker goaltender since Gordie Defiel shutout Minnesota State in Game 2 of the 2016 WCHA Quarterfinals.

Across the ice, Bitzer came up with 18 saves on 20 shots.

Neither team took advantage of their power play opportunites, as the Lakers were 0 for 4, while Bemidji was 0 for 1.  A slashing penalty to Jake Hand was the only power play the Beavers were afforded.

 

Series Preview: Lake Superior State @ Bemidji State

 

Bemidji State: 2016: 22-16-3 2017: 14-8-6
Lake Superior State: 2016: 11-18-7 2017: 6-20-4

“They might in the future more than ever before engage in hunting beavers.” – Samuel de Champlain
The Bemidji State Beavers are currently holding down the final home playoff spot, coming into the weekend at #4 in the WCHA. The lead Michigan Tech by 5 points and trail Minnesota State by 6. Tech is playing #14 Bowling Green this weekend, so it’s unlikely that the Beavers will lose out on their spot this weekend.
The Beavers are led by 4 20+ point scorers in Kyle Bauman, Gerry Fitzgerald, Jay Dickman and Adam Brady, all of them forwards. In net, Michael Bitzer has only missed a total of 78 minutes this season. In those 1623 minutes in net, he has recoreded a 14-7-6 record, a 2.14 GAA and a .911 Save %. Interestingly enough, he also has an assist this season.
While it’s unlikely that the Beavers move at all in the rankings this week (Minnesota State is playing UAA), they will be looking to win to keep pace with the Mavericks. The last time these two teams met, Lake State was shutout in game 1 and lost 6-3 in game 2.

“Never give up; for even rivers someday wash dams away.” – Arthur Golden
Despite the results, the last three weekends, starting with the Ferris State series, the Lakers seemed to have regained some control and come together to play as a team, save for a few players and a period or two. Saturday night’s game against Ferris gave the Lakers their first conference win in over a month. In the series at Northern Michigan, the Lakers gave the Wildcats a run for their money both nights, losing 3-2 in both games & losing the Cappo Cup.
Last weekend was the most promising of all. The boys in blue did lose Friday night 5-3, mostly due to shaky goaltending to start the game. But on Saturday night, the Lakers took it to the then #15 Bowling Green Falcons, losing only 3-2, though by all accounts the Refs gave that game away, waving off a goal that should have counted.
But we’re not going to dive into the officiating here.
Despite the resurgence of the team, it feels too little too late. As it stands, the Lakers are out of the playoff picture right now, being eight points behind Alaska and only three points ahead of last-ranked Alaska Anchorage. The good news is that the next three weeks will be tough for the Nanooks, taking on Ferris State this weekend, #19 Northern Michigan next week and the Beavers of Bemidji State the weekend of the 15th-16th before finishing up against UAA.
The Lakers need to win and win fast. Outside of this, their fate isn’t in their hands – they will need help from the rest of the league to help secure a playoff spot. I’m not holding my breath, mind you, but it could be a very interesting final month of the season.
Lake State finally has three 20-point scorers in J.T. Henke, Max Humitz and Diego Cuglietta.

Puck drops both Friday and Saturday night games starting at 8:07pm ET or 7:07 CT. 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.