Sweep! Lakers down Bemidji State, advance to semifinals

Hampus Eriksson (extreme right) puts the eventual game winner over Bemidji State goaltender Zach Driscoll.

Lake State is moving on.

By picking up a 3-1 win, Lake Superior State won its first playoff series since their 2012 first round matchup against the University of Alaska.  That series was also at home and ended in a sweep.

“It was a big weekend for us,” said Lakers head coach Damon Whitten.  “We earned home ice and we had to defend it, so I thought we did a really good job.  You have to be good defensively this time of the year and I thought we defended at a high level.  You need great goaltending and we got that too.  Special teams need to be good and this weekend they were as well.”

Much like their game from the previous night, Lake Superior State (23-11-2) and Bemidji State (15-17-6) started out playing a wide open end to end game.  Unlike Friday’s game, however, the Beavers had a much easier time generating shots on net, as they built up a strong shot advantage in the early going.  Lake Superior fought back as the period wore on, closing the gap.

Lake Superior drew first blood when Max Humitz gave the Lakers a 1-0 lead that was initially waved off on the ice, despite the puck being in the net.  A short review validated the tally, giving the forward from Livonia, Michigan, his 16th goal of the season.

Fighting for their playoff lives, the Beavers struck back a short time later.  A heavy shot by Justin Baudry eluded Laker goalie Nick Kossoff, tying the game at one goal apiece before the conclusion of the second period.  After having been outshot 11-9 in the opening frame, Lake Superior outshot the Beavers 17-12 in the middle stanza.

Early in the third period, Lake Superior got its first power play opportunity when Ethan Somoza went off for hooking.  On the ensuing power play, Hampus Eriksson picked up a pass from the opposite faceoff circle and buried the puck behind Driscoll, restoring the Laker lead with his third goal of the year.

Following the goal, the Beavers upped the pressure, desperately trying to net the tying goal.  A pair of minor penalties hindered their efforts, with one coming immediately after the Eriksson goal and the other with less than 5 minutes to play.

In earning the win, Kossoff stopped 38 of 39 shots.  Driscoll, meanwhile, made 29 saves on 31 shots faced.

Interestingly, no penalties were called in the first two periods.  Like Friday, there were few trips to the sin bin in general.

By picking up two assists on the night, forward Diego Cuglietta is now sitting at 99 career points.  With one more goal or assist, he will become the first Laker to reach the century mark since Dominic Monardo did so in 2013.  Like Monardo, if he is to do it, it must happen on the road.

With all of the upper seeds winning their respective playoff series, the Lakers will venture to Mankato next weekend to take on regular season champion Minnesota State.  The Mavericks (29-7-2) dispatched Alabama Huntsville in their quarterfinal series.