Category: News

Breaking: Assistant coach Metro departing Lakers

SAULT STE. MARIE — Laker Hockey Blog has learned that Lake Superior State assistant coach Rich Metro is set to accept a head coaching position at Shattuck-St. Mary’s Preparatory & Boarding School in Faribault, Minnesota.

Metro, 43, has served as an assistant coach for the Lakers over seven seasons in two different stints.  He took a position as video coordinator under Jim Roque in 2007.  The following season, he assumed the role of assistant coach.

In 2014, after coaching Villard-de-Lans in France (the same team for whom he played), the Sault Ste. Marie native returned to Lake Superior, working under then-new bench boss Damon Whitten.

More details to come.

Soo Blueliners golf tournament coming up

SAULT STE. MARIE — Coming up Friday, July 13th, is the 36th annual Soo Blue Liners golf tournament.

Like last years’ iteration, the tournament will be held at the Sault Country Club on Portage Avenue in Sault Ste. Marie.

This year, the Blueliners outing is a 9 hole, 4 person scramble.  The shotgun start will take place at 5 p.m., with a steak dinner to follow around 7 p.m.  Registration begins at 4 p.m.

In addition, both a silent auction and a live auction will be taking place.  The live auction will commence after golfing is done, but before the dinner starts.

Golfers who are, despite the date, feeling lucky, may take a swing at two hole in one opportunities.  Two chances at a new vehicle are being sponsored by Rodenroth Motors and O’Connor’s.

The cost for the Blueliner outing is $80 per person, $65 for dues-paying members of the Blueline Club, and $45 for students.  Persons interested in just the dinner may pay $20 for steak, baked potato, salad and vegetable.

“This is our major fundraiser for the year, and we are looking forward to having a nice turnout,” said Blueliners vice president Chris Ledergerber.

The Soo Blueliners Club is the major support group for hockey at Lake Superior State University.  Founded in 1982, members have raised money for Laker hockey through various events, such as the annual golf outing.

Interested golfers should contact Ledergerber at (906) 248-5732.

McArdle leaves Lakers, joins Merrimack as graduate transfer

Defenseman Matt McArdle (seen here during the 2017-18 season) will be playing at Merrimack as a graduate transfer next season (Mike Barrett/LHB)

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — The 2018-19 season for Lake Superior will open with a two game set against not one, but two former Lakers.

Defenseman Matt McArdle will be lacing up the skates for the Merrimack Warriors as a graduate transfer this upcoming season.

In 83 games for the Lakers, the native of Annapolis, Maryland, had one goal and nine assists.  He suited up for all 36 games in his sophomore campaign.

The opening games of next season already had some intrigue for Lake Superior.  Former head coach Scott Borek was named the new head coach of the Warriors back in April.  About a month later, the Lakers released their 2018-19 schedule, revealing they would be opening the season on the road against Merrimack.

Future Lakers compete at Royal Bank Cup

CHILLIWACK, B.C. — Owen Guy and Pierre-Luc Veillette are already teammates with the Ottawa Junior Senators of the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL).

They’ve still got a few more years together.

The future Lakers, who appear to be joining the Lakers next season, reached the Royal Bank Cup, the top prize for all ten Junior A leagues in Canada, ultimately falling in the Cup semifinals.

By putting together a 46-9-5-2 regular season mark that saw them place atop the CCHL’s Yzerman Division, the Junior Sens put themselves in great position for the CCHL playoffs.  Ottawa then defeated Pembroke and Brockville before facing Carleton Place in the league final.  The Junior Sens put an end to the four year reign of the Canadians, as they captured the Art Bogart Cup as league champs.

Advancing to the Fred Page Cup, the Jr. Sens took first place in the round robin with two regulation wins and an overtime win.  They punched their ticket to the RBC with a dominating 10-1 victory over Longueuil of the Quebec Junior Hockey League (LHJQ).

Interestingly, the Junior Sens found themselves in the RBC semifinals with no regulation wins.  Six of the ten games in the round robin went to overtime, including all four games played by Ottawa.

The winners of the Fred Page Cup started off with a 2-1 win over the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s (OJHL) Wellington Dukes, winners of the Dudley Hewitt Cup.  The next day, they suffered a 3-2 loss to the host Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL).

A 3-2 shootout loss to the BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild (who captured the Doyle Cup) led the Junior Senators into their final game in the round robin against the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) and AVANET Cup champion Steinbach Pistons.  This time, the overtime nail-biter came out in favour of Ottawa, who picked up a 5-4 win.

Facing the Chiefs in the semifinal, Ottawa took a 2-2 game into the third period, but when Chilliwack hit the tiebreaker with about ten minutes left, the Junior Senators had no answer, as they fell 3-2.  Veillette and Guy had both of the goals for Ottawa.

For their part in the series, Guy and Veillette have combined for 3 goals and 3 assists.  Guy’s first goal of the tournament helped send the game against Steinbach to overtime.

The last Laker prospect to play in the RBC was Owen Headrick with the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL) in 2015.  The T’Birds made little noise in that rendition of the cup, held in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, as they lost all four games in the round robin.

Among members of the 2017-18 Laker squad, senior Ryan Renz’s Vernon Vipers (BCHL) hosted the Cup and made it to the semifinals.  No current members of the team won the Cup before leaving junior hockey.

Torrel, Cuglietta announced as co-captains for 2018-19 Lakers

SAULT STE. MARIE — Lake Superior State will have co-captains for the upcoming season.

Current juniors Gage Torrel and Diego Cuglietta were announced as team captains for the 2018-19 season by head coach Damon Whitten during the annual Soo Blue Liners Banquet on Thursday.

In addition, junior Anthony Nellis and sophomore Collin Saccoman were named assistant captains.

Torrel, a native of Monticello, Minnesota, served as an assistant captain during the 2017-18 season.  He was named Outstanding Freshman and Offensive Player of the Year during his first season with the Lakers.  In that first season, Torrel was named WCHA Rookie of the Month for December and February.  Over three seasons with the team, he has scored 27 goals and added 30 assists for 57 total points.  This past season, Torrel had 16 points — good for sixth on the team.  He received the Jim Howie Unsung Hero Award at the conclusion of the year.

Cuglietta will don the other C as the most recent recipient of the team MVP award.  A steady point producer from Kamloops, British Columbia, he finished the season tied for 2nd on the team (with Max Humitz) with 23 points.  Known for his speed, Cuglietta has been a presence on the ice in all situations.  Nearly half of his 25 career goals have come on special teams (8 power play goals and 4 shorthanded tallies).

Nellis, another junior forward, has been a consistent contributor for the Lakers in his first three seasons.  His goal total has risen each season, from 4 his freshman year, to 9 the previous year, to 12 this past season.  This season saw the native of Breakyville, Quebec, tally 19 total points.  His previously mentioned 12 goals were 2nd most on the squad last season.  At the recent Awards Banquet, Nellis was named Offensive Player of the Year.

The only one of the captains who will not be a senior next season, Saccoman was noticed right off in his freshman season for his prowess at blocking shots.  His 94 blocks were the most in the WCHA during his freshman year and the 4th most nationally.  Saccoman led the league again last season with 81.  Perhaps most impressive about his total from his sophomore campaign is that he had 11 more blocked shots than the next closest player (Joe Rutkowski of Ferris State), despite playing in just 27 games.  Although he suffered a bit of the sophomore jinx in scoring (18 points in 2016-17 versus 5 in 2017-18), his presence on the blue line is felt.

Cuglietta named MVP at 35th annual Blue Liners Banquet; captains announced

Junior forward Diego Cuglietta was named team MVP for the 2017-18 season at the Soo BlueLiners Banquet on May 3rd.

SAULT STE. MARIE — Junior forward Diego Cuglietta took home the Most Valuable Player award at the 2018 Soo Blue Liners Banquet, held at the Christopher Columbus Hall in Sault Ste. Marie on May 3rd.

The native of Kamloops, British Columbia was named MVP by his teammates at the 35th annual banquet put on by the Blue Liners.

Cuglietta finished the season tied for 2nd on the team in scoring with seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points.  Sophomore Max Humitz matched Cuglietta’s mark, and both were passed by only senior J.T. Henke.

To this point in his Laker career, he has 25 goals and 34 assists for 59 points.  Cuglietta has been a presence in all aspects of the game, as his 12 career special teams goals (8 power play, 4 shorthanded) would indicate.

Breaking from his tradition of waiting until shortly before the season starts, head coach Damon Whitten announced the team captains for the upcoming season, of which Cuglietta was named co-captain, along with Gage Torrel.  Assistant captains were also named, in Anthony Nellis and sophomore defenseman Collin Saccoman.

Taking home the Jim Howie Unsung Hero Award was junior forward Torrel.  Torrel, an assistant captain this season, had been named Outstanding Freshman and Most Valuable Forward in his freshman year.  Although his production dipped off a bit from his first two years, his presence and leadership on the ice was felt by his teammates and coaches.

For the second consecutive year, the Most Improved Player award was presented to a freshman.  Forward Chase Gamelin, a native of Soo, Michigan, followed Brendan McKay as the recipient, who won last year as a freshman.  Gamelin, who did not play until early November, made the most of his time in the lineup, eventually accumulating three assists.  Among them was an assist on a game winner by Anthony Nellis that allowed the Lakers to sweep Alaska Anchorage on the road late in the season.

The Most Valuable Defenseman award was given to a man quite familiar with the award.  Senior Kyle Chatham won the award for the third consecutive year.  A native of Belleville, Illinios, Chatham first was named MVD his sophomore year, the season in which he also was named Most Improved Player.  Following the season, he had a brief stint with the ECHL’s Reading Royals.  Not much of a scorer, Chatham nonetheless did have at least one memorable offensive moment this season, where he drilled a shot from the blue line late in the third period of a tie game to earn the Lakers a win over Ferris State.

The Gay Blade Award, which has held many different interpretations through the years, has been awarded to the player that keeps a positive attitude during the year in recent seasons.  This year’s recipient was Laker newcomer Steven Ruggiero.  A draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks, Ruggiero came to the Lakers via Providence College (Hockey East).  As a transfer, he had to sit out until the mid point of the season, but made himself known both on the ice and in the locker room.

The Outstanding Freshman Award went to Hampus Erikkson, one of three rookie forwards for Lake Superior this season.  Erikkson, who hails from Forsbacka, Sweden, led all freshman in scoring with 4 goals and 6 assists.  He was one of eight players on the team to score double digit points.  Listed at 6’6″, Erikkson was the tallest player on the team this season.

For the third straight year, the Most Valuable Forward was a member of the 2019 graduating class.  Anthony Nellis followed in the footsteps of Torrel (2016) and Mitch Hults (2017) with a fine effort on the ice.  His 19 points were fourth most on the team this season.  Among his 12 goals were two game winners late in the season, both of which came on the road at Alaska Anchorage.  A native of Breakyville, Quebec, Nellis has improved his goal output each season, from four his freshman year, to 9 last year to his 12 this season.

Receiving the BlueLiners Player of the Year was leading scorer J.T. Henke.  Henke, who led the team with 27 points, ends his Laker career with 79 points in three seasons.  After playing his freshman year at the University of Maine (Hockey East), he transferred to Lake Superior, where he quickly became a force in the Lakers’ lineup.  Among his accomplishments are finishing 1st or 2nd in scoring each year he has played for the Lakers, as well as scoring the most recent hat trick for Laker player.  This was the second year he was named BlueLiner Player of the Year, after last season.

In addition to the regular awards, pucks were presented to players for either scoring their first goal or earning their first win (in the case of goaltenders) as a Laker.  The three seniors in attendance (Chatham, Ryan Renz and Aidan Wright) each gave speeches, addressing their time in the Laker program.

 

Miura, Japan earns silver at IIHF World Championship

KAUNAS, Lithuainia — Yuki Miura has a medal at the IIHF World Championships to add to his hockey resume.

The forward for the Lakers spent the last week playing five games in Lithuania for his native Japan in Division I, Group B of the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships.

The Japanese team finished with 2 wins in regulation, plus 2 more in overtime, and one regulation loss.  This placed them in a tie for second place with Estonia; Japan won the tiebreaker due to the head-to-head win in the first game of the tournament.

Japan started out with a 3-2 overtime win over Estonia — a game that proved important later.  They followed it up with a 4-3 win over Croatia before falling 6-1 to host Lithuania.  A 3-2 overtime win over Romania was capped off by their strong showing in a 7-1 win against the Ukranians.

With a little help from Lithuania, who had already secured the gold prior to their 4-1 win over Estonia, the Japanese team clinched the silver.

In the scoring column, Miura finished tied for fifth on the team in scoring with 4 points (0-4—4).

In addition to his scoring, Miura also won 60% of the faceoffs he took — fifth best in the tourney and second best on his team (behind Nakajima Shogo).

The third-youngest player on the team, Miura also fared well in the plus/minus column, finishing +4, good for ninth overall and fifth on his team

 

Soo Blueliners Banquet set for May 3rd

SAULT STE. MARIE —The 37th annual Soo Blue Liners Banquet is coming up.

In a change of pace from years past, the Banquet will be held at the Christopher Columbus Hall at the corner of Sheridan Drive and Brown Street in Sault Ste. Marie.  Prior years have seen the event hosted at the Walker Cisler Centre on the campus of Lake State.

Cost of admission is $23 for adults and $12 for children under the age of 13.  As in the past, parents of the senior players are admitted free of charge.

Tickets for the event must be purchased in advance.  Those interested in obtaining a ticket may do so in any of the following ways:

  • Phone: Hunter Perry, Marketing and Ticket Director, may be reached Monday thru Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at (906) 635-2601.
  • In person: Perry can also sell tickets at the Norris Center Ticket Office during the hours mentioned above.
  • Online: https://lssulakerstickets.universitytickets.com/w/default.aspx

The banquet is scheduled to begin with a social hour around 5:30 p.m.  Dinner will be served at 6 p.m., with the program to follow at 7 p.m.  Presentation of team awards will take place, as well as speeches from the coaches and seniors.

The dinner menu consists of steak rolls, meatballs, chicken, salad, penne macaroni, Italian roasted potatoes, bread & butter, coffee & dessert.  In addition, a cash bar will be present.

“Each year we have our annual hockey awards banquet to recognize and congratulate the seniors on the team, as well as the other players for their achievements during the season,” said Blueliners Vice President Chris Ledergerber. “There are nine player awards, eight of which are voted on by the team.  The ninth, the Blueline Player of the Year, is voted on by the Blue Line club members.”

For more information, contact Ledergerber at (906) 248-5732.

2017-18 Season Wrapup

Editor’s note: This is a repost of the season wrap up from April 9th.  When the site was hacked, this, along with a few other posts, were lost in the recovery process.  We took the most recent version any of us had saved and edited it to complete the wrap up.

At long last, the post we have dreaded all year, the postseason wrapup, is here.

While the season for the Lakers has been done for over a month now, we figured by waiting until college hockey as a whole was done, we could perhaps gain a better view on the season gone by. Simply recaping it right after it was done would have sufficed, but we decided to get nice and lengthy for our readers. That and it was difficult to make time for us to sit down and discuss.

The wrapup is set up differently than most of our series previews and recaps from the season. The format involves one of us reporting on a specific team facet in a straightforward manner, while the other responds in a more laid back and casual manner. We have marked who wrote which part of each topic.

And so…

With the 2017-18 season firmly in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look back and judge the season on what it was and how it played out for Lake Superior State.

The Lakers took another step backward record-wise, finishing with a 10-22-4 record overall and an 8-17-3-0 mark in Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) play. By comparison, the Lakers compiled a league record of 8-13-7 and an overall mark of 11-18-7 in 2016-17.

Offense

Mike:
While it wasn’t evident at first, some major offseason losses appeared to hamper the Lakers, as the departures of Mitch Hults (11-23—34 in 2016-17), Luke Morgan (7-15—22) and defenseman Kris Bindulis (1-11—12), among others. Combined with the graduation of Gus Correale (6-6—12), the Lakers lost nearly one third of their scoring from 2016-17.

While the Lakers did get improved production out of some forwards, such as Jake Hand (7-5—12 in 2017-18 vs 0-3—3 in 2016-17) and Brayden Gelsinger (8-10—18 vs 5-10—15), other forwards seemed snakebit throughout the year, as Gage Torrel (14-8—22) failed to put up the points seen from him in the past (to be fair, Torrel was still 6th on the team in scoring, as he quietly picked up 5 goals and 11 assists).

As for the other big point-producers, many of them replicated their success from previous seasons. While Diego Cuglietta, Max Humitz, Anthony Nellis and J.T. Henke may not have put together breakout-type seasons, they brought the consistency from previous years to the table.

Lake Superior’s newcomers up front unfortunately did not make much noise on the scoresheet. Hampus Erikkson hit double digit points, but the other three freshmen forwards tallied just five points between them. Granted, Chase Gamelin (0-3—3), Alex Ambrosio (0-1—1) and Yuki Miura (0-1—1) did not play full seasons (Ambrosio did not join the team until midseason and Miura was ineligible and injured throughout most of the campaign). Although they did not tally any goals, their presence was certainly noticed, as each of them gave the team a shot in the arm when inserted into the lineup.

Dennis:
I 90% have to agree with Mike’s assessment here. I feel like a lot of us knew that the departures of Hults, Morgan and Bindulis was going to affect the team, but certainly nobody could’ve guessed at just how much. Hults in particular, to myself at least, seemed to score quietly. Maybe it’s just rose-colored glasses, but it seemed like he tallied a ton of points, but it didn’t seem like a big deal. I’ll touch on Bindulis in the Defense section.

Likewise when it comes to Gage Torrell: it wasn’t so much that he had scored quietly, it just took like half the season for him to record any points. If hitting posts or the crossbar counted, Torell could’ve taken the team scoring title.

The additions of Ambrosio and Miura were huge. Ambrosio solidified the middle of the ice and seemed to have a presence on the ice in a way that the Lakers really didn’t have prior to the new year. Having Miura for a full year will certainly make things interesting come the 2018-2019 campaign.

Defense

Mike:
The 2016-17 Lakers D-corps wasn’t exactly wowing the league. With two blueliners departing the team (James Roll via graduation and Bindulis via signing a pro contract), there were bound to be some new faces complementing the returning players, which included three seniors.

Lake Superior had 10 defensemen on the squad. Among them were five newcomers, including Steven Ruggiero, a sophomore transfer from Providence. The native of King’s Park, New York was not eligible for the first half of the year, but was a consistent presence on the ice in the second half of the year.

As for the returning blueliners, Collin Saccoman looked to build on a successful freshman year where he was among the nation’s leaders in blocked shots. Unfortunately, like Käelble, Saccoman was injured in the series at Denver early in the year. As a result, the Lakers were without three of their more mobile defenders for nearly half the season.

Dennis:
Roll also transferred with his final year of eligibility to Niagra, which is closer to home.

Don’t forget that Ruggerio is also a sixth round pick for the Anaheim Ducks.

These two injuries really showed at how shallow the Laker’s blueline was this season. Many nights you had a top pairing of freshmen Tyler Anderson and William Riedell, which to my eyes, did not pass the eye test.

Once Ruggerio was slotted into the lineup, it did get better, with Kyle Chatham really picking up his play to close out his final year at Lake State. It also did not help matters that captain Aiden Wright was often used as a fourth-line winger.

Goaltending 

Dennis:
Goaltending this year was inconsistent. There’s no two ways about it. There was no clear cut winner between veteran Nick Kossoff or young upstart & NAHL star Mareks Mitens. I’m not sure if the same goalie finished both games in a weekend, to be honest. One night, one of the two may stand on his head, yet the next be pulled after a period. This, along with the defense, should be two areas that Whitten & co really need to be focusing on this offseason.

Mike:
Inconsistent probably says it best. The state of the defense in front of the net certainly did not help matters. As an example, the second game at the Three Rivers Classic saw Arizona State pepper Kossoff with nearly 50 shots. While the shots may have not been the best quality, it still says something when that many shots find their way to the goalie.

One bright spot for the netminders was how the four game winning streak stacked up for them. After Kossoff earned a shutout on Friday against Bemidji State, Whitten made the unconventional move of going with Mitens the next night, who promptly had a shutout of his own. The coach explained his reasoning by saying, with sitting Kossoff after his big shutout, it gave him a full week to dwell on it. He further mentioned that, often times, good vibes from a Friday night win are forgotten if Saturday does not go well. Whatever the reasoning, Whitten made the same move the next week at Alaska Anchorage and it paid off with two more wins.

Two other goaltenders were on the Lake Superior roster during the season, neither of whom played any minutes this season. Sophomore Cooper Lukenda departed the team in November for juniors (more on that later), while freshman Roman Bengert was ruled ineligible for the season. From the sounds of things, Bengert will be eligible to play next season.

Special Teams

Dennis:
Despite all that has been said, our penalty kill wasn’t terrible this season, just about the middle of the pack when looking at all 60 division 1 teams (80.6%). Power Play did lag a bit further behind, however, with only 17.7%.

Mike:
Among WCHA teams, the Lakers were 8th in power play percentage and 7th in penalty kill percentage. The old addage of having the sum of the percentages be 100 would show what many already knew — the Lakers had their struggles. Adding them together gets 95.83, short of the ideal 100, but better than Alaska and Michigan Tech, both of whom finished higher in the standings.

Part of the struggles on the power play could stem from a lack of scoring defense. Nearly every successful power play unit out there has one or two blueliners who do a tremendous job of getting the puck to the net. The highest scoring defenseman of the roster this year was Käelble with one goal and six assists.

As for the penalty kill, Whitten is often heard saying the goaltender has to be the best penalty killer. Thinking back, I can’t say as though I recall either netminder allowing in any soft goals while shorthanded. 25 goals were allowed by LSSU while killing penalties.

One interesting statistic concerning special teams is the Lakers had, in league games, the second fewest power play opportunities (113) and the second fewest penalty kill situations (121).

Midseason departures & acquisitions

Mike:
Lake Superior saw considerable action involving midseason acquisitions and departures, as four such events took place throughout the season. In order:

  • Cooper Lukenda (G) — left to play junior hockey with Kemptville (CCHL)

Mike:
The first departure seen this year was of goaltender Lukenda. A sophomore, Lukenda ended his Laker career without ever having played in a game. The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native did not play junior hockey before coming to Lake Superior, and was perhaps not prepared for the level of competition. As of March 20th, he played 20 games with the Kemptville 73’s, accumulating a 4.54 goals against average and an .881 save percentage.

Dennis:
I can’t say it was shocking to see Lukenda go. He may have gotten some actual playing time had he stayed, what with the inconsistent goaltendings, but taking a look at his GAA and SV%, I’m not sure how well he would’ve been able to play had he stayed.

  • C.J. Hayes (F) — Left to play professional hockey with Mississippi (SPHL)

Mike:
Junior forward Hayes played in just five games this season before departing — right before injuries began taking their toll on the forward unit. Hayes signed a pro deal with the Mississippi RiverKings of the Southern Professional Hockey League. After going 2-3—5 in 21 games, the forward found himself playing with the Federal Hockey League’s Watertown Wolves, where he has gone 7-9—16 in just 10 games.

Dennis:
I ran into C.J. right before the start of the season, shortly after the guys came back to town for school. He certainly seemed to have the right attitude, and it’s a shame he didn’t see more ice time before departing the team. But like Lukenda before him, he wasn’t getting any real playing time, so I can hardly blame him. That being said, with all the injuries to the forward unit, C.J. could’ve seen some real minutes had he stuck around.

  • Alex Ambrosio (F) — joined from Coquitlam (BCHL)

Mike:
Brought in over the Christmas break, Ambrosio had played parts of four seasons with the Coquitlam Express of the British Columbia Hockey League. With the injuries sustained by the forward unit, Ambrosio stepped right into the Laker lineup against Bemidji State. Although he only tallied one assist in 14 games, the native of Burnaby, B.C. was very noticeable on the ice, and, apart from scoring, showed little difficulty adjusting to the college game.

Dennis:
I can’t say enough about this kid. Mid-season acquisitions seem to be rare in the college world, and making the switch and traveling almost an entire continent, Ambrosio really shone through the darkness that was the start of the second half of the year. He helped solidify the middle of the ice, and though he is only listed at 5’10”, he was not afraid to drive the net, or get into those dirty areas. Having a full offseason dedicated to college hockey will make this kid a force come next season.

  • Josh Nenadal (F) – left team

Mike:
Junior forward Nenadal found himself separated from the team following an off-ice incident in December. While little was said by the coaching staff, it was generally understood that Nenadal was still a member of the team. That appeared to change after another off-ice incident in late January, when he was identified as the male suspect that knocked over an ice sculpture in front of Cup of the Day. After that incident, his name was removed from the team roster. Although there has been no word from the team since, the removal of his name can best be interpreted as his dismissal from the team.

Dennis:
In the weeks leading up to his initial dismissal from the team in December, the team was really starting to sink after having a decent start to the season. After being told he was still with the team, just suspended (essentially), play did not initially improve. It wasn’t until the Cup of the Day incident, and his removal from the roster, that play seemed to improve. Hopefully without Nenedal returning next season (presumably, at least), the future is looking brighter for the Lakers, as it seems like whatever dark cloud was hovering over the locker room is now gone.

I personally have a lot of questions surrounding how the Nenedal incident was handled, but as it’s been proven time and time again, it’s hard to get any real information out of the locker room, so we may never know key details to it all.

The Final Word (a.k.a. TL;DR)

Dennis:
While the forward unit seemed to be snake bitten for most of the season, I feel like a large part of the issues came down to the back end of play. Inconsistent play from the blue line helped lead to inconsistencies in net. Combine all this with a questionable locker room atmosphere (there was a players-only meeting in December), and you’re going to have a bad time.

Mike:
The front unit did seem snakebitten at times, but to be fair, the Lakers had the 2nd best offense out of the four years that Whitten has been at the helm. It does feel as though many of the issues were tied into the defense. With three blueliners graduating this year (all of whom logged significant time in their careers), it will be up to the next classes to come in and fill those skates. There was much potential on display, particularly from the players who played little due to injuries and eligibility. It has me wondering what a full season from them will look like. All in all, there is promise for the future.

Is it October yet?

About the 2017-18 NLI Signees

SAULT STE. MARIE — Lake Superior State has been rather busy during the spring signing period.

Nine players were signed during the signing period, which began on April 12th.  Of those nine, five were inked the first day, with the other four signing over the course of the next few days.

Here is how the signings break down, including the lone signing from the fall period:

Position
Forwards: 7
Defense: 3

League
NAHL: 4
USHL: 1
BCHL: 2
CCHL: 1
OJHL: 1
J20 SuperElit: 1

Nationality
U.S.: 3 (Mich x2, Wisconsin)
Canada: 3 (BC, Ontario, Quebec)
Sweden: 2
France: 1
Slovakia: 1

 

Dustin Manz / Forward / 5-10 / 194lbs/ Vanderbilt, Mich. / Prince George Spruce Kings (BCHL)

Taking a look at the forwards, two Americans, Dustin Manz and Spencer DenBeste, were among those who signed.  Both Manz and DenBeste hail from Michigan — DenBeste from Marquette and Manz from Vanderbilt (about 45 minutes south of the Mackinac Bridge).

Manz spent the 2017-18 season with Prince George of the BCHL.  There, he had 15 goals and 28 assists for 43 points in 58 games.  The previous season saw him in the NAHL.

This past season, Manz’ Spruce Kings finished atop the Mainland Divsion.  From there, they went on a run to the BCHL Finals, where they ultimately fell to Wenatchee, who moved on to the Doyle Cup.

Spencer DenBeste / Forward / 6-0 / 185lbs / Marquette, Mich. / Springfield Junior Blues (NAHL)
DenBeste is in his second season in the NAHL.  With the Springfield Jr. Blues, DenBeste had 6 goals and 3 assists for 9 points in 27 games.  Hockey fans around Sault Ste. Marie may recognize DenBeste for his time with the Soo Indians, where he played two seasons before moving on to the NAHL.

Pierre-Luc Veillette / Forward / 5-10 / 170lbs / Drummondville, Québec / Ottawa Junior Senators (CCHL)

Two more forwards hail from north of the border.  Pierre-Luc Veillette and Jesse Tucker have spent the 2017-18 season in the CCHL and OJHL, respectively.

Viellette averaged better than a point per game (33-32—65) with the Ottawa Jr. Senators, enabling him to be the second highest scorer on the team and the 5th highest scorer in the CCHL.  He is one of three signees born in 1997.  The Junior Sens capped off CCHL play with a win over the Carleton Place Canadians en route to winning the league’s Bogart Cup and a spot in the Fred Page Cup tournament.

Following the regular season, Viellette was named to the league’s All Star Third Team.

Jesse Tucker / Forward / 5-11 / 175lbs / Longlac, Ontario / North York Junior Rangers (OJHL)
Tucker, who was selected with the 231st pick in the 2016 Ontario Hockey League draft (12th round), averaged just under a point per game, as he had 17 goals and 33 assists for 50 points in 52 games.  For his efforts, Tucker was invited to the CJHL Top Prospects Game, held in January of 2018 in Mississauga, Ontario.

Tucker has a twin brother, Tyler, who is currently signed with the OHL’s Barrie Colts.  Born in 2000, Tucker is the youngest signee of the period.

The final three forwards all come from Europe — a growing trend for the Lakers in recent years.  Two were born in 1998 while the third is a 1997 birth year.

Louis Boudon / Forward / 5-11 / 165lbs / Grenoble, France / Northeast Generals (NAHL)

Louis Boudon, a Frenchman, signed with Lake Superior partway thru this past season with the Northeast Generals of the NAHL.  As a member of the club from Attleboro, Massachusetts, Boudon was, like Tucker, just under a point per game (17 goals and 32 assists in 51 games).   During this past year, he also played for his native France in the Under-20 World Junior Championships.  In five games, he had four points (2-2—4), as France took fourth place in Division I, Group A.

Miroslav Mucha / Forward / 6-1 / 197lbs / Bytca, Slovakia / Minot Minotauros (NAHL)
From Eastern Europe, Miroslav Mucha has spent the last two seasons in the NAHL with the Minot Minotauros.  He improved upon his 2016-17 campaign (2-10—12 in 47 games) with a 30 goal and 25 assist showing in 2017-18.

Melvin Karlsson / Forward / 6-2 / 195lbs / Angelholm, Sweden / Rögle BK (J20 Superelit)

Finally, there is Melvin Karlsson, the first of two Swedes signed during the period.  Karlsson is the first signee under Whitten, and maybe the first Laker signee since joining the NCAA, that has not yet played junior hockey in North America.  Instead, he has played in the Swedish SuperElit League.

Rounding out the signees are three defensemen.  The three blue liners are a bit of a mixed bag, as they range from 5’9” up to 6’3”, and hail from Canada, the U.S. and Sweden.

Mitchell Oliver / Defense / 6-0 / 195lbs / Kelowna, British Columbia / Alberni Valley Bulldogs (BCHL)
The oldest of the group, Mitchell Oliver, has completed his fourth season in the BCHL.  After having spent the past few years with the Vernon Vipers (plus a partial season in the Alberta League), he donned an “A” with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs this past season, where he racked up 12 goals and 27 assists in 54 games.

Jacob Nordqvist / Defense / 5-9 / 180lbs / Gothenburg, Sweden/ Madison Capitols and Fargo Force (USHL)

Next down the list age-wise is Jacob Nordqvist.  A Swede, he spent the past couple of years in the Swedish SuperElit League like Karlsson.  2017-18 saw him jump to the USHL, where he split the season with the Fargo Force and the Madison Capitols.  With his time divided between the two teams, Nordqvist tallied 3 goals and 11 assists during the season.
Alec Semandel / Defense / 6-3 / 200 / Waunakee, Wisc. / Janesville Jets (NAHL)

Rounding out the signees is Alec Semandel.  A native of Waunakee, Wisconsin, he has spent the last two seasons with the NAHL’s Janesville Jets.  His 17 points on the season (4 goals, 13 assists) matched up perfectly with his +17, placing him second among team defensemen.  Semandel has been a part of a very successful Jets team, who last season claimed a division title, a conference title and was a semi-finalist for the Robertson Cup, the cup awarded to the NAHL playoff champion.  As of this writing, Semandel’s Jets are continuing their push through the playoffs in a second round matchup with defending Robertson Cup champs Fairbanks.

While it is unclear when each player will join the Lakers, the 1997 birth year players (Mucha, Veillette and Oliver) will have to come in this season to avoid losing any years of eligibility.  It is conceivable that any player could come in next year, depending on many factors, including roster needs, readiness of the player and more.