Category: Series Previews

Series Preview: Barrett Wedding

 

Brittany & Mike Record (as of 10/13/2018): 2243.5-0-0

 

“A long time ago in a (county) far, far away…”

So, normally in this spot we’d be talking about who the Lakers are playing this weekend, and look at the matchup, but this week we have an exhibition series against NIppising University, which will likely be more about line combinations than anything else.

Instead, there is a more important match being made this weekend, and that’s the wedding of two of my best friends, Brittany Litchard and Mike Barrett. It’s been six long years since they’ve started dating, and after about a year of being engaged, they will finally be tying the knot. But how did we get to this point?

“…That’s the beauty of music. They can’t get that from you…”

Mike & Brittany started dating in the waning days of the summer of 2012. I had known Brittany for about a year, as she had previously dated one of my roommates in college. My only impression of Mike at the time was based off of what Brittany had told me about him, which painted him in a much different light than how he was.

Having moved back to the Sault at the tail end of that year, after graduating in April, I’ve been lucky enough to witness their relationship grow. They’ve been through some trying times together and have come out on top.

It’s certainly a cliché to say that a couple is perfect for each other, but for these two, it seems to hold true. A weakness of one is the strength of another, and because of that both have grown in ways that nobody could’ve expected having seen them together in their early days.

 

Saturday will mark their 2243rd day as a couple. Surrounded by a slew of family and friends, they will tie the knot near the Straits of Mackinac, which fittingly joins two of the Great Lakes, Michigan and Huron. It’ll mark the end of one six year journey and the start of the rest of their lives.

From me, personally, I just want to thank Mike and Brittany for allowing me to be a part of their special day & a part of their lives. Congratulations.

Series Preview: Lake Superior State @ Merrimack

Merrimack: 0-0-0

LSSU: 0-0-0

 

Merrimack’s Mother is making Scott Borek Marry Merrimack

This weekend will have a couple of familiar faces for long time Laker fans. Former LSSU bench boss Scott Borek (LSSU record of 76-94-15 between 1996-2001) is now the head coach of the Merrimack Warriors, after spending some time as an assistant at the University of New Hampshire (2002-2015) & most recently with Providence (2015-2018). 

Joining him on the bench is recent LSSU grad and defenseman Matt McArdle. McArdle while with the Lakers played in 83 games and tallied a total of 10 points. He was able to transfer as a graduate at the end of last season, and it appears he moved back east, though I’d like to believe he just got a bit confused since both the Warriors and Lakers wear the same colored uniforms.

The Warriors lost their top 3 point scorers last season, but looks like they, like the Lakers, return all three of their goaltenders. There isn’t much else to be said about this team, with it being the first weekend of the season, but they do have a Winnipeg draft pick on their team in Johnathan Kovacevic (74th overall, 2017), but they were picked to be dead last in the Hockey East.

 

“There’s this neat little lass and her name is (Merrimack)/Make no mistake, she’s the girl I’m gonna track”

After a four year contract extension this past summer, head coach Damon Whitten is back for his fifth year behind the Laker’s bench. He is joined again by long time NHLer Mike York and newly hired Zack Cisek. The trio have a few things in common: They are all from down state & are graduates of Michigan State. This has nothing to do with the series, but it is a ‘fun’ fact.

I’m going to opt to link to our season preview here rather than talk about who the Lakers are returning and such (remember, work smart, not hard). 

Now, while the Lakers were not listed as last in the WCHA in either the coach’s or media polls (that honor went to Alaska-Anchorage), there are many that think the Lakers will again miss playoffs this year, so both of these teams have that in common. This weekend’s series will be a good indicator as to what we may expect to see for the rest of the season. But it is important to remember that it’s also a 15 hour bus ride for our boys in blue.

This is also the first time since playing Vermont in the Catamount Cup in 2015-2016 that the Lakers have seen a Hockey East team, and the first series since Notre Dame in 2014-2015.

 

For you Laker fans out east, the games will be held at the J. Thom Lawler Rink in North Andover, MA at 7pm Saturday and 4pm Sunday. For those who cannot go to the game, like most of us, YesFM will be streaming the games at http://www.yesfm.net, though I am not sure if it will be the Merrimack feed or if the great Bill Crawford is making the journey. In order to stream the game, you will need to purchase a 24 hour pass from https://merrimackathletics.com/watch/, which will cost $6.95. It also appears that Merrimack is offering the audio for this weekend’s series for free if there are any issues with the YesFM stream.

2018-19 Season Preview

SAULT STE. MARIE — Season number 53 of Laker hockey is ready to commence.

The Lake Superior State Lakers will begin their fifth season under head coach Damon Whitten on October 7th, as they travel to North Andover, Massachusetts to face the Merrimack Warriors.

The 2017-18 Lakers finished 10-22-4 overall, and 8-17-3 in conference play, losing out on the final playoff spot on the last day of the regular season.  Lake Superior hopes to return to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) playoff picture.

Before the season gets underway, a quick look at the roster is in order.  21 players return to the squad.  Joining them are eight newcomers all of whom are freshmen.  Four members (one forward and three defensemen) were lost to graduation and two (one forward and one defenseman) did not return.

As we did in our season wrapup back in the spring, both of us are putting our own thoughts on each position as we go along.

Offense:

Dennis: Of the eight freshmen, five are forwards, including local standout Ashton Calder.  Also new to the team is Pierre-Luc Veillette, Miroslav Mucha, Melvin Karlsson & Owen Guy. There is one thing this whole class has, and that is scoring ability. Each one of these guys were either above, or just below, the point-a-game mark. This is huge, although Karlsson, coming from Sweden, would’ve played on the larger ice surface so let’s hope his game transitions well onto the North American sheet.

In addition to the freshmen, we have plenty of returning firepower, including captain Diego Cuglietta and speedster Max Humitz (who had a team high 13 goals last year). The rest of the stable also look solid, but personally I am excited to see what Yuki Miura will do with a full season under his belt, as he was hindered by injury and NCAA clearing issues for most of last season, along with relative newcomer Alex Ambrosio who really impressed me when he came in after the holiday break.

Mike: Cuglietta, along with Gage Torrel, will be co-captains this season and fellow senior Anthony Nellis will don an A as an alternate captain.  All three have been productive throughout their time in Sault Ste. Marie and are poised for big years as seniors. While Torrel did seem snakebitten last season, he still had 16 points, good for 6th on the team. The three seniors all saw their production go down a bit in 2017 — Torrel’s was just the most noticeable.

In addition to J.T. Henke, who graduated, the Lakers will also not see Jake Hand return.  Early last season, it looked as though the Torontonian was going to break out. While he did have a career high 12 points, much of his production came early in the year as he was unable to keep his success going.

There are eight upperclassmen forwards on this squad, which the Lakers haven’t seen in many years.  The majority of them have been major point producers in their time here (each has at least two double digit point seasons), but the likes of Bryan Basilico, Ian Johnston and Brendan McKay have struggled to get on the score sheet.  Basilico had four points in 2017-18, which was the most for any of the three in their first two seasons. Good play can be contagious, however, so maybe if the rest of the offense can be productive, it can rub off on these guys too.

Defense:

Mike: On the blueline, Lake Superior lost four defensemen, all of whom saw significant time in their Laker careers. Captain Aidan Wright, assistant captain Ryan Renz and three-time recipient of the team’s Most Valuable Defenseman award Kyle Chatham, all graduated last spring.  Throw in Matt McArdle, who will be playing as a graduate transfer at Merrimack, and the Lakers have lost a group that logged many minutes on the back end.

Sophomores Tyler Anderson and Will Reidell saw plenty of action in their rookie season.  While it was apparent that they were fresh to the college level, they showed flashes of promise.  It awaits to be seen how they will develop.

Dennis: This is the most worrisome part. We lost some very solid players. It’s hard to gauge defensemen using websites like Elite Prospects, since it doesn’t show time on ice, but I feel comfortable saying that Mitchell Oliver, an incoming freshman, will be picking up a lot of that slack. Oliver, in 54 games as the captain of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs of the BCHL logged an impressive 39 points while also earning 64 penalty minutes. In the playoffs, he had six points in seven games.

(editor’s note: on the October 2nd edition of the Laker Hockey Show, Whitten said it’s looking as though Oliver may not be eligible this season due to an academic requirement)

But also returning are juniors Collin Saccoman and Steven Ruggerio, along with sophomore Lukas Kälble. Saccoman and Kälble both were hurt on the Denver trip last season, which crippled the team, and Ruggerio, an Anaheim Ducks draft pick (2015, #178 overall) , was dealing with his own injuries while sitting out for half the year due to him transferring from Providence. When these three guys were healthy though, the team changed completely. We also didn’t see much of Bennet Vida last season, outside of some of the exhibition games, where he looked solid, but apparently needed some more time to develop.

Even with these returning players, along with the incoming players, I’m nervous about injuries, and who we have to step into those roles. I’m hoping whomever the odd-men out are really stepped up their game in the offseason.

Goaltending:

Dennis: There isn’t much to say here. We return all three of our goalies (Roman Bengert did not play last season). There are some questions going into the season though. The Kossoff/Mitens tandem was shakey to say the least last season, but each showed flashes of brilliance. Nick really needs to return to his freshman form. Mareks’ goaltending style seems to be really flashy, which can be fun to watch, but if he doesn’t get that puck, he seems to find himself on the ice, scrambling to get back up. Honestly, I don’t care if that’s the case as long he can recover quickly and not let in soft goals.

But with Roman seemingly ready to go this season, having a third goalie push the starting two, whomever they may be. Competition is a good thing.

Mike: The only time we’ve seen Bengert in any kind of action was during last year’s Blue vs Gold game.  In that game, he had very little to do, as most of the action was in the other end in his period of play.

While we did see more goalie changes than usual last season, I don’t believe we can fully fault the guys between the pipes.  When they could see the shots, they were stopping them most of the time. Kossoff had a save percentage of .911 while Mitens was at .897.  Often times, coaches use pulling a goaltender as a move to try and energize the team. It’s also worth noting that Kossoff played the game of his life in Denver last season, making 63 saves on 66 shots and setting a school record in the process.

Coaching staff:

Mike: Damon Whitten, as mentioned, is back for his fifth season behind the Laker bench.  In his first four seasons, he has compiled a record of 43-80-18. The Brighton, Michigan native signed a four year extension during the off season, meaning expectations are high that Whitten will be able to turn the team around.  Also returning is assistant coach Mike York, who will be in his second season with the Lakers.

Perhaps the most notable news to affect the Lakers over the summer was the departure of assistant coach Rich Metro.  A Sault native, Metro accepted an offer to coach the boys U-16 team at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minnesota. One of the most prestigious prep schools in the nation, SSM gains Metro after spending eight years (in two stints) behind the bench at Lake Superior.

Replacing Metro is a Zach Cisek (pronounced SIZE-ick).  A graduate of Michigan State, Cisek spent a couple of seasons at Miami University as a graduate assistant before moving on to Notre Dame.  A former goaltender, he worked closely with their goaltenders, including Cale Morris, who went on to win the Mike Richter Award as the top collegiate goaltender.

Dennis: While this isn’t the place to debate coach Whitten’s extension, I think that will be a sort of cloud hanging over his head heading into the season. I also don’t have much to add concerning Mike York or Zach Cisek. I do hope that Coach York will continue to impress upon the players, namely forwards, what it takes to be successful on the ice, seeing as he played in 579 NHL games. Also to note, Zach Cisek helped Notre Dame to a Frozen Four appearance last season, ultimately losing to winners Minnesota-Duluth.

But the loss of Rich Metro is the biggest news going into the season. We’ve heard all sorts of rumors about how the coaching staff got along, but Rich always felt like he was kind of the emotional core of the staff, never seemed to have a bad thing to say about anybody and would spin even the worst trait into something to look forward to – that’s something that’s hard to replicate. But these things should serve him well at Shattuck.

Schedule: Following with the four year pattern the WCHA appears to be following with its scheduling, the Lakers will essentially play a similar slate to their 2016-17 campaign.  The five squads they played four times that season (Ferris State, Minnesota State, Alabama Huntsville, Northern Michigan and Alaska) will be seen four times this year. Michigan Tech and Bemidji State play the Lakers twice in Sault Ste. Marie, while Alaska Anchorage and Bowling Green will host Lake Superior in their only meetings of the season.

As per usual, Ferris State will be the final opponent of the regular season.  Unlike last season, the games will be at the Taffy Abel Arena, meaning the home slate will not end in January this year.

The non-conference schedule is a mixed bag; Lake Superior will host Michigan, travel to Merrimack, and play Michigan State and either Michigan Tech or Michigan again at the Great Lakes Invitational (GLI).

Michigan returns to the Soo for the first time since the dissolution of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA).

As mentioned, the Lakers will open their season against Merrimack — only the second Hockey East school (after Vermont) that Lake Superior has faced since Whitten became head coach.  This series is full of intrigue, as former Lakers head coach Scott Borek was named bench boss of the Warriors in May.

Finally, the Lakers will be making a return to the GLI in Detroit for the first time since 1999.  The GLI has been held annually since 1965 and has traditionally involved Michigan Tech, Michigan, Michigan State and a fourth team chosen at-large.  This will be the Lakers fourth appearance. They finished 3rd in 1977, 2nd in 1996 and 4th in 1999.

Outlook:

Mike: On paper, there are many things to look at that both give hope and cause concern.  The question marks on the blue line and the comparatively down years of some players on the forward unit do raise some concerns.  On the flipside, the goaltending showed last season that it could keep the team in a game. And while some of the big point producers of years past had down years in 2017-18, the law of averages says they should be able to bounce back this year.

Unlike in previous seasons, the Lakers looked better after Christmas than before.  Maybe it was the team jelling, maybe it was the presence of Ruggiero, Miura and Ambrosio in the lineup.  Nobody can argue February was a bad month with four straight road wins. On paper, the team should be able to build off that late season push and put the rest of the WCHA on notice.  On paper.

In practice…that awaits to be seen.

Dennis: A number of fans have been asking how I think the team will do this year, and my standard reply is thus: On paper, I think this team has the skill to shock not only the league, but the NCAA at large. With these powerhouse freshman forwards coming in, along with some leadership on the back end, the Lakers are poised to make their games a high scoring affair.

However, there is one big unknown stopping me from getting too excited: the coaching staff.

I had a paragraph set up talking about why, but I think summarizing it up with Coach Whitten’s overall record of 43-90-18 over his first four years tells the story here. Lake States’ new Athletic Director David Paitson must have seen something in Whitten to give him a four year extension with that record, and he does have a bit of hockey operations experience, so like most of last season, I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt here, but the extension does have many fans worried, so the team will have to have continual success throughout the season, not just a hot streak at the start and end of the season like we experienced last year.

 

Series Preview: Lake Superior State @ Ferris State

Ferris State: 2016: 13-19-5 2017: 12-21-1

Lake Superior State: 2016: 11-18-7 2017: 10-20-4

 

“It’s the Final Countdown!” – Europe

 

This is it, boys and girls. We’re in the final week of the 2017-2018 WCHA regular season, and it all comes down to this. While there are other games to watch, these two teams control their own playoff destinies.

The Bulldogs had a rough weekend, facing off against #5 Minnesota State in Mankato, dropping both games – Friday 7-1, then Saturday 4-2.

This year’s Ferris State team has three 20+ point scorers in Corey Mackin (8-14-22), Mitch Maloney (13-8-21) and Ryker Kilins (8-13-21), with Kilins being the lone defenseman of the group. In net, the two goaltenders, Darren Smith (junior) and Justin Kapelmaster (sophomore) have split time in the next 20 games to 17 and they have similar stats to each other, so once again we have a team with competent goaltenders.

I, for one, believe this Bulldog team is better than what they’ve been this year, so the Laker cannot sleep on this team.

“Do-do-do do dooooo” – also Europe

If you would have told us, or any other Laker fan at the end of December through January that the Lakers would be fighting for a playoff spot, we would have laughed at you, after going through a large losing streak that involved a few shutouts and poor overall play. The last two weeks they have been in action (before the bye last week), has put their fate in their hands.

As stated in Mike’s article from last weekend, the bottom four teams are only separated by three points, with both UAH and Alaska being tied at 30 points, Ferris at 28, and the Lakers out of the picture at 27. Alaska plays in-state rivals Anchorage who has already been elimated from the playoffs, while Huntsville faces off against Bowling Green.

So, what does this mean? It means that even if the Lakers split the weekend in Big Rapids, there is a chance they make the playoffs. Getting at least 4 points on the weekend is what we really have to hope for, as that will put us past either Alaska or Huntsville, assuming one gets swept. A sweep on the weekend would guarantee at least the final playoff spot, with a potential to get a better matchup.

It’s possible that the Lakers will know their playoff fates at the end of the game Saturday, but it could come down to the Alaska series, which you can almost guarantee they will be listening to on the 5+ hour drive back to the Soo.

The Lakers have been scoring by committee these last few weeks, but of course are still led by senior J.T Henke, who has 27 points on the season, followed by Max Humitz (13-9-22) and Diego Cuglietta (7-15-22). Despite the lack of point production, coming onto the team late in the season, Alexandro Ambrosio, Yuki Miura and Steven Ruggiero have seemed to give this team more depth, speed and hope.

Statistically speaking, Nick Kossoff is still the clear-cut better goalie on this Laker team, but again over the last couple of weekends, former NAHL standout goalie Mareks Mitens has started to close that gap and assuming both goalies stay with the team come the offseason, I fully expect to see either a true goalie tandem, or a really fun fight for that starter slot.

Despite all of this, nothing is guaranteed this weekend. The Lakers have only won a single game cleanly at Ewigleben Arena since the 2009 season and recording a shootout win during this time frame too. But if there a time to rewrite that narrative, it’s this weekend.

As usual, YESFm will have the game locally at 99.5 or online at www.yesfm.net, or through the TuneIn app on your smartphone. WCHA.tv will have a live video feed of the game if you want to watch first hand.

Series Preview: Lake Superior State @ Alaska Anchorage

 

Alaska Anchorage 2016: 7-21-6 2017: 2-22-4
Lake Superior State 2016: 11-18-7 2017: 8-20-4

Pairwise #57 meets #60
To say it’s been a disappointing season for these two clubs would be an understatement, and neither had much to build off of from the end of last season.

The Seawolves of Alaska Anchorage ended last season with 7 wins on the season, but have only won two contests this season – one coming from Lake Superior State and the other from Alabama-Huntsville, though to their credit they’ve also won three games in the shootout and somehow managed to tie North Dakota, then ranked #7 at the Ralph.

It’s not hard to see why when looking at the stat sheet. They’re led in scoring by senior forward Austin Azurdia, who has 11-5-16 in 23 games this season. Following him you have (A)Tad Kozun, another senior forward with 5-8-13 in 27 games.

In net you have the outstanding Olivier Mantha, now a senior he has played in all but 151 minutes, but has a 3.58 GAA and a .900 Save %. I say outstanding since, despite the team he has in front of him, he has played fairly well, peaking at a .913 Save % and a 2.82 GAA last season. He’s been the backbone of these Seawolves, having played in 118 games and totaling 6730:51 minutes in his career going into the final weeks of the season. He is currently #3 in the number of shots he has faced this season with 920 and has had to face 3671 shots so far in his career – it’s not wonder some of the scores get run up with nobody playing defense in front of him.

While technically not out of the playoffs, as they could potentially catch up to Ferris State (they are 16 points behind), they’d have to essentially sweep the next three weekends & get a lot of help along the way.

Late Season Lakers Surge Forward

Everybody listening to the Bemidji State homers on the radio last weekend, or anyone following our coverage here at LakerHockeyBlog probably had the same sort of reaction to last weekend’s 4-goal shutout sweep of the Beavers: Excitement with a touch of anger or annoyance.

The Bemidji State Beavers are a good team: they now have a 14-10-6 record, with one of the top goaltenders in the country backing them up, yet this Lake State team, led by forwards J.T Henke (9-16-25), Max Humitz (12-9-21) and Diego Cuglietta (7-14-21), and being backstopped by Nick Kossoff Friday night and Mareks Mitens Saturday night managed to pull off two 2-0 shutout wins, marking both the first sweep of the season, the first conference shutout of the year (they did shut out the USNTDP 6-0 in exhibition play), and also marked the freshman goalie Miten’s first collegiate shutout, facing and turning away 36 shots.

Last weekend should power the Lakers into their final two series of the year: this week against UAA before going on a bye week, then traveling to Big Rapids to potentially fight for the final playoff spot. But what needs to happen to get there?

The first step is that Lake State needs to sweep Alaska Anchorage this weekend in regulation, giving us six points totaling 27 on the season – one behind the Bulldogs. Ferris is off this week, but will face #5 Minnesota State-Mankato next weekend. We have to hope that Mankato does their job and sweep Ferris, leading up to a very interesting Friday night matchup on February 23rd, and potentially a nailbiter on the 24th.

But even if the Lakers miss playoffs this year, having a late season surge in spite of one of their own getting into trouble around town should be a motivating factor going into next season, barring any early departures.

Puck drops in Alaska at 11:07 ET and can be heard locally on 99.5 YesFM or on the web at yesfm.net. As always, you can view the games live on WCHA.tv.

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.

Series Preview: #15 Bowling Green @ Lake Superior State -Check.Slash.Survive & Senior Night

 

#15 Bowling Green: 2016: 21-18-2 2017: 14-8-6
Lake Superior State: 2016: 11-18-7 2017: 6-18-4

“The quality of a decision is like the well-time swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.” – Sun Tzu
This week brings the #15 Bowling Green Falcons to the Taffy Abel Arena for a two game set. The team is led in scoring by defenseman Alec Rauhauser (6-22-27), but it’s the senior forward and captain of the Falcons Mitchell McLain (12-8-20) that leads in goals.
In net, Bowling Green has seemed to go with a full goalie-tandom. Sophomore Ryan Bednard has appeared in 17 games and holds a 7-4-4 record & has a GAA of 2.23 and a .914 Save %. Freshman eric Dop has appeared in 14 games and holds a very similar record at 7-4-2, with a 2.63 GAA and .899 Save %. Most weeks you hope to face off against the backup in at least one game to try and steal points, but not this weekend – both goalies will be tough opponents.
Bowling Green has been riding high since the Great Lakes Invitational, having won that tournament and sweeping two of the three series that has followed since that time, beating both Ferris State in Big Rapids and Alaska Anchorage. They did lose against Northern Michigan, but there aren’t many who haven’t this season.
“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort for each individual” – Vince Lombardi
Despite the results, the last two weeks has seen a resurgence of the Lakers in terms of effort and how they look out on the ice, which may bode well for coach Damon Whitten who will be looking for an extension at the end of the season, but the effort seems too little too late.
As it stands, the Lakers are currently out of the playoff picture, sitting in at #9 & 7 points being Ferris State, meaning even if they sweep the weekend, and Ferris drops both games against Michigan Tech, we will still be a point out of playoffs going into the final month of the regular season. The decision is largely out of the Lakers hands at this point, as they will need help from the teams above them in addition to winning.
The Lakers are led in scoring by senior J.T Henke (8-16-24) and led in net by junior Nick Kossoff (21GP, 5-10-2), who has a 3.16 GAA and a .907 Save %.

This weekend we will have two events happening, both on Saturday: The first is Check.Slash.Survive, which was previously known as Pink in the Rink. It was changed this season so that would help share awareness for more than just breast cancer. Apparel will be sold at the arena, along with a raffle and silent auction for jerseys that will be worn during the game. For more information on this event, please look for their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages.
The second is the Blueliners annual Senior Night celebration, which will once again be held (sadly) BEFORE Saturday night’s game – between the pre-game warmups and puck drop. This year the club will be recognizing four seniors – the solo forward J.T Henke, and defensemen Kyle Chatam, captain Aiden Wright and assistant captain Ryan Renz.

Puck drops at 7:07pm both nights, and can be heard locally on 99.5 YesFM in the Sault, online at www.yesfm.net , or you can watch online at WCHA.tv

Series Preview: LSSU @ Northern Michigan

 

Northern Michigan: 2016: 13-22-4 2017: 13-10-3

Lake Superior State: 2016: 11-18-7 2017: 6-16-4

 

Cappo Cup Finale for the Cats

After being picked to come in seventh by the preseason polls, the NMU Wildcats are proving haters wrong. After sweeping #14 Bowling Green last weekend, the Cats have already tied their total wins from last year, and currently three points ahead of the Falcons in second place within the WCHA, but are a solid 8 points behind league leaders Minnesota State.

They are led by three upperclassmen forwards, Try Loggins (11-14-25), Adam Rockwood (4-21-25) & Robbie Payne (17-6-23), and being backstopped by the Finnish goaltender Atte Tolvanen, who has posted a 11-5-1 record, with a 2.58 GAA and .907 save %.

The Cats will be on their own ice, which being an Olympic sheet will give them a natural advantage over the Lakers.

Two Wins for the Cup

The Lakers & Wildcats played a home-and-home nonconference series earlier this season, with each team winning on their own ice. Currently the Lakers are behind the Cats with a -1 goal differential if the teams split the weekend, without the Lakers outscoring NMU on the weekend. That’s a steep mountain to climb considering what this team has done in the past few months.

Last weekend being the exception. While the Lakers were shutout Friday night against Ferris State (4-0), the team, to my eyes, played with a bit of spark and teamwork – something we haven’t seen for most of the year. This proved helpful in Saturday nights 5-3 win, where the team won by committee: Each of LSSU’s 5 goals came from a different scorer, and the only player to net more than one assist was Diego Cuglietta.

If the Lakers can use this past weekend as a launching pad for the next few weeks, they stand a chance at getting a place in the playoffs, but regardless of if they win or not, the decision is largely out of their hands.

You can listen to the Voice of the Lakers Bill Crawford locally on 99.5 YesFM. If the audio stream is working, the game can also be heard online at www.yesfm.net, as well as watch the game on WCHA.tv. Puck drops at 7:00pm both nights.

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.

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.