Category: Series Previews

Preview – Lakers at Three Rivers Classic

PITTSBURGH – Lake Superior State will participate in its third holiday tournament in four years under head coach Damon Whitten as they take on the Colonials of Robert Morris tonight at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. 

In each of the last two holiday tourneys, the Lakers have played the host in their first game, as they played Cornell in the 2014 Florida College Hockey Classic and Vermont in the 2015 Catamount Cup.  This year is no different, as the Colonials are the host team of the Three Rivers Classic.

About the Colonials

Robert Morris (7-11-1, 7-7-1 Atlantic Hockey) has won the tourney three times since the Classic was established in 2012.  They claimed the inaugural title and have won the last two.

The Colonials have been led by seniors Brady Ferguson (10-13-23) and Michael Louria (9-13-22).  Luke Lynch, a sophomore, has put up 11 goals on the year thus far.  While the team has not had any success in non-conference play, these forwards have not exactly been held in check by their opponents, as each has had at least 3 points against non-conference foes.

On the blueline, Robert Morris does not have much in the way of scoring defense, as Eric Israel (2-9-11) is the only one in double digit points.  

Between the pipes, sophomore Francis Marotte has seen the bulk of the action, as he comes into the tournament 7-7-1 overall, with a 2.87 goals against and a .909 save percentage.  Senior Andrew Pikul has played in four games, sporting a 0-4-0 record, a .881 SV% and a rather husky 4.48 GAA.

Robert Morris comes into the game after the same layoff most college hockey teams have had.  In their last series, the Colonials swept a home-and-home with Mercyhurst, which snapped a four game skid.

The winner of this game will face the winner of the Providence/Arizona State game, which is the early game.  The loser will take on the loser of the first game in the early contest Saturday, while the winners from day one will compete in the nightcap Saturday for the Classic championship.

About the Friars

Providence (10-7-1, 6-4-1 Hockey East) comes in ranked 9th in the country in the USCHO Poll.  The Friars have been ranked in the poll each week since the season began – an impressive feat, especially when considering that Providence has not won more than two games in a row all year and hasn’t even done that since beating UMass and Merrimack on November 11 & 17.

Leading the way for the Friars is Eric Foley (10-11-21), Brian Pinho (6-7-13) and John Wilkins (5-8-13).  In net, Hayden Hawkey (10-7-0, 2.61 GAA, .906 SV%) has seen the majority of the minutes.

The Friars have reportedly seen some roster changes at midseason, as two players have departed, while another has joined.  Jake Ryczek, a defenseman (and Chicago Blackhawks draft pick) and Chase Zieky, a forward, have both departed the program.  Ryczek has moved on to major junior, while Zieky’s fate is unknown.  Meanwhile, Davis Bunz (Central Illinois – USHL) comes in.  It is unclear if he will join the team for the Classic.

About the Sun Devils

Arizona State (4-10-3) has shown improvement over the past few seasons since joining the ranks of DI hockey.  They have played many opponents close this year, including a 4-4 tie of Colorado College in their most recent outing.  The Sun Devils had close losses to a 19th ranked Air Force in October and a split against Alabama-Huntsville (the only WCHA foe faced so far.)

Leading the Sun Devils are Brett Gruber (4-9-13), Tyler Busch (6-5-11) and Brinson Pasichnuk (3-6-9).  Getting the call in goal most nights is Joey Daccord (4-9-4, 3.26 GAA, .911 SV%).

Following the Three Rivers Classic, Arizona State will play host to their own tournament, which will be held in Las Vegas on January 5-6.  The Sun Devils will face Northern Michigan in the first game and either Boston College or Michigan Tech in the second game.

No current WCHA team has played in the championship game.  Last season, Ferris State lost 1-0 to the Colonials before falling to Boston College 2-1 in the consolation game.  In the 2013 installment, Bowling Green fell 5-0 to Boston College, but rallied to defeat Robert Morris 3-2 the next day.

Lake Superior State at Michigan Tech – Series Preview

 

Michigan Tech: 2016: 23-15-7. 2017: 8-7-4

Lake Superior State: 2016: 11-18-7. 2017: 4-11-3

 

 

Huskies Mushing To Home Ice

The last time these two teams met, Tech was ranked #15 in the nation, and effectively swept the Lakers on their own ice during Great Lake State Weekend. The Huskies won Friday night, and the Lakers took them to the end of Overtime, but lost the extra conference point in a shootout.

Since that Saturday night, the Huskies have won four games cleanly, and one in OT, forcing a tie in three conference games, but losing in the shootout. They’ve lost six games, nine counting the shootout losses, all to conference opponents. Despite this, however, they have enough points to be third in the conference, behind Bowling Green and Minnesota State.

Last weekend Tech split with the dark horse Ferris State who have won four of their last six. They will be hoping to be above .500 conference by the end of the weekend.

 

“We have struck in iceberg and sinking by the head,”

The above quote comes from the ill-fated RMS Titanic. It was a message that was broadcast to a German ship named the Frankfurt (http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-17631595). I believe this is a fitting quote for how this season has gone down in this first half of the season.

The Lakers may have struck the biggest iceberg of all this past weekend, getting beaten handily by Minnesota State, losing 5-1 Friday and 7-0 Saturday. The lone goal came from a soft tap in from the neutral zone by freshman Erikkson. The weekend was mired by horrible officiating, and quite frankly horrible play on the ice.

The team, in recent weeks, have felt much like the movie adaption of the Titanic sinking – people jumping ship and others giving up. Kudos to those players that go out and try their hardest despite linemates not keeping up their level of play.

This weekend looks to be a litmus test for the rest of the season. The play last week was embarrassing to watch, and I couldn’t even imagine what it was like to be on the ice for either game. If the passengers on the team felt embarrassed by their play & the score from last weekend, it should show this week in Houghton, and we should see a hard skating team for all 120+ minutes Friday & Saturday night.

The keys to winning any points this weekend sounds simple, but has proven to be difficult: If you are suiting up to play, play your hardest.

If you are in the area, the game can be seen on the campus of Michigan Tech at the John McInnis Student Ice Arena, or 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. Puck drops at 7:07pm both nights.

Minnesota State-Mankato @ LSSU – Series Preview

#8 Minnesota State-Mankato: 2016: 22-13-4. 2017: 9-5-0

Lake Superior State: 2016: 11-18-7. 2017: 4-9-3

 

Number 8 in the nation…Number 2 in the WCHA

It’s another year, and the Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks are once again ranked, despite being behind unranked Bowling Green in the WCHA. The team is led by second year captain C.J. Suess (formerly Franklin), a Winnipeg Jets draft pick who has 4 goals, 12 assists for 16 points. His fellow co-captains (this team has 3 C’s, with no A’s).

Sophomore defenseman Ian Scheid has a team leading 3 PPGs, ahead of Suess, Knutson, McClure & Rivera, all with 2. Daniel Brickley, a junior defenseman, has the honor of being the most penalized player on the team, taking 11 penalties for a total of 33 minutes. Despite this, he has 10 points in 14 games.

Backstopping the team, you have the duo of seinor Connor Lacouvee, who has played 9 games for the Mavs, with a 7-2-0 record, and Jason Pawloski, a junior with a 2-3-0 record in 6 games played, with his two wins being shutouts. Expect to see Lacouvee in net Friday night.

 

Making for Lake Huron

It’s December here in the Upper Peninsula, and after the last few days, it seems like the snow is here to stay. Before too long, the Sault Locks will be shutting down. The Lakers, with a 4-9-3 record after splitting with the Alaska Nanooks last week, will have to make great strides this week in order get through the metaphorical locks before it’s too late.

Save for a few players, the Lakers looked just bad in the 5-3 loss last Friday night. It showed in coach Damon Whitten’s postgame with Bill Crawford on 99.5 YesFM, stating that some player showed up not ready to play, and saying that they will shorten the bench if they need to. He also noted that the players had called a closed door meeting after the game.

Whatever was said or done in the 20+ hours after the game seemed to spur the team, which went on to win 4-1 Saturday at the Taffy Abel Arena. Let’s hope that whatever was done last weekend motivated the team for this week, since you cannot make a mistake against the Mavericks.

In brighter news, last weekend showed the return of Colin Saccoman, in his first series back since injuring himself in Denver. He did play in the Under-18 game, but that was a single night. He seemed to be testing it Saturday night as the game went on, despite taking regular shifts. It also sounds like Lukas Kaelble is back on the ice, and the team hopes he is back soon. Yuki Miura and Steven Ruggiero hope to make their seasonal debut either next week against the Michigan Tech Huskies, or at the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh, PA.

The keys of the game remain the same as they have been: Stay out of the box, and put shots on net. While it is not realistic to get a sweep this weekend (though we will be hoping for such), getting a split will go a long ways when it comes to the teams’ confidence going forward, even more so since Mankato has been a thorn in Lake State’s side since the dissolution of the CCHA, and the realignment into the WCHA.

 

Laker Hockey has two promotions going on this weekend:

Friday night is Superhero Night: Laker Hockey will be honoring local law enforcement, first responders and military personnel. Get to the arena early between 4-7pm for the EUP United Way Chili Cookout.

Saturday night: Teddy Bear Toss: Bring a stuffed toy to the arena and throw it onto the ice during the first intermission. These will be collected & given to local children in need.

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

Alaska @ Lake Superior State – Series Preview

 

Alaska: 2016: 12-20-4. 2017: 4-10-2

LSSU: 2016: 11-18-7 2017: 3-8-3

 

Bearing Down

Coming off of a tough 5-4 OT loss Friday night against the Huskies of Michigan Tech, and a Saturday night game that they’d rather forget, a 5-1 loss to MTU, the Alaska Nanooks return to Sault Sainte Marie for a two game stretch, albeit with one less player.

Junior defenseman Jack Weiss was given a one game suspension after a contact to the head call made against the player in Saturday night’s game. The defenseman has skated for only four games this season and currently only has a single goal with no assists. Despite only skating for four games, he has enough penalty minutes to come in second for most penalized player on the team, well behind senior defenseman Zach Frye.

Backstopping the team this season are a duo of sophomores, with the lead workhorse being the Sweade Anton Martinsson, with 13 games played and posting a GAA of 3.16 and SV% of .895.

Turning Up The Heat

The Lakers are in a tough spot coming off of 6-0 showing against the USNTDP U-18s last Saturday. While the team gets back star sophomore defenseman Colin Saccoman, there were a few players missing from the exhibition game and are rumored to be injured: forwards Brayden Gelsinger and Jake Hand and defenseman & captain Aiden Wright. This is in addition to Lukas Kaelble still being out and losing C.J. Hayes to the SPHL.

Despite the injuries and losses, the Lakers will have to use this win as a springboard for the rest of the season. The rest of the first half certainly doesn’t get any easier, as the #8 Minnesota State-Mankato comes to town next weekend, and the Lakers travel to Houghton to take on the Huskies the weekend of the 15th/16th. For the final weekend of the year, they will travel to Pittsburgh for the Three Rivers Classic to take on the hosts Robert Morris University, and one of either Arizona State or Providence, who is currently ranked #9 in the country (and this reporter will be at PPG Paints Arena for the tournament).

One of the keys for the remainder of 2017, and really for the season, is to stop taking stupid penalties and making easy mistakes. The top two penalty-getters couldn’t be any different. Matt McArdle has taken 10 penalties in 14 games for a total of 23 minutes. Max Humitz has taken two less penalties  but has 27 minutes.  The Lakers have a broken D-corp at the moment, so having a defenseman in the box isn’t ideal, nor is the top goal-getter of the team.

 

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.

USNDTP U-18 @ Lake Superior State – Game Preview

USNDTP U-18 2017: 12-5-0-2

LSSU: 2017: 3-8-3

Changes are Coming

For those that are unaware, the USNTDP is broken up into two programs: U-17 & U-18. Both teams play as part of the USHL through a shared schedule, but the Under-18 team also plays against NCAA opponents, whereas the U-17 won’t. These teams mark the official start of the USA Hockey program with a number of players over the years representing the United States in the Olympics along with other IIHF events. Recent alumni from the various USNDTP rosters have included Jack Eichel (drafted #2 overall by Buffalo) and Auston Matthews (Drafter #1 overall by Toronto).

All this is to say that you can’t underestimate this team. Only 2 players from the U-17 team aren’t committed to a school yet, and 1 from the U-18 squad, though every other player, both U-17 & U-18, are committed to an NCAA Division 1 school. You’ll likely see or hear about these players coming out of the NHL draft or potentially representing our country in various international events, especially now that the NHL does not foresee themselves returning to the Olympic games any time soon.

If you’re a fan of hockey, and want to see some of the best players this country has to offer, this is the team you will want to watch.

 

Black and Blue (and Gold)

The Lakers split last week’s series against the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers, winning in regulation Friday night to earn some points. Sadly they could not keep up with the Chargers Saturday night, which seems to be the trend this season.

There’s been a lot of things to say negatively about the team this season and not as many positives, with most of the positives being made off the back of another player’s shortfalls – the same goes for this week. Goaltender Nick Kossoff played very well in net Friday night, but let in 5 goals before being pulled in favor of Mitens who shut out UAH from that point forward.

This season has been rough for everyone, and it has already taken a victim. Junior forward C.J Hayes (4-4-8 in 55GP) has officially left the team to join the Mississippi RiverKings in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). The RiverKings are currently sitting on top of the standings of the SPHL. Look for an opinion piece on this in the near future.

 

With this weekend being American Thanksgiving, Lake Superior State University is offering an amazing deal. Gather up your ‘family’ (read: anyone wanting to join), go to the Norris Center before the 5pm puck drop and pay only $13 for your entire group. This means you pay $13 for only 2 people, or $13 for 100 people. The box office will be open starting at 2pm on Saturday, November 25th to handle the large crowds we hope to see.

The puck drops early at 5pm Saturday, and can be heard on 99.5 YESfm locally, or at www.yesfm.net , YESfm on Tunein.

Series Preview: Lake Superior State at Bowling Green University

Bowling Green: 2016: 21-18-2 2017: 4-3-2

Lake State: 2016: 11-18-7 2017: 2-6-2

 

Bowling Over the Competition

Unsurprisingly, the Bowling Green Falcons are off to a great start this season, backstopped by the underclass duo of Ryan Bednard and Eric Dop. Bednard, a sophomore, has posted a 2.14 GAA with a .924 SV%; Dop has a 1.75GAA and a .936 SV%. On the front end, they are being lead by freshman forward Cameron Wight, who has 9 points in 9 games, followed closely by sophomore defenseman Alec Rauhauser.

The Falcons will be making it tough on the Lakers this weekend at the Slater Family Ice Arena, where the Falcons have a 3-1-1 record early in the season. Behind the bench they are lead by 8th year head coach Chris Bergeron, who has not had a losing season since the 2012-2013 campaign.

They were slated to be #4 by the preseason polls, but are sitting on top of the WCHA. After this weekend, their schedule for the rest of the year certainly does not get any easier, facing #10 Minnesota State, Miami and Bemidji State over the next three weeks, although all three are at home.

Lakers Get Dogged

While the goal was to sweep last week, it was sure good to see the Lakers split the weekend series with the Sea Wolves of Alaska-Anchorage. The Lakers certainly did not play a clean game Saturday night and squandered some chances, but I liked what they were trying to do to get pucks in the net.

But seeing as the Sea Wolves provided that much of a challenge for the Lakers, this weekend will prove tough to nobodies surprise. However,  one bright spot going into this weekend is that the Lakers actually have 2 more total points than BG, being lead by 1.3 Pts/game J.T. Henke (13 points in 10 games). Bowling Green’s scoring looks to be a bit more spread out across their roster, with only 8 skaters not having points (6 not counting goalies), whereas the Lakers have 10 players without points (8 without goalies).

The keys to getting points this weekend are the same as they should be every week: Limit shots, generate shots & stay out of the box. The Lakers cannot afford to take any stupid penalties or give the officials any reason to look for a penalty.

This slugfest can be seen locally at the Taffy Abel Arena, with the Friday game starting at 7:37pm and the Saturday night game starting 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: Alaska Anchorage at Lake Superior State

Alaska Anchorage – 2016: 7-21-6 2017: 0-5-1

Lake Superior State: 2016: 11-18-7 2017: 1-5-2

 

Preying Mathas

There are two things each of these two teams have in common this season: their record and starting goalie.  Alaska Anchorage has started senior Olivier Mantha in all six of their games this season where he has faced 216 shots in 356:05 minutes in net, which is good for #13 in the country for shots faced (Nick Kossoff of the Lakers sits at #15, with 211 shots faced in 321:43 minutes in net). Despite the scores and records, Mantha is having a pretty good year with such a tough schedule. They opened up at home against NCHC powerhouse North Dakota, forcing a 1-1 tie. The Sea Wolves lost in overtime the next night 3-2, allowing 4 goals in 78 shots. The next weekend they travelled to Colorado College to take on the Tigers. They lost 6-1 and 3-2 on the weekend, that Saturday night score is impressive, considering that the Tigers are now 5-2 on the season, splitting games with some really good teams. If Mantha was backstopping a more competitive team in the conference, like a Michigan Tech or Mankato (I would say Bemidji, but trying to decide between Bitzer and Mantha would be an impossible decision), I think that the WCHA could bring home a national championship.

But the rest of the team is another story. They have not allowed as many goals or shots on goal, but as a team they are sitting with the lowest Corsi For % in even strength & “close” , and for the overall totals. Lake State does sit right above them, however.

(Lake) Superior State of Sorrow

This season has not lived up to our expectations. They have been outshot 195 to 70 in the last two weekends, with two periods (one each weekend) only having a single shot on net. There seems to be a few injuries on the blue line, but that doesn’t really excuse the excessive shots on net.

The Lakers lead the nation on shots on goal against, with 332 (UAA had 219). This is dead last in the nation, ahead of Arizona State by 45 SOG. In contrast they only shot the puck on net 166 times (UAA has 150). In case you didn’t notice it, that is 2:1 SOGA:SOGF.

We’ve talked about it as a group here at Laker Hockey Blog but despite it only being the 9th and 10th  game of the year for the Lakers, and 7th & 8th games of the year for UAA, it feels like a must win series for both teams if they want to 1) make the playoffs and 2) build momentum to turn their seasons around since the rest of the season will not get any easier for both teams.

I think it’s pretty obvious what the key to success is this weekend for the Lakers: Get shots on net and limit shot attempts from the Sea Wolves. Basic hockey. This is the time for fundamentals, not fancy drop passes, zone entries or clears.

Look for this game to be one of:

  • High scoring
  • High SOG
  • A exercise in futility

No matter which team you will be rooting for this weekend, I think we may all agree that copious amounts of alcohol will be required to get through it.

This slugfest can be seen locally at the Taffy Abel Arena, with both Friday and Saturday night games starting 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: Lake Superior State @ Michigan State

Made by Lakers video assistant Jim Howie, this display board shows pucks from the various schools in the now defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association. The Lakers and Spartans were conference foes from 1981 until the dissolving of the league in 2013.
Michigan State’s Brennan Sanford (13) attempts to screen LSSU netminder Gordie Defiel (31) in a meeting between the clubs last season. The Lakers swept the Spartans, outscoring them 13-4 in the two games.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michigan State: 2016: 7-24-4, 2017: 2-2-0

LSSU: 2016: 11-18-7, 2017: 1-3-2

I Ain’t Afraid of no Coles

Another week, and another mention of major changes within college hockey. After six years of being the bench boss for the Spartans, Tom Anastos (71-98-20) stepped down as head coach with former NHL veteran Danton Cole (318 GP).

This year’s Michigan State team looks much different than the team the Lakers faced off against last year during GLSW, where they clobbered the Spartans 6-1 & 7-3. They’ve split the last two weekends, both home-and-homes with Bowling Green and Western Michigan, making their home record perfect for the year.

Leading the scoring are a pair of sophomores and a freshman. In four games sophomore forwards Patrick Khodorenko has posted a 3-3-6, Taro Hirose a 2-4-6 and freshman forward Mitchell Lewandowski has a 1-5-6. Goaltending is led by sophomore John Lethemon who has a 2-1-0 in four games (Ed Minney looks to have started a game with 3 goals against in 10 minutes).  Lethemon has a 2.36 GAA and a .917 save percentage.

Don’t Hassel the (Koss)off

Last weekend was a mixed bag of emotions for Laker fans. The boys in blue faced off against the reigning national champions, Denver, for a two game series. Junior goaltender Nick Kossoff broke a school record facing 66 shots, and saving 63 of those on the way to a 3-3 tie. Denver tied the game up at the 16:26 mark of the third. The tie did put a bit of a hamper on the Pioneer’s night as they raised their championship banner Friday night.

Saturday night was a different story. Mareks Mitens faced 54 shots, saving 49 on the way to a 5-1 loss. One thing did remain the same, however: seemingly a lack of offense and defense. Both nights the Laker goaltenders were peppered with shots, and they only recorded 17 shots (Fri) and 16 shots (Sat).  While these numbers were kind of expected, going against the number 1 team in the nation, they are also quite shocking to see on a box score.  We also lost two defensemen in Colin Saccoman and Lukas Kaelble to injury. No timetable has been announced as of this release.

But I think the Lakers did send a message to the college hockey nation. I’m not sure there are any other teams in the nation that could lead Denver for 5 of 6 periods. On the surface, this seems like a very good thing, and in many ways it is, but I’ve already seen one scout at Abel Arena, and I would fully expect to see more after this past weekend. The players know this, and I hope that the leadership group on the team, along with the coaching staff, keep them focused on team play & not individual play. It was readily apparent at the end of last season that many players were playing for themselves and not the team – that cannot happen if we hope to succeed. 

The Lakers will need at least a split on the weekend to gain some momentum going into the month of November. They will have one WCHA series to start the month against Alaska Anchorage before going on the road for two weeks against Bowling Green and Alabama-Huntsville before wrapping up against the US U18 team. It doesn’t get much easier from there.

This weekend looks to be a fun one as a former CCHA rivalry is renewed again. Each year that the two teams have played since realignment has been very physical, almost as if they still play each other four times a year and this year does not look to be any different. The Spartans are playing tougher than they did last season, and the Lakers have gained some size in the offseason.

Without knowing how Danton Cole coaches, it is hard to say what the keys to success will be for this weekend. With former coach Anastos, you kind of knew his coaching style and what to expect from his teams. My gut feeling is that the Cole era will force a power shift within the B1G, with this being his first step.

Locally the game will be broadcast on 99.5 YesFM where Bill Crawford will be calling the game from Munn Ice Arena. It looks to be streamed on BTN Plus. As always, the Laker Legion will be hosting viewing parties for both games – Friday night at Peacock Cove in the Cisler Center and Saturday night in the Library lecture hall just outside the doors to the library – completely free of charge.

Series Preview: Lake Superior State at #1 Denver

 

Denver: 2016 33-7-4 2017: 1-0-1

LSSU 2016 11-18-7 2017 1-2-1

 

Crimson and Golder, Over and Over….

The Denver Pioneers are coming off an outstanding 2016-2017 season having won their eighth national championship, their first since back to back wins in 2004 & 2005, and this weekend will be their first weekend back at Magness Arena this season.

The clear-cut #1 team did take a big hit after the tournament, losing 9 seniors, including their captain Will Butcher (New Jersey Devils). They are, however, returning Jarid Lukosevicius, who was the first player since his own head coach to record a hat trick in a championship game. His coach, Jim Montgomery, played for Maine in college, and recorded his hat trick against the team they will be facing this weekend: the Lake Superior State Lakers in 1993. Maine won that game & their first championship in school history.

After splitting with Notre Dame on the weekend, the Pioneers will be looking for a sweep of the Lakers when they hang their banner this weekend.

Upper Peninsula of Mitens-igan

There is some good news going into this weekend: The Lakers and the Pioneers both have the same amount of wins this season.

Joking aside, last Saturday we had our first real look at who could be our starting goaltender for the rest of the year (and hopefully more) – Mareks Mitens. Mitens is coming off a record setting year in the NAHL, but when we first saw him during the blue-gold scrimmage, he didn’t look great. I don’t know what happened in the last few weeks, but he stopped 40 of 42 shots on net against a good Michigan Tech team, forcing a tie with an eventual loss in the shootout.

JT Henke was named the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week after a 5 point weekend (1-4=5), being in on each one of the 5 goals the Lakers had last weekend.

Being able to keep pace with a really good Michigan Tech team bodes well for boys in blue, as Tech has been the preverbial monkey on the Lakers back since joining the WCHA, having only won once, under former coach Jim Roque, and forcing a 1-1 tie back in 2015. One game was a 4-2 loss, with the others being blowouts.

This bodes well for the Lakers. Despite taking only one point last weekend, they are closing the gap on their rivals. That should be the message in the locker room this weekend. They are improving, and to this author, the team, nearly as a whole, has been passing the eye test. They have solid goaltending in Kossoff and Mitens (we have not seen Lukenda or Bengert in net since the scrimmage – or Bengert in uniform since), the blue line has been tightened, and the offense is clicking. Their Power Play is third in the nation for goals.

The Lakers, in all honesty, don’t have much to lose this weekend. Yes, the WCHA non-conference record would suffer, but I doubt many people are expecting the Lakers to win this weekend; even the most optimistic fan would likely say they just hope they play a good game, and keep the score close. But the Lakers have everything to gain this weekend. Coming out with a win on Friday may put doubts into the Pioneers heads, allowing them to make mistakes Saturday night. A win this weekend would force the rest of the league to take notice of Lake State again.

A win would give the team confidence that they can win despite the last twenty years that says the contrary.

Games this weekend start at 9:05pm eastern time. They can be heard locally on 99.5 YesFM, or online at http://1043thefan.com/. Please note that YesFM will not be streaming it online.

Game can also be streamed through NCHC.tv (15.95/day for just Denver). 

Series Preview: Michigan Tech at Lake Superior State

Michigan Tech: 2017 record: 2-1-0. 2016: 23-15-7

Lake Superior State: 2017 Record: 1-1-0. 2016: 11-18-7

 

Shawhan Mushing the Huskies

After an outstanding 2016-2017 campaign, a number of changes happened in Houghton, MI during the offseason that lead many to believe that dark days were coming for the Huskies. Outstanding goaltender Angus Redmond, who led the Huskies to a #2 WCHA & #19 NCAA finish last season left the team to go pro with the Aniheim Ducks organization (and is currently assigned to the San Diego Gulls of the AHL).

In addition to Redmond, Michigan Tech also lost their Head Coach, Mel Pearson, to take over for long-time Michigan head coach Red Berenson  who retired after 33 years of coaching the Wolverines, ending with an outstanding 848-429-92 record. The Tech vacancy was filled by former assistant coach, and Sault Sainte Marie native Joe Shawhan who played for the Lakers from 1982-1987 & was a volunteer coach for their 1992 & 1994 national championships.

Last week, however, critics were silenced as Tech doubled up  #16 Union and beat #6 Minnesota-Duluth to win the annual Ice Breaker tournament. The huskies hope to continue that streak this weekend against the Lakers.

Rough Seas Ahead

Those of us who were at Abel Arena on Friday last week for game 1 against NMU would think that this year was the year, much the same was as we did last year against Michigan State during GLSW. The Lakers beat the Wildcats 5-3 in the first game of a home-and-home series. Diego Cuglietta scored two goals for the Lakers, with the others coming from Max Humitz, J.T Henke and Anthony Nellis. Freshman Lukas Kaelble assisted on 3 of the 5 goals.

Saturday night was a different story, however, as NMU outscored the Lakers 4-1 with the final 3 goals coming late in their respective periods. Philip Beaulieu scored the game winning goal at 19:20 of the second, with goals 3 & 4 coming at 18:01 and 18:28 of the third.

The Lakers know firsthand just how dominant Michigan Tech can be after being trounced in the first round of the WCHA playoffs last  year, losing 6-4 and 8-0. They also have not won a game against Tech since bench boss Damon Whitten took over.

The keys for the Lakers this weekend is to close out periods & not to give their top scorers in Joel L’Esperance and Mark Auk any good looks at the goal. Whitten also has to not be gun shy in pulling a goalie or shortening the bench if a player does not perform. The Huskies are a team that will take advantage of anything you give them.  On paper, they have it all: goal scorers, a solid blueline & a barn full of goalies, but all of that is for naught if you can’t finish a game as strong as you started it.

The games start Friday night at 7:37pm and Saturday at 7:07pm, and will be part of the GLSW celebration.