2019-20 Laker Hockey Season Preview

Many significat moments occured for the Lakers in 2018-19, including winning the Great Lakes Invitational. But can they prove doubters wrong that last year was “flash in the pan”?

The time for Laker hockey is upon us.

Lake Superior State is getting set to drop the puck on the 2019-20 season, its 54th of collegiate play.  The sixth season for Damon Whtten behind the bench will see its first game on Saturday, October 5th, when the Merrimack Warriors come to Sault Ste. Marie.

Last season, Lake State compiled a record of 23-13-2, the best mark for the squad since 1995-96, when Jeff Jackson guided the team to a 30-8-2 record.  So many superlatives exist to describe just how eventful last season was to the team and its coach that this is not the place to list them.

One question burns on the minds of the Laker faithful: Can they do it again?

As we did last season, we will break down our preview by positions (forwards, defence, goaltending), scheduling and an overall outlook.

On pace for 100 career points, Max Humitz looks to lead an offense that lost much to graduation.

 

Forwards

Mike: The story of the front unit for Lake Superior is obvious: Where will all of the goals come from?


Of the 123 goals scored by the team last year, the Lakers will be without the players who scored 48 this season.  Diego Cuglietta, Anthony Nellis and Gage Torrel all saw the fruits of their labour last season after toiling for three years prior.  But, as Whitten said during the WCHA Media Day, there was no reason to suspect that those players would have the seasons they did. There is no reason to suspect that forwards like Max Humitz (who will garner a ‘C’ this year) and Ashton Calder, can continue the upward trend.

The Lakers also saw more offensive support out of their 3rd and 4th lines, with Brendan McKay, Bryan Basilico and Hampus Eriksson all seeing increases from their previous season.

Dennis: The Lakers finding point scorers will be the big question to start the season. Max Humitz is within distance of the 100 point mark, coming into the season with 76. We saw Calder get going once he got some more ice time as the season went on – 22 points in 37 games. But with the likes of Cugiletta and Nellis gone, the forwards we didn’t see much of last year will have to step up, and the rookies too. Miroslav Mucha is one played I’m looking forward to seeing step up this year.In his last year of juniors he scored 55 points in 59 games with only 28 penalty minutes.

As for the incoming freshman forwards, all four are highly touted…and one a little moreso because of his name. 

First is Roberts Blugers.  Originally from Riga Latvia, Roberts came up in the American system via Shattuck St. Marys before moving into the NAHL with Fairbanks, playing 110 games for the Ice Dogs, and scoring 80. He did spend a season as an Assistant Captain with the Madison Capitals, playing in 62 games but only getting 17 points. All throughout he has represented his home country in various international tournaments, getting a silver medal in the U20 WJC in ‘17-18.

Mike: Laker fans may remember his brother Teddy at Minnesota State.  He had 108 points in his time with the Mavericks and was a regular terror in Mike Hastings’ lineup.  Last season, he appeared in 28 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins, collecting 10 points.

Dennis: Next is Frenchman Louis Boudon, from Grenoble, France. Louis played on the U18 & U22 teams of VIllard-de-Lans club, wearing both the Captain’s ‘C’ and ‘A’ at various times (fun fact: former Laker assistant coach Rich Metro both played & coached Villard-de-Lans main team, earning them a France2 championship in 2001-2002 and the French Cup in 2002-2003 as a player). Coming to North America he started his career by dominating in the NA3HL, playing 46 games and totalling 81 points and earning him a place on the All-Tournament team, the first all-star team and the league’s MVP. He moved onto the NAHL, playing for the Northeast Generals, playing a total of 108 games and scoring 119 points. Louis has also represented France in various WJC and international tournaments.

Dustin Manz is a bit more local, coming from Vanderbilt, Michigan. He spent a few years playing for Little Caesars in the UPHL before moving into the NAHL, playing for the Aston Rebels alongside current LSSU goalie Mareks Mitens. He did alright, appearing in 56 and getting 16. But like a number of players, playing the last two years in the BCHL for Prince George seemed to light a fire. In 2017-18, appearing in 58 games he netted a total of 43 points. The next season, in 28 games Manz  scored a total of 70 & helping his team to a championship.

Mike: Manz is down the road a bit from my hometown of Cheboygan.  Many Lake State students drive past Vanderbilt on their way up to the Soo from downstate and know just how small of a town it is.  I cannot confirm it, but Manz may be the first DI athlete to come out of Vanderbilt.

Dennis: Finally, a name that may be familiar with many: Niko Esposito-Selivanov. Yes, that Esposito and that Selivanov. His grandfather is none other than former Boston Bruin & New York Ranger legend, and 2 time Stanley Cup winner Phil Esposito, who is actually a native of the Canadian Sault. His father, Alexander, was a late round pick for the Philadelphia Flyers in 1994, but wouldn’t see play with them in the NHL. He would be a regular with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Edmonton Oilers and Columbus Blue Jackets. He would make a name for himself, moreso however, in Europe. But this is all unneeded pressure for Niko. He has come up through the Shattuck system also before playing a season in the USHL with both Sioux City and Waterloo…both of which are largely forgettable. Last season he was out in the BCHL playing for Cowichan Valley, playing 50 games and scoring 41. Hopefully last year boosted his confidence, or maybe he can tap into whatever runs in his family since the Lakers are going to need it going forward.

One of the nation’s elite shot blockers, Collin Saccoman will lead an experienced blue line this season

Defence

Mike: Going into last season, the biggest question mark for the Lakers was on the blue line.  They had lost four players to graduation and, with a couple of exceptions, had less collegiate experience to lean on than desired.  Thankfully, that wound up being a non-issue.

Steven Ruggiero has graduated, but he is the only loss on the back end.  Collin Saccoman (who will wear the other ‘C’) and his shot blocking prowess return for one more year.  Juniors Lukas Kälble, Will Reidell and Tyler Anderson all saw much improvement with another year under their belts.  Also returning are Alec Semandel, who cut his teeth in 17 games last year, and Jacob Nordqvist, the only freshman to appear in all 38 games last year.

Dennis: What Damon & co have on the blueline is certainly interesting. Of the 10 players currently on the roster, four have not played a single game for the Lakers, and only two of them are freshmen. Kaeble and Saccoman are both looking to be our top players, since even though Riedell and Anderson saw some early improvement last season, their play still leaves something to be desired, but hopefully they will prove me wrong. I’ll be glad for it. Nordqvist was a solid player for us, and is 100% earning a regular spot. But what about that final spot?

Alec Semandel is the only other returning player who has seen the ice. While he didn’t look great, he seemed to have the skill to play. What he did over the summer will make a big influence this season.

Both Mitchel Oliver and Bennet Vida are returning players who have not seen the ice outside of a scrimmage or exhibition game. The little we saw of Vida during the game against the USNTDP his freshman year made him look interesting to me, but that was really the last we saw of him.

Assuming it’s not Oliver or Vida, that leaves our two freshmen: Michael Mannara or Arvid Henrikson. Without tape, it’s hard to judge defensemen on a statline, but from what I can tell from Eliteprosects, Mannara looks to be a scrappier sort of player who is solid as assisting on goals when he’s not in the box.

Henrikson, on the other hand, is actually a Montreal Canadiens 7th round draft pick. And he’s big, listed as 6’5, 212lbs. Like Mannara, it looks like he can put up some points, his +/- is also actually listed, and overall is a positive player through his career.  But this will only be his second year in North America, so hopefully he’s become comfortable after only 39 games between the USHL and NAHL.

If I had to venture a guess at early season pairings, it would ideally be something like this (ignore sides, etc): 

Saccoman-Kaeble
Riedell-Anderson
Nordqvist-Henrikson

 

Known for his sensational saves, Mareks Mitens looks to take over the starting goaltender position for the graduated Nick Kossoff.

Goaltending

Mike: Graduated from last year’s squad is Nick Kossoff.  While he played in tandem with Mareks Mitens in 2017-18, Kossoff took the reigns on the starter position last season and did well with it, posting a 2.42 goals against average an a .918 save percentage.  He also etched his name in the Laker Hockey record book with his 63 save performance against Denver in October, 2017.

Mitens started 11 games last year, posting a slightly better 2.31 GAA and .919 SV%.  Granted, he had a smaller sample size to work with, but could be thrust into any game situation.  He was the only goaltender in the nation who collected a win in Mankato.

One thing both goaltenders could look forward to last season was the improved offense.  In Whitten’s first two seasons at Lake State, his teams averaged under 2 goals per game.  Not surprisingly, this put great pressure on goalies Kossoff and Gordie Defiel to play near-perfect games.  The past few seasons, there has been a bit more breathing room for the netminders (especially with the 3.24 goals per game average last year), taking away the notion that they needed to steal victories.

Dennis: I mean, there’s really not much to say here, right? We have three goaltenders: Mareks Mitens, Roman Gengert and newcomer Seth Eisele. While it’s not a cut and dry situation, I think the #1 spot is Mitens’ to lose.

Being a junior, I’m sure Roman is getting anxious to play, but Eisele has a pretty good resume behind him. While playing for the Wenatchee Wild in the BCHL, he played a total of 34 games, with a 2.64 goals against average and a .887 save percentage in the regular season, he helped his team to win a championship & be named to the all-rookie team. He would move into the NAHL after 3 games with the Surrey Eagles, playing for the Lone Star Brahmas. Playing in 33 games, posting a 2.28 GAA and a .928 Save % in the regular season, he would be named the NAHL (south) Goaltender of the year and named to the All-South division team.

Unless one of either Bengert or Eisele really shine, I think we will see Mitens in the starting role, with probably Bengert as the main backup, at least to start the season. As practices roll along, however, I would not be shocked to see Eisele in that role.

Lake Superior will be rolling out the welcome mat for seven WCHA foes, in addition to non-conference opponents Merrimack and Denver.

Schedule

Dennis: Overall, I think the schedule is a solid one for the Lakers. They will have to win often to start the year, going up against non-conference opponents for the first month, two of them on the road before starting up WCHA play against Ferris here in the Sault. We got the lucky draw this season, only having to take one trip the 49th state, playing Anchorage & Fairbanks back-to-back in January. We do, however, have to take the trip to Houghton to play tech during their Winter Carnival. It’s certainly not an easy environment to play in regularly, but that weekend will be downright toxic.

Mike: Non conference play sees Lake Superior hosting Merrimack and Denver to start the season, and road trips to Michigan and Notre Dame in October, plus the Catamount Cup against Providence and Vermont after Christmas.

Merrimack still has intrigue with former Laker head coach Scott Borek at the helm.  His Warriors finished last in Hockey East last year. They have been down for a while and are probably a few years away from competing.

Denver made yet another trip to the Frozen Four last season, falling to Massachusetts.  They will be one of the favourites to contend in their conference as well as on the national scene.  David Carle will enter his second season at the helm of the Pioneers, with assistant Dallas Furgeson.  Furgeson was coach of Alaska for 9 seasons before taking a job in the WHL.

The Wolverines made the trip up to the Soo last season.  In the days of the “2 for 1 deal” that schools like Lake Superior seem to be stuck with, this is not a return trip.  The Lakers went to Ann Arbor in 2016, picking up a split. Mel Pearson’s bunch fell short of expectations, so it awaits to be seen what happens with them.

Notre Dame appears on the Lakers’ schedule for the first time since the Florida College Hockey Classic in which Lake Superior defeated Jeff Jackson and the Irish to claim the championship.  That squad has not been to Sault Ste. Marie since the dissolution of the CCHA, which is too bad.

There is also the matter of a home game against Alabama Huntsville being played in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario at the home of the Soo Greyhounds.  There will be more to come on this as we get closer to February.

Collin Saccoman (Centre) and Max Humitz (Right) will each don the captain’s C for head coach Damon Whitten. Brendan McKay and Lukas Kälble will also garner letters.

Outlook

Dennis: I’m not quite sure on this one. Last year’s preview seemed much more upbeat, a bit more clean-cut when it came to looking at the roster and such, but this year feels more like a mixed bag. I certainly don’t think it will be as flashy as last year’s run, but we also aren’t defending our GLI title, instead it’s back out to Burlington, VT for the Catamount Cup, which would be nice to bring home too. I certainly think we have some hidden potential waiting in the rafters, and I can only hope that the coaching staff will use those weapons effectively. This team is gritty and has heart, and this town has been behind this team for a long time. I think it’s time to make it out of the first round.

Mike: On the national level, there is doubt that the Lakers will do what they did last year.  Within the league, there is doubt that the Lakers will do what they did last year. It’s easy to look at what the team lost and question if they can replace that.  Perhaps it takes a homer point of view to have that “gut feeling” that they will finish in the top half of the league. It will take incredible effort from all involved, but it can be done.  After all, Minnesota State loses immense amounts of talent season after season, yet remain the class of the WCHA. With them, it’s no longer a question of will they reload.  

Lakers ranked 6th in preseason polls

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) today released the 2019-20 preseason media and coaches polls.  Lake Superior State was ranked 6th in both polls.

Under head coach Damon Whitten, the Lakers finished 4th overall last season after being picked to finish 7th in the Coaches Poll and 8th in the Media Poll.

Minnesota State was a unanimous selection to win the league in the Media Poll, amassing 100 points, followed by Bowling Green State with 89.  The Lakers, with 57 points, are sandwiched between Bemidji State (62 points) and Ferris State (37).

Marc Michaelis of the Mavericks was voted the Preseason Player of the Year in the Media Poll, while Nathan Smith, also of Minnesota State, was named Preseason Rookie of the Year.  Lake Superior’s Dustin Manz and Louis Boudon each received a vote for Rookie of the Year. 

While no Lakers were voted to the Media All-WCHA Team, Max Humitz and Collin Saccoman each received votes for forward and defenceman, respectively.

The Coaches Poll also had the Mavericks in first place with 90 points, the maximum a team may obtain in the poll (coaches may not vote for their own teams).  The Lakers, with 58 points, are between 5th place Michigan Tech (59 points) and Alaska (39).

As in the Media Poll, Michaelis and Smith were voted Preseason Player and Rookie of the Year, respectively.  Again, no Lakers were included on the Preseason All-WCHA Team, but Humitz and Saccoman did each receive a vote.

This year, the media poll was restricted to just 10 entities, with one from each locale, down from the 13 who participated last season.

2019-20 Mankato Free Press WCHA Preseason Coaches’ Poll
Rank      Team (1st Place Votes)   Points

  1.           Minnesota State (9)              90
  2.           Bowling Green (1)                   82
3.           Bemidji State                           63
4.           Northern Michigan                 61
5.           Michigan Tech                        59
  6.           Lake Superior State              58
7.           Alaska                                        39
  8.           Ferris State                              38
  9.           Alabama Huntsville               30
10.           Alaska Anchorage                 20

Coaches could not vote for their own teams. Based on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2 scale.

2019-20 WCHA Preseason Media Poll
Rank      Team (1st Place Votes)  Points

   1.           Minnesota State (10)           100
  2.           Bowling Green                        89
  3.           Northern Michigan                72
  4.           Michigan Tech                        68
  5.           Bemidji State                          62
  6.           Lake Superior State              57
  7.           Ferris State                              37
  8.           Alaska                                        27
  9.           Alabama Huntsville               26
10.           Alaska Anchorage                 12

Predicted order of finish. Based on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale.

The complete poll may be found at the WCHA’s website: http://www.wcha.com/men/articles/2019/09/minnesota-state-tops-the-2019-20-wcha-preseason-polls.php

2018-2019 Site Updates, and state of the Site.

Well, Laker Faithful, it’s been just over two years since we started this humble site. This summer has been a bit slow on the posting front, but there’s been a lot going on. With fall just around the corner, and that also means Laker hockey, expect more content in the weeks and months to come.

Some quick updates: The roster has been updated, as has the schedule for the year.

So, onto the stats. For any that I am not able to drill directly into, filtered by the year, I will be using a rough number based on the data from last year’s post. Some numbers may be off, as some posts were in 2018, and some into 2019.

————————————————-

Total Posts & Words:

2017 & 2018 produced a total of 94. With 142 total published pages, 2019 had 48 total posts.

Articles written in 2017 had a total of 23,793 total words with 506 average words per article.

Posts made in 2019 alone had a total of 10,420 words, with 521 average words per article.

Unique Visitors and Views:

Since last year’s post, we have had 2,118 unique clicks on the site, totaling 3,566 views.

Best Single Day:

7/29/2019 was the best day for Laker Hockey Blog, where we had 197 visitors, the most so far. This was likely due to the post I made concerning drinking and driving. The article was admit-tingly self-serving, but I do hope it effected someone in the right way.

Top 3 Posts:

Home Page

PSA: Don’t Drink and Drive, and Birthday Wishes

Series Preview: Barrett Wedding

Top Referrals:

Search Engines (944)

Facebook (885)

Twitter (152)

Known Search Terms:

(Now this one is kind of fun. It seems to be a list of some of the known terms that were used on search engines in order to get to the blog.

“matt bruneatu” (3)

what end do the lssu laker’s shoot on in the 1st and 3rd periods of home games (1)

superior state 2019-2020 hockey exhibition games (1)

Countries Reached (more than 10 viewers)

USA

Canada

Japan

Latvia

Slovakia

Sweden

UK

Germany

Ireland

Hong Kong


So, some areas aren’t as indepth as last years, but that’s just because it’s either tedious, or not really needed.

I am proud of the fact that we continue to attract more readers from outside of North America. Yes, the United States and Canada are our primary visitors, but we had a large uptick in Latvian, Swedish and Slovakian readers. Japan remained steady, as one would expect, and for some reason we had a handful of readers near the start of the season from Hong Kong. This will continue to be a priority going forward. If anyone has any suggestions on how to do this, please reach out to us, either on social media or email.

I’m sure this sounds like a broken record, but I personally hope that we will be able to flesh this site out more into what I dream it will someday be: A place that Laker fans can go to to find out dang near anything they’d want to know about the team and it’s history, but that will be tough work.

The season is only a few short weeks away. Personally, I will be missing the first weekend series against Merrimack, but I’ll be in my Blue & Gold when the Lakers take on Denver during Great Lake State Weekend.

Have a safe end of your summer, and start of fall. We will see you in Abel Arena soon enough. Go Lakers!

PSA: Don’t Drink and Drive, and Birthday Wishes

First, I would like to apologize for the lack of content during this summer. It’s been relatively quiet on the Laker front, but that will be changing as August starts and students start to return to campus.

But what I have for you today doesn’t have any direct ties to the Lakers or hockey in general, but it’s nonetheless important. And if you haven’t figured out what it is by reading the headline, well, here you go:

Don’t drink and drive.

It’s a message that we hear on the radio, see on TV…if you look hard enough, you’ll see it. While it seems obvious to some, and most people think they never will, that’s while they are sober, but we need people to remember when they are inebriated. But how?

Side note: While our demographic on this site seems to be ‘older’ Laker fans, hopefully this will reach some students, and they will keep this in the back of their minds too.

Well, what if I gave a real world example of the effects of drunk driving? Because I’ve got one.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Let me introduce you to my Uncle Ed. He was a Detroit Lions fan, a biker, a son, a husband and a father. He was also a veteran, having been enlisted in the U.S Navy from November 1987-November 1991.

He was someone I looked up to. The guy just oozed cool to me. Growing up, I spent a lot of time around him, and I learned a lot. When my parents were building the house that I grew up in, we shared a room for a period of time and we would talk a lot. He’d never talk down to me; that I can remember anyways.

In July of 1999, he got the call that his country needed him again. The evening of July 24th, 1999 he rode his motorcycle up to K.I Sawyer from Gladstone, MI to pick up his papers. But on a lonely stretch of M-35, everything came to a halt.

Why? Because someone decided to drink all day and drive. Someone who, even after almost hitting another individual earlier on the day, continued to drink, and ended up driving his truck head on with a motorcycle.

And that was it. All the was left were tears and a trial.

On July 24th, 1999 a wife was widowed, a 3 year old and a 3 month old were left without a father, a mother lost a son; sisters: a brother. Nieces and Nephews were left without an uncle, close friendships ended…ultimately all because one man decided to drink and drive.

I’ve talked to people who have actually laughed at the fact that someone they know, say a son, was caught driving under the influence, like it’s no big deal. But it is. You’re not just taking your own life in your hands, but literally any- and everyone between your point A and B.

Call a parent, a friend. Call an Uber or Lyft if they are available in your area, or a taxi if you’re in a small town. If you’re feeling tempted to drive and you know you shouldn’t, just throw your keys away or something: getting new keys is way cheaper than a life.

If you’re with someone who is about to drive drunk, do everything in your power to stop them. If you cannot, call 911, report the car & licence plate to the authorities so they can get them off the road. The fallout will likely be rough, but imagine you just letting them go off, then finding out they killed someone. I don’t think I could shoulder knowing I could’ve prevented that.

Here are some stats for you:

Now, some may be wondering why I’m doing this now and not before this since I’ve had this platform for almost 2 years now. Well we buried my uncle on what would’ve been his 30th birthday…July 29th, 1999. Today would’ve been his 50th birthday. I’d like to think if his story stops even 1 individual from getting behind the wheel and driving drunk, then I think that’s a good a birthday gift as any.

Thank You.

Breaking News: New College Hockey Western Conference Shakeup Set For 2021-2022 Season

We here at Laker Hockey Blog recieved the following release this afternoon, concerning a realignment:

For IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 28, 2019

Seven prominent NCAA Division I men’s hockey playing institutions have announced the exploration of a new Division I men’s hockey conference that would begin play with the 2021-2022 season. The seven institutions include: Bemidji State University; Bowling Green State University; Ferris State University; Lake Superior State University; Michigan Technological University; Minnesota State University, Mankato; and Northern Michigan University.

The group is comprised of institutions rich in history and tradition with a strong commitment to academic and athletic excellence. They are like-minded in their goals and aspirations for the potential new league with a focus on improving regional alignment and the overall student-athlete experience while building natural rivalries within a more compact geographic footprint.

The potential new conference is also committed to providing the best possible collegiate hockey experience for its student-athletes, fans, and all stakeholders. Finally, the group would plan to establish itself as an elite hockey conference that would have the highest standards for overall competitiveness and rigorous non-conference scheduling, along with a level of institutional investment that demonstrates significant commitment to their hockey programs and facilities, while also establishing relationships with corporate partners and others that create a high degree of visibility and positive media exposure for the league.

As current members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) men’s league, the schools have independently submitted formal Letters of Notice to the conference office, initiating the withdrawal process in accordance with WCHA Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. The institutions will continue to play in the WCHA during the 2019- 2020 and 2020-2021 seasons.

The seven institutions have engaged Dr. Morris Kurtz, a long-time athletics administrator and noted athletics and hockey consultant, to serve as spokesperson and to assist them as the group sets out to transform the college hockey landscape. During these initial stages of developing the potential new conference there will be no further comment from these institutions, including Presidents, Athletic Directors, and Coaches. Media inquiries should be directed to Dr. Kurtz.

So, what does this mean? This means that Alabama-Huntsville, Alaska and Alaska Anchorage are all without a home as of now. We do not know where they will end up, but for a school set to build a new arena in Huntsville, and two schools already on shaky financial ground, this news certainly does not bode well.

We will certainly report any more news of this as it comes along. But for not, this is still a lot to chew on.

2019-2020 Lake Superior State Hockey Schedule Unveiled

The season just recently wrapped up with the Blueliners awards a few weeks ago, and we’re already gearing up for the next season. Last weekend all of the NCAA coaches met down in Florida for their annual conference, and now we have our opponents for the coming season.

http://lssulakers.com/sports/m-hockey/2019-20/schedule

Starting the season on October 5th at home, we have Merrimack at home, likely a repayment from last year’s games. It’s too early to say much about the Warriors other than they finished at the bottom of Hockey East last season, so they’ll be looking for a quick start to their year.

The following weekend is, of course, Great Lake State Weekend, and once again we are facing a big name opponent that should be drawing a huge crowd to Abel Arena: The Denver Pioneers. Denver is coming off another NCAA appearance and being knocked out by the eventual runners up in the quarter finals, Denver will be a huge test for this Laker team, after losing two of its three top scorers last season, our starting Goaltender and a rugged defenseman – and that’s not even thinking about any potential losses the team has yet to see.

They’ll be looking for some positive results to start the season as they will be on the road for the last two weekends of October to play two former CCHA rivals: Michigan the weekend of the 18th, then Notre Dame and former head coach of the Lakers, Jeff Jackson.

The Lakers and Wolverines have faced each other four times (2 series) in the last three years, and coaching is no secret to either team, as the bench boss of Michigan, Mel Pearson, coached WCHA rivals Michigan Tech before leaving for his former employers. Lake State coach Damon Whitten served under Mel at Tech for a time. There has been some movement within the Michigan lineup, but it should mostly be the same team we saw last season.

Notre Dame is another team that made it into the NCAA tournament this past season, making it to the second round before being knocked out by the runners up UMass. They will be losing two of their top scorers, but their workhorse goalie in Cale Morris will be returning to the team.

The first WCHA conference game is at home against Ferris State to start November. We will also start and end the season series against Bemidji in November, with Michigan Tech (@home) and @Bowling Green in between those series.

December is a short month this time around, looking like there is no holiday tournament this year (at this time). The Lakers face Minnesota State in Mankato, then at home against Bowling Green to round out the calendar year.

January is another interesting month for the team. They will start the year in Alaska against the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves before traveling down the road to Fairbanks the next weekend to face the Nanooks. The weekend of the 24th the team is back in the Soo against…Alaska Anchorage! January is finished up by a one game exhibition against the USNTDP U-18 team in Plymouth.

February will close out the season for the Lakers, both starting and ending the month on the road, first facing Michigan Tech during their Winter Carnival before a two-weekend home stand against Alabama-Huntsville and Northern Michigan. Once again the season is wrapped up against Ferris State.

What’s interesting to note, and we had a feeling going into the season it was going to be like this, but we only have one series against Northern Michigan to decide the Cappo Cup this season, and only one series against both Huntsville and Alaska.

Having back-to-back games against the Alaska teams is huge. The team will likely stay in our 49th state during the week, and that will help save on travel fatigue.

We here at Laker Hockey Blog will talk about each series as they happen, like we have been for the last two years.  Thank You.

Cuglietta signs amateur tryout with Texas Stars

Lake State celebrates a goal by Diego Cuglietta (centre) at the Great Lakes Invitational. Cuglietta signed an amateur tryout with the Texas Stars of the AHL.

The most recent 100 point scorer for Lake Superior State has signed a professional contract.

It was announced today that the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League (AHL) have signed senior Diego Cuglietta to an amateur tryout for the remainder of the 2018-19 season.

A native of Kamloops, British Columbia, Cuglietta recently completed his senior season with the Lakers, where he had 25 goals and 16 assists for 41 points.  His 25 goals are the most for a Laker in a single season since Sean Tallaire had 32 in 1995-96 and his season point total is the best for any Laker since Joe Blaznek had 46 in 1996-97.  In addition, his 100 career points are the most for a Laker since Dominic Monardo ended his collegiate career with 101 in 2012-13.

Beyond the point totals on the ice, the team co-captain was named Most Valuable Player at the Great Lakes Invitational this season and is also a nominee for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the top player in college hockey.  There have been six finalist from Lake Superior, but no winner as of yet.

The Texas Stars, located near Austin, are the main minor affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars.  Should Cuglietta make it to the NHL with the Stars, he would become the seventh Laker to do so, following Keith Aldridge, Paul Jerrard, Chris Dahlquist, John Flesch, Dan Keczmer and Rob Valicevic.  Jerrard, Dahlquist, Flesch and Keczmer played for the team while in Minnesota, while the rest were on the team while in its current home.

Cuglietta reaches century mark, but Lakers pushed to the brink

A quick start by Lake Superior State could not be sustained in the first game of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Semifinals, as the Lakers fell 2-1 to Minnesota State – Mankato on Friday night.

With the semifinals being a best of 3 affair, Lake Superior must win on Saturday to keep its season alive in their quest for the league tourney crown.

Lake Superior (23-12-2) got on the board first when senior captain Diego Cugletta got in the Maverick zone on a 2 on 1 and fired the puck over the left shoulder of Minnesota State netminder Dryden McKay. 

For Cuglietta, it was goal number 25 on the season and point number 100 in his collegiate career, as the forward from Kamloops, British Columbia, became the first Laker to reach the century mark since Dominic Monardo did so with a goal in a 3-0 win over Northern Michigan in 2013.

Two goals by the Mavericks (30-7-2) later that period quickly turned the Laker lead into a deficit.  Charlie Gerard scored his eleventh goal of the year on a breakaway that beat Laker goalie Nick Kossoff on the glove side at 6:18 of the first.   1:02 later, Walker Duehr made it 2-1 Mankato by collecting a pass from behind the net and firing it point-blank at the net, giving Kossoff little chance.

With the Mavericks styming the Lakers at nearly every turn, a comeback just wasn’t in the cards for the visitors.  The Lakers were 0 for 5 with the man advantage and had a remarkably difficult time setting anything up on their chances.  Even pulling Kossoff for an extra attacker proved difficult, as Lake Superior could not maintain zone possession long enough to get their netminder pulled.

Early in the third, Minnesota State briefly appeard to go up 3-1, as Gerard put the puck in the net while being taken down by Laker defenseman Steven Ruggiero.  A review disallowed the goal, but permitted a penalty shot, which Kossoff deflected up high and away.

In net, Kossoff made 29 saves on 31 shots, while McKay stopped 20 of 21 to collect the win.

Since New Year’s, the Mavericks have allowed just 25 goals in 19 games.  Of the 19 games, they have allowed more than 2 just once, a 5-3 win against Lake Superior. 

Lake Superior will look to extend their season tonight, as they aim to hand the Mavericks just their second loss on home ice all season (a 1-0 win by the Lakers on January 19th was the first).  Game time is at 8:07 p.m. EST.

WCHA Playoff Semifinal Series Preview: #20 Lake Superior State at #2 Minnesota State

#20 Lake Superior State: 23-11-2

#2  Minnesota State: 29-7-2

Favorited Mavs Looking to Gore Lakers

There are a lot of people online talking about how the Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks could very well go on to win the whole NCAA tournament. Being behind only St. Cloud State in the USCHO poll & #3 behind St. Cloud State and UMass in the Pairwise this is to be expected. After seeing how they played this year, the point would be hard to argue. Against the upstart Lake State team, the Purple Bulls are 3-1…but remember, that 1 loss was at the Verizon Wireless Center.

The junior trio of forwards Marc Michaelis, Parker Tuomie and Charlie Gerard lead the Mavs in scoring. Michaelis leads the pack with 19-20-39, Turomie with 14-23-37 and Gerard has 10-17-27 total points. Dallas Gerads has the third most goals with 12, and 21 total points.

Dryden McKay is the outstanding freshman goaltender for Minnesota State. He has played in 30 of their 38 games and has posted a 21-6-2 record. Outgoing senior Mathias Israelsson has played in 10 games, with an 8-1-0 record. McKay has posted a 1.72 GAA and a .928 Save%.

There doesn’t seem to be many holes in their armor, so the Lakers will be in for a tough one.

First Playoff Series Win Propel Lakers

It has been a long time since the Lakers have won a playoff series, let alone one at home. But with a pair of 3-1 wins against the Bemidji State Beavers, the Lakers travel once again to Mankato, the site of many losses for the Lakers. But again, the Lakers beat them in their own arena once this year, and forced a game three against them in a previous playoff series.

Diego Cuglietta still leads the team with 24 goals, 16t assists for 40 total points on the season. He remains only a single point off of the century mark, and is one goal ahead of ASU’s Johnny Walker and NMU’s Troy Loggins for the most goals in NCAA D1 hockey.

Following behind him still are fellow senior Anthony Nellis (15-18-33) and junior Max Humitz (16-16-32). Humitz is poised to hit the 100 point mark next season, if he chooses to return. As of right now, going into this series he has 80 points. His lowest point total was last year with 23 points.

Unless something radical happens, I believe that for the rest of the WCHA playoffs with feature senior goaltender Nick Kossoff will have the net. Playing in 25 games, he has posted 17 wins, 6 losses and 2 ties alongside a 2.45 GAA and a .917 Save%. If the series goes three games, you may see Mitens.

There’s a lot that can happen this weekend. Please refer to the previous post for some of the highlights of the year if things go south. I’m certainly hoping this won’t be my final preview.

As always, the game will be streamed on FloHockey.tv, and can be heard locally over the air on 99.5 YesFM, online at yesfm.net or on the Tunein app. If the stream is down for YesFM, the Mankato audio stream can be heard on 1420 KTOE:http://radio.securenetsystems.net/v4/index.cfm?stationCallSign=KTOE

The school is also holding a viewing party for all (potentially) three games this weekend at Buffalo Wild Wings. Puck Drops at 8:05pm EDT for each game.

Sweep! Lakers down Bemidji State, advance to semifinals

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

Lake State is moving on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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