Tag: wcha

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.

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.

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).