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.
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.