Category: Series Previews

Weekend Preview: Northern Michigan University & Check.Slash.Survive

So, as you all know this would normally be the spot where we preview the upcoming series and make a few (sometimes funny) jokes. But the fact of the matter is that, even if we don’t get a single point over the next two weeks, we are in the playoffs. Anchorage needs to sweep the next two weeks in regulation to tie us in points, but we would hold the tiebreaker I believe. But they are facing Bemidji this weekend, and Alaska next weekend.

So…

There is the Cappo cup, but it’s just for this weekend series, and I’m not sure if there are any special rules due to that. And the Lakers will, of course, do their best to earn points as we could leapfrog Bowling Green (five points behind) and possibly catch Michigan Tech (assuming they get swept both weekends), but it’s looking like it’s going to be another trip to Mankato, or possibly Bemidji.

But almost more importantly, this Saturday is both Senior night and Check.Slash.Survive, which used to be called Pink in the Rink. A few years back it was rebranded so as not to focus just on breast cancer, which is generally represented by the pink ribbon.

This year’s C.S.S is focusing on Lung, Prostate and Colon cancers. The Check.Slash.Survive organization will be selling shirts, hoodies and other sort of apparel and swag, and a jersey auction will be done during the game Saturday night. The funds raised will go towards various local charities and organizations.

Six seniors will also be honored during pre-game Saturday. Brayden Gelsinger, Ian Johnston, Bryan Basilico, Max Humitz, Colin Saccoman and Brendan McKay will all be honored. Sadly, this will also mean for the first time since the 2012-2013 season, next year will be the first year without a McKay brother. The end of an era for sure.

So come on out, 7pm puck drop both nights. Saturday pre-game will be the senior night festivities. Otherwise, 99.5 YESFm locally or on Tunein will have the call, or Flohockey.tv will have the broadcast.

Series Preview: Lake Superior State University at Michigan Tech – Winter Carnival Edition

Lake State: 8-19-3

Michigan Tech: 15-13-3

Huskies Get Bit

I wouldn’t want to be the Lakers this weekend as they travel over to Houghton to face the Michigan Tech Huskies. The Huskies are sure to be wound up this weekend, not only because of it being the 98th Winter Carnival, but also because they were trounced by the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers last Saturday night, splitting the weekend.

Tech is led in scoring by a trio of sophomores: Alec Broetzman (12-7–19), Trenton Bliss (9-10—19) and Eric Gotz (4-13—17). Brian Halonen (10-6—16) is also worth mentioning, being second in overall goals for the team.

Senior Matt Jurusik leads the trio of goalies,  having played in 27 of their 31 games. He has a 2.04GAA and a .921 Save %. Junior Robbie Beydoun and Blake Pietila have also played a handful of games, with Beydoun having the better record & stats compared to the freshman goalie.

Tech looks to be set up to be a pretty consistent team over the next few years, with a large stable of freshmen and sophomores, with their sophomores leading in scoring.

Lakers Lean into the Home Stretch

The last few weeks have been interesting. They ‘swept’ the Seawolves at home, winning on Friday and winning in 3×3 OT, but we all know It counts a tie, then losing in OT to the US Under-18 team. We also saw our second 100 point player in as many years and a come from behind win.

Co-captain Max Humitz leads in overall scoring & goals for the Lakers – doubling up on the second overall goal-scorer, Pierre-Luc Veillette, with 16 goals, 7 assists for 24 points. Junior center Hampus Eriksson (5-14–19) and freshman Louis Boudon (4-14—18) round out the top 3 in points.

Goaltending has been the Mareks Mitens show despite having a 2.77 GAA and a .901 save %. Unless something strange happens in the offseason that would see Mitens leave, we will have another year to find a proper replacement starting goaltender, especially seeing as Roman Bengert is also a junior. The Lakers do have former Brahma Seth Eisele who, in 33 games for the Brahmas last season, posted a 2.28 GAA and a .926 Save5 in the regular season, and a 1.73 GAA and .943 in 5 playoff games.

This weekend’s games can be heard or seen in the normal spots: At Michigan Tech, on local radio 99.5 YesFM or on Tunein. Flohockey.tv will have the video feed from Houghton. Puck drops Friday night at 7:07pm, then a quick turnaround for 5:07pm Saturday night.

Series Preview: Alaska Anchorage at Lake Superior State

Alaska Anchourage: 4-14-4

LSSU: 7-19-2

Something Seems Familiar…

Oh, that’s right, these two teams played just a few short weeks ago up at Anchorage, where the teams split the weekend, after the Seawolves shut the Lakers out (which was incredible. I mean, even UAH, the worst team in the rankings put 2 on NoDak, then #1).   But that’s all in the past, right?

After that split, however, the Seawolves were swept by Northern Michigan, then last week swept Alabama-Huntsville (winning Saturday night in 3×3 overtime, so technically a tie).

 The Seawolves are led in scoring by freshman forward Nick Wicks, with 6 goals, 8 assists for 13 points. Following him Is senior defensemen Tmi Hakkavirta, who has 1 goal and 12 assists.

Goaltending looks to have been mostly junior Kris Carlson, who has played in 14 games, with a 2-8-2 record, good for 776 minutes, a 2.55 GAA and a .922 save %. Junior Kristian Stead has appeared in 9 games, and Brandon Perrone has appeared in just one game.

Oh Captain my Captain!

When a team isn’t doing well, it’s easy to focus on the negatives, and in this column I’ve certainly done my fair share of that. However, this week is a little different. This weekend the Laker family welcomes back one of our own & a former Captain: Matt Bruneteau. In the 2012-2013 campaign he started as an assistant captain before being named the Captain in 2013-14.  He finished the 2013-14 year trying out in the ECHL, but wound up playing for Strasbourg in the French league for two seasons. He retired from playing and started as an assistant coach with Stevenson University one year after they started their NCAA D3 mens program. This is the second year with the Seawolves, but the first time returning to Taffy Abel Arena.

So let’s give him a warm welcome home.

After being held to a single goal in their last game, Max Humitz is still sitting at 97 career points. This should be a good team to tally the final three to get to the century mark & looking forward to pass that going into the final month of the regular season, but we will have to see about that.

Puck drops at 7:00pm both Friday and Saturday at Abel Arena. Listen to the game locally by tuning your dial to 99.5, or listen through TuneIn or other streaming methods. If you want to view the game, FloHockey is where you need to go if you cannot make it to the arena.

Series Preview: Lake Superior State at Alaska

Alaska: 10-12-0

LSSU: 7-18-1

Bearing Down on the Standings

It’s been no secret over the last few seasons that the Fairbanks based Alaska Nanooks have had some consistency issues over the last few seasons, usually dwelling in the middle to low-mid of the standings, but still usually making playoffs. This year, however, they are proving themselves this year, sweeping or splitting with some tough opponents: Starting out conference play by sweeping Michigan Tech in Houghton, shutting out then #9 Penn State in Happy Valley, taking another win from Tech in Alaska.

The Nanooks are currently sitting in the #4 spot in the WCHA, which is also the last home playoff spot.

They are led in scoring by a trio of junior forwards, Max Newton (6-8-14), Justin Young (7-6-13) and Steven Jandric (5-8-13). In net they are leaning heavily on Anton Martinsson, the senior out of Klippan, Sweden. They have played sophomore Gustavs Grigals, out of Latvia, having played in 9 games with the same tally of wins.

Bailing Water

The Lakers are sitting just 3 points ahead of Ferris who currently own the final playoff spot, and just 4 points ahead of Alaska Anchorage, who they will face again in two weeks at Abel Arena. This is a far cry from the success the team had last season, but certainly seems closer to what we as Laker fans have come to expect in recent years.

The one bright spot on the team has been Max Humitz, who is currently sitting at 97 career points. Humitz is leading the team in both overall points and goals by quite a bit, with 21 points and 14 goals. Junior center Hampus Eriksson is second in scoring with 16 points. Pierre-Luc Veilette is second in goals with 6.

Goaltending has been pretty much Mareks Mitens exclusively, playing in 25 games, with a 7-16-1 record. Roman Bengert has appeared in 3 games, going 0-2-0. Freshman Seth Eisele has yet to appear in a game.

In other news, it appears some players have left the team at some point. Forwards Owen Guy and Roberts Bluegers, defensemen Bennet Vida have all been removed from LSSU’s roster on their website. It appears Vida is now with Trinity Western University of the BCIHL, playing in 2 games so far with 1 assist. Neither Guy nor Bluegers have updated profiles on Elite Prospects. One would have to guess the reason they left was lack of playing time. We here at LakerHockeyBlog would like to wish them the best with their future endeavors, and also thank them for their time as Lakers.

The Lakers play in Fairbanks Friday and Saturday, puck drops at 7:07 AT, which should be -4 hours from Eastern time, so the game would start at 11:07pm eastern. As always, the game will be on Flohockey.tv for a fee, or you can listen in on 99.5 YesFM locally or on TuneIn.

Holiday Tournament Preview: Catamount Cup

The field for the 2019 Catamount Cup.

For the third year in a row, and fifth time in head coach Damon Whitten’s tenure, Lake Superior State will partake in a holiday tournament, returning to Burlington, Vermont for the Catamount Cup.

The event is usually referred to as a tournament, but all of the matchups are preset.  Host Vermont always plays the late games, likely so their fans may watch them at their regular starting time.  Disadvantages of this setup include the possibility of two teams going 2-0, no true championship game and the possibility that the tourney champs will not be honoured on the ice, as is custom.

Lake Superior joins Union and Providence in Burlington, all of whom will look to dethrone the host Catamounts, who won the cup last season.  The Lakers play the Friars in the early game at 4:00 p.m. EST on Saturday, and face Vermont at 7:05 p.m. EST on Sunday.

About the Lakers

It was a rough first half for Damon Whitten’s crew, as the Lakers (6-15-1, 4-9-1 WCHA) have been unable to meet the lofty expectations that came about from last seasons’ success.  After an opening weekend sweep of Merrimack and playing Denver close, Lake Superior has picked up a home sweep of Ferris State (the first since joining the WCHA) and two non-consecutive wins against Bowling Green, but have struggled mightily, especially on the road.

Making his mark on the score sheet is senior Max Humitz (11-6–17), who currently sits at 93 points in his collegiate career, followed by Hampus Eriksson (4-11–15) and Pete Veillette (5-7–12).  Junior Mareks Mitens has seen the lion’s share of starts, and has a 3.16 goals against average and  .894 save percentage.

About the Friars

The Lakers will have their work cut out for them if they are looking to win another holiday tourney, following last season’s win in the Great Lakes Invitational.  Providence enters the tourney ranked #13 in the USCHO poll, #15 in the USA Today poll and currently sits atop the Hockey East standings.  The Friars (9-5-3, 6-4-2 Hockey East) look to be the favourites in this event.  Sophomores Jack Dugan (6-27–33) and Thopmson (13-14–27) sit 1-2 in scoring nationally, and junior Greg Printz (11-9–20) has also put up a hat full of points.  In net, senior Michael Lackey has a  2.45 GAA and a .915 SV%.

Providence and the Lakers have a couple of connections: assistant coach Ron Rolston was a member of Jeff Jackson’s staff during the championship era, while Lake State’s current Sports Info Director, Kelsey Smith, is an alumni of Providence College.

Both teams played in the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh during the 2017-18 season, but did not wind up facing each other.  The Friars downed Arizona State and host Robert Morris to claim the title, while Lake Superior fell to Robert Morris, but defeated the Sun Devils for a 3rd place finish.

About the Catamounts

…And now for something completely different.  The Catamounts enter their tournament with one of the worst records in the nation at 1-11-2 overall and 0-8-1 in league play.  Kevin Sneddon’s bunch has not won since October 19th, when they defeated St. Lawrence in their 2nd game of the year.  They are winless in their last 12 games, although ties against Boston University and Arizona State are interspersed.

In scoring, defenceman Andrew Lucas leads the ‘Cats with a paltry 7 points, followed by forwards Ace Collins (3-3–6) and Jacques Bouquot (1-5–6).  Between the pipes, Stefanos Lekkas has played each game, posting a 2.86 GAA and a .908 SV%.

During the 2015-16 season, Lake Superior and Vermont played on the first day of the tourney.  The Catamounts won 1-0 en route to securing the tourney crown against Colgate the following night.  Lake Superior appeared to tie the game in the final minute of regulation but it was judged that goaltender Patrick Munson had been interfered with.

About the Dutchmen

Union, under bench boss Rick Bennett, can have a bearing on where the Lakers finish in this tournament due to ties being decided by total goals scored.  The Dutchmen (5-12-0, 3-5-0 ECAC) come into the tournament having won 3 of their last 4, after an abysmal start to the year which saw them go 1-7 in October.  Leading the team in scoring is senior Anthony Rinaldi (4-7–11), while goaltender Darion Hanson has put up a 2.79 GAA and .907 SV%.

Series Preview: #10 Bowling Green at Lake Superior State

#10 Bowling Green: 11-5-1

Lake Superior State: 1-14-1

Bowling Green Recuse Win Against Chargers

The WCHA is having a great year in the national standings, with Minnesota State having been in the #1 spot for the last month or so, Bowling Green has also been up and down the rankings most of the season & the league currently has MTU and NMU receiving the most votes of teams not ranked.

The Falcons of Bowling Green are coming off an interesting weekend. After what looks to have been meltdown of epic proportions from Alabama-Huntsville Chargers on Friday night, allowing 9 unanswered goals after going up 3-0, and two players taking 10 minute misconducts within 2 minutes of each other in the second, the Chargers forced a close game Saturday night. The two battled to a 2-2 tie, with Bowling Green taking the extra conference point in 3×3 overtime.

Senior Defenseman Alec Rauhauser leads the team in points, totaling 17, followed b a pair a junior forwards, Connor Ford with 17, and Cameron Wright with 16 – 11 of those being goals, which leads the team. Junior Eric Dop continues to be their workhorse goalie with a 2.06 GAA and a .914 Save %.

Lakers Gored by Minnesota State

This season has been a rough one for our Lakers, to say the least. They took a drumming last week against the Minnesota State Mavericks, being outscored 7-1, with Saturday night being a shutout. Mareks Mitens also sits on top for Division 1 goalies for goals against, with a whopping 60, 7 more than UConn’s Thomas Vomacka, a Nashivlledraft pick, and 10 more than Wisconson’s Daniel Lebedeff. He sits 64rd out of 71 ranked goalies in Save Percentage (.886) and 64th in Goals Against Average (3.34).

Now, don’t get this wrong – I am not suggesting that this is Marek’s fault alone. In fact, it’s the opposite.  We sit tied in 8th place overall for most penalties, with 97 on the year (Alaska leads the group by a mile, with 128 penalties), resulting in 238 penalty minutes, which is good enough for 14th place. Again I say that the coaching staff either needs to come up with different combinations, or try out some kids who don’t normally play. At this point, why not see what Vida can do, for instance? Or the players need to come together and figure out who they work well with in practice and suggest using said line.

There are some bright spots, While we are tied with Maine on faceoffs lost, we are second in faceoffs won, also behind Maine. The Lakers have 620 FW with Maine taking 637. At this point last year, the Lakers were ranked 44th in shots blocked, with 168. This year, we are sitting in 27th with 193.

But this is the last weekend of play for the half, not counting the Catamount Cup just after Christmas. The Lakers are sitting alone in 7th place, just ahead of Ferris State and Alaska Anchorage by a single point, and trailing Northern Michigan by 7. Depending on how well the Lakers, Bulldogs and Chargers play this weekend (UAH is in last with 5 points, but play Ferris this weekend. UAA are off), we could, possibly, be even more on the bubble of missing playoffs. I believe we currently have the tiebreaker on Ferris, but I am not sure about UAA.

Puck drops at 7:00pm both Friday and Saturday nights here in Sault Sainte Marie. Listen to the game locally by tuning your dial to 99.5, or listen through TuneIn or other streaming methods. If you want to view the game, FloHockey is where you need to go if you cannot make it to the arena.

Series Preview: Lake Superior State @ #17 Bowling Green

Bowling Green: 7-4-0 overall

Lake Superior State: 4-10-0

A New Falconer Forces Progress

One big changeup in college hockey this past summer was that there was going to be a change behind the bench for the Falcons. 9-Year bench boss for BG, Chris Bergeron, after a spot opened up in his Alma Mater of Miami (Ohio).  Bergeron was the first coach since Jerry York, whose tenure ran between 1979-1994, to post a positive win percentage for the team.

Now leading the club is Ty Eigner, a 1993 graduate of Bowling Green. He is off to a good start too, posting a 7-4-0 record thus far. The wins come curtasey of Miami (Ohio), a sweep of Western in a home-and-home series (after a loss to them at the Icebreaker), the split with Michigan Tech, a split in an overtime win with Minnesota State-Mankato before finally sweeping Alaska Anchorage.

Bowling Green is led in scoring by senior defenseman Alec Rauhauser who has 12 points, Connor Ford, a junior forward has 11 points and Alex Barber, a sophomore forward follows up with 10 total points. Cameron Wright, a junior forward leads the team with 8 goals. Eric Dop is the go-to goalie this year, playing in 10 of their 11 games. He has a 7-3-0 record, a 2.19 GAA and a .914 Save%.

Lakers Not Weathering Early Storms

Whew this season has been rough. At this point last season, the Lakers were flying high at 6-3-1 record (6-4 if you count the tie as a loss, as it was in 3v3 OT). They started the season winning 7 straight, between 2 on-conference series, an exhibition weekend, and a weekend of WCHA play. It seemed the team morale was high, fans were having fun (and would continue to do so, winning another 8 straight after dropping three in a row).

This campaign isn’t as much fun. While we have played against two ranked opponents so far this season, keeping it closer than the score says with then #2 Denver, then a few weeks later at #5 Notre Dame, they were swept by a really bad Michigan team, having won only 3 games this season (the other win coming from a pounding of Western), they have yet to win a conference game and sit at the bottom of the B1G. And save for Saturday night’s game against cross UP rivals Michigan Tech, they have been mostly blown out.

The defense corp needs to figure itself out. There was only one loss in that department after last season, Steven Ruggerio. Ruggerio, as a refresher, was second in the nation with the number of penalties taken  (36), and only scored 11 points on the year, and blocking 57 shots (second to Colin Saccoman). Saccoman already has 9 points on the season. Only two defensemen ended their year with a worse +/-. Anderson and Semandel, but they only played 29 and 17 games respectively, whereas Ruggerio played in all but one. This isn’t trying to say that Steven wasn’t a good player, he was, but losing just guy shouldn’t make the blue line this porous. The goaltending could step it up too, but when the play in front of him is subpar, there’s only so much one man can do.

A split or sweep this weekend would do wonders for this team and it’s fans. Bowling Green is a long time rival of the Lakers, going all the way back to the CCHA days. And save for the playoff series that we don’t talk about, the Lakers always seem to step up their game against the Falcons.

Max Humitz notched another point last week, bringing his career point total to 88.

Puck drops at 7:00pm both Friday and Saturday nights in Bowling Green. Listen to the game locally by tuning your dial to 99.5, or listen through TuneIn or other streaming methods.If you want to view the game, FloHockey is where you need to go. Get every in conference game for one price.

Series Preview: Ferris State at Lake Superior State

Ferris: 2-3-0 Overall

Lake Superior State: 2-6-0 Overall

First, I would like to apologize for the lack of previews over the last couple of weeks. For the Michigan series, I was still getting over the sickness I got while on vacation. Then last week a stick of RAM decided to die in my PC, which made pretty much anything that I opened became corrupted, and that didn’t get fixed until late Friday. So, let’s get back on track:

Bulldogs In the Doghouse

The start of the Bulldog’s season has been an interesting one. Since starting NCAA play, they’ve beat Colgate in a best-of-one, and split with Miami in Miami before getting swept by conference rivals Northern Michigan on their own ice.

They are led by senior defenseman Nate Kallen with senior forward Dominic Lutz being named as an alternative captain. Bob Daniels also returns for his 28th season as bench boss. Roni Salmenkangas, the Finnish sophomore goalie looks to be their workhorse, playing in 4 games, with Carter McPhail, a Michigan native having played in two games looking like the backup in the early part of the season, although other than the two wins that Salmenkangas has posted, their stat lines look very similar.

Lake State Heading Toward Dry Dock

While there may  have been a number of fans who though the Lakers were going to come out swinging, starting off where they left off last year, I was not really one of them. Excited to see what would happen? Sure. But losing the likes of Nellis and Cuglietta scoring was going to depend greatly on who could step – would it be sophomore Mucha? One of the Freshman? So far Humitz and Erikson lead the pack with 8 total points, followed closely by Ashton Calder and Collin Saccoman, each of whom have 6 total points.

Looking at the start of this season, it has not been easy on the Lakers. After sweeping Merrimack to start the season, they’ve dropped six straight, all against non-conference opponents and two ranked teams. In those six games, they’ve been outscored 26-13. With this week starting conference play, the rest of the team has to step up and contribute more.

Both games this weekend drop the puck at 7:00pm EST. Bill Crawford will have the call on 99.5 YesFM, both locally and streaming online. WCHA Partner FloHockey will have the livestream from the Taffy Abel Arena if you want to watch the game but can’t make it to the arena.

Series Preview: #2 Denver @ Lake Superior State – GLSW Edition

#2 Denver: 2-0-0

LSSU: 2-0-0

Denver Pi(oneering)ning For The Frozen Four

The Denver Pioneers are coming off their 12th straight NCAA tournament appearance and another Frozen Four appearance. They’re also only two years removed from a national championship.  Denver is lead by second-year head coach David Carle, with assistants Tavis MacMillian, Dallas Ferusona nd Corey Wogtech. Carle, who took over for Jim Montgomery, now with the Dallas Stars, posted a 24-12-5 record in his first season behind the bench.

On the ice, they are captained by senior defenseman Ian Mitchell, and assisted by fellow defenseman Michael Davies and forward Tyson McLellan, both of which are seniors. With two games under his belt, and both wins, it looks like Swedish goaltender Magnus Chrona will be their starter…and at 6’6, he takes up a lot of net.

Great Lake State Wins Weekend

Much like their opponents, the Lakers are coming off of a weekend sweep. Tripling up on Merrimack Saturday night, they won by a single goal Sunday. This weekend marks the 24th Great Lake State Weekend, which serves as Lake Superior State’s homecoming. There will be events going on all around campus both Friday and Saturday, but we will be focusing on the two games.

The last time these two teams met was two years ago in Denver, where the Lakers nearly spoiled the Pioneers’ championship banner raising, losing in OT, then being crushed 5-1 Saturday. They were also ranked #1.

That Laker team was much different than the current one, both in players and mindset. After the incredible season last year, the team finally has a winning attitude, and hopefully co-captains Max Humitz and Collin Saccoman, with help from their alternates Brendan McKay and Lukas Kaelble can take the momentum the team had last season and come out of the gate swinging. If you are planning on attending the games this weekend, we urge you to go online & reserve your seat ASAP if you have not done so. GLSW weekend is generally the biggest weekend of the season in terms of ticket sales. Friday night’s game starts at 7:30pm, with Saturday’s starting at 7:00pm. The games will be broadcast locally by YesFM, with the Voice of the Lakers Bill Crawford doing as he has done for so long, calling the play-by-play. If you are not able to attend or listen, consider watching the game through FloHockey.

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.