Lakers return home to host Bowling Green Dec. 2-3

Photo Courtesy Kati Doty
Photo Courtesy Kati Doty
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Bowling Green at Lake Superior State
 Date  Dec. 2-3, 2016 (Friday/Saturday)
 Time  7:37 p.m. ET, Friday | 7:07 p.m., Saturday
 Location  Taffy Abel Arena | Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
 Video  WCHA.tv

 Audio

 Windows | TuneIn RadioWCHA.tv
 Live Stats  College Hockey Stats
 Twitter  @HockeyLSSU
 LSSU Record  7-7-0, 4-6-0 WCHA
 BGSU Record

 7-7-2, 6-3-1 WCHA

Coming Up This Weekend

Lake Superior State returns home to Taffy Abel Arena for the first time in a month following a rigorous three-week stretch on the road against in-state Western Collegiate Hockey Association rivals Michigan Tech and Ferris State, and a nonconference series at Michigan last weekend.

The Lakers (7-7-0, 4-6-0 WCHA) host Bowling Green, the preseason pick to win the WCHA in 2016-17, this weekend for the 161st and 162nd all-time meeting between the longtime rivals. The Falcons (7-7-2, 6-3-1 WCHA) enter the matchup unbeaten in their last six games (5-0-1), including scoring in last weekend's three-on-three overtime tie to earn the extra WCHA standings point. In their last nine games after starting the season 0-6-1, the Falcons are 7-1-1 overall.

The 2016 Teddy Bear Toss and Toasty Toes will be held Saturday, Dec. 3, in the series finale against the Falcons. Each holiday season, hockey fans throw new or gently used stuffed toys on the ice when the Lakers' score their first goal of the Teddy Bear Toss game. This year, LSSU is asking fans to throw a stuffed toy or rolled up pair of new socks onto the ice.

Saturday's contest between the Lakers and Falcons will feature the annual Teddy Bear Toss immediately following the Lakers' first goal of the game. This season LSSU is adding a new twist to the event with the goal of helping area children in need of clothing. During Saturday's game, LSSU staff will collect toys, coats and new clothes either at the door or in the stands. Fans can roll up new socks or other new clothing items to throw on the ice when the Lakers score their first goal.

The Series vs. Bowling Green

Overall: BGSU leads 78-70-12... In Sault Ste. Marie: LSSU leads: 39-31-6

Last meeting: Jan. 8-9, 2016, BGSU won 3-1 Friday; LSSU won 1-0 in OT on Saturday

Streak: LSSU 1-0-0        Last 10: LSSU leads 5-3-2

The series with the Falcons dates back to the 1970-71 season and the teams have met at least once per season in every season since the Lakers joined the Falcons in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association during the conference's second season, 1972-73.

Legendary former LSSU and BGSU coach, the late Ron Mason, helped establish the Central Collegiate Hockey Association as a "coaches league" for scheduling purposes, after meeting with former BGSU coach Jack Vivian and former St. Louis University and LSSU coach Bill Selman at the Parker House in Boston.

The Lakers and Falcons later joined the WCHA together in 2013-14 following the disbanding of the CCHA after 42 years of existence, 41 of which the Lakers were members of the conference.

In 160 career meetings between the teams, the Falcons hold a 78-70-12 advantage in the all-time series. When the Lakers have hosted the Falcons, LSSU holds a 39-31-6 edge.

The teams have played 10 times as WCHA rivals with the Lakers holding a 5-3-2 advantage and 3-1-0 record against the Falcons in games at Taffy Abel Arena. 

This weekend marks the only scheduled meeting between the teams this season. Last year the teams met twice, with both sides skating to a pair of 1-1 ties in Bowling Green before splitting the series held at Abel Arena. The Falcons won the series opener 3-1 in Sault Ste. Marie last January, before the Lakers earned the split with a 1-0 overtime victory in the finale.

Scouting the Falcons

Junior forward Mitchell McLain leads the surging Falcons with 17 points through 15 games this season on seven goals and 10 assists. Following McLain to lead the Falcons, six others have reached double digits in scoring, including: Mark Friedman (4-8--12), Tyler Spezia (4-8--12), Kevin Dufour (4-7--11), Alec Rauhauser (2-9--11), Matt Pohlkamp (6-4--10) and Sean Walker (5-5--10).

The Falcons rank second behind the Lakers in overall scoring among WCHA teams with a 3.19 goals per game average on the season. Their scoring defense ranks fourth with a 2.94 goals against average.

Junior goaltender Chris Nell has led the Falcons in the crease this season but is posting just a .885 saves percentage and boasts 2.61 goals against average. Freshman goaltender Ryan Bednard picked up the team's first shutout of the season on Saturday night in a 3-0 shutout over Alaska Anchorage. Bednard made 11 saves in the victory to improve his season totals to a 2.96 goals against average and a .800 save percentage.

Special teams should play an important role in the series as both teams are close in power play percentage, with the Lakers ranking sixth in the WCHA, clicking at 15.1 percent on the season, while the Falcons rank seventh converting 14.0 percent of their power plays. The Falcons' penalty kill has struggled this season, ranking ninth in the league at 77.1 percent, while the Lakers are tied for fifth at 83.8 percent.

Last Week Against the Wolverines (Fri.: 3-1, W |Sat.: 4-1, L)

Last weekend the Lakers opened the series at then-No. 16 ranked Michigan with a 3-1 victory on Friday night before falling 4-1 in the series finale Saturday night.

Sophomore forward Diego Cuglietta led the Lakers and the WCHA in points on the weekend, totaling a league-leading three assists. The native of Kamloops, B.C., also produced a +1 rating and registered two shots against Michigan.

Senior captain and special teams partner of Cuglietta, Gus Correale also added a two-point outing in Friday's victory. Correale assisted on Josh Nenadal's second period goal to tie the game at 1-1 and later iced the victory with an empty net goal.

Freshman forward Luke Morgan was named the WCHA Rookie of the Week after scoring the game-winning goal over the Wolverines with 2:57 remaining in Friday's contest. The goal was the second of the season for Morgan and his second-straight game with a goal.

Sophomore forward C.J. Hayes registered the Lakers' lone goal on Saturday, his first of the season and first point of the season. Junior J.T. Henke and sophomore Mitch Hults each added an assist on Friday night.

In net the Lakers received solid goaltending from Gordon Defiel on the weekend. The junior from Stillwater, Minn., made 55 saves on 59 shots faced for a .932 save percentage and averaged 2.01 goals against.

Laker Log

  • Hults continues to lead the Lakers with 16 points on five goals and a team-leading 11 assists in 14 games. BGSU's Mitch McLain is the only WCHA player with more points than Hults, with seven goals and 10 assists in 15 games played.
  • Five other Lakers have reached double figures in scoring this season: Henke (4-9--13), Cuglietta (7-5--12), Owen Headrick (2-10--12), Gage Torrel (6-5--11) and Brayden Gelsinger (4-6--10).
  • Cuglietta's seven goals leads the Lakers and ranks tied for second overall in the WCHA. His two game-winning goals is tied for fourth and his two shorthanded tallies leads the league.
  • Cuglietta ranks fourth and Hults ranks fifth overall in faceoffs won among WCHA players. Cuglietta has 147 wins on the draw (.535 faceoff percentage) and Hults has 141 wins (.538 percent).
  • After registering 10 blocked shots, including seven on Saturday, freshman defenseman Collin Saccoman leads the nation in blocked shots and holds a +7 rating. Only Minnesota State's Carter Foguth averages more blocks per game (2.77) than Saccoman (2.64).
  • Junior defenseman Aidan Wright ranks 10th overall in the WCHA with 28 blocked shots and his defensive partner Kyle Chatham ranks tied with sophomore defenseman Matt McArdle with 22 blocked shots each.
  • Wright ranks second among WCHA players and is tied for 12th among the nation's defenseman with a +9 rating on the season, while Chatham and Saccoman are tied for fourth among WCHA players with +7 ratings.
  • Despite scoring just nine goals in their last two series and 18 goals in their last eight games, the Lakers continue to lead the WCHA with a 3.43 goals per game average.
  • Headrick leads WCHA defensemen in assists (10), assists per game (0.71), points per game (0.86), and is tied with BGSU's Mark Friedman for the league lead with 12 total points. Nationally, Headrick is tied for 11th in points by defensemen.

Looking Ahead (vs. Bemidji State, Dec. 9-10)

The Lakers return to the road next weekend, following the brief reprieve from road contests. Next weekend's matchup at Bemidji State poses the toughest test to date for the Lakers this season, as the Beavers are firmly atop the WCHA standings with an unbeaten 11-0-1 conference record and an 11-4-1 overall mark to rank 13th nationally in Monday's USCHO.com Division I Men's Poll.

The Beavers are led by junior goaltender Michael Bitzer's 1.46 goals against average, a .938 save percentage and three shutouts on the season. Bitzer's stellar play has helped the Beaver lead the nation in scoring defense with a 1.62 goals against per game average.

LSSU Alumni Association Gatherings (Ann Arbor)

Laker fans with or without tickets, are welcome to join Laker alumni and fans at the Blue Leprechaun at 1220 W. University on Saturday evening, November 26, starting at 5:30pm. The Alumni Association will sponsor a pre-game social for Laker fans from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m., featuring appetizers and terrific LSSU door prizes. The social will be $5 per person at the door, or free for premium (dues-paying) members of the LSSU Alumni Association and children under 12 years old.

Laker Hockey Show

Every week Bill Crawford along with head coach Damon Whitten, the assistant coaches and players take a look at the Laker Hockey program.  The Laker Hockey Show provides a review of past games, a look ahead to future action and more information, as well as insight on the team and players.

The show is live from the Antlers restaurant on East Portage Ave. every Tuesday night starting at 6 p.m. and can be heard on WKNW ESPN Radio 1400 or you can catch up on any shows you have missed through podcasts that will be made available on http://lakers.sovcomm.net/.

Laker Hockey Talk 

Laker Hockey Talk, also on ESPN 1400, returns this year on Thursday mornings at 8:30 a.m. Bill Crawford and Damon Whitten preview the upcoming weekend's match up. Podcasts for the Laker Hockey Talk show will also be available at http://lakers.sovcomm.net/.

Soo Blue Liners

The Soo Blue Liners commenced operations as a support group in 1982-83 with a membership of 75 people. The organization was developed for the specific purpose of supporting Laker hockey.

Soo Blue Liners memberships are: $5 college students, $15 single members, $25 couples, $30 families. Membership applications are available at the Norris Center Ticket Office or by calling 906-635-0568.

Laker Club

The LSSU Laker Club is the principle fundraising initiative for athletics at Lake Superior State University. With the help of a strong and active membership, the club will work to increase fan support at all LSSU athletic events. Membership also supports athletes in the classroom through Laker Club funded scholarships. LSSU athletes are high achievers inside and outside of the classroom.