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Lakers close 2016 with non-conference set at Omaha

Photo courtesy Jodie Defiel
Photo courtesy Jodie Defiel
Lake Superior State at Omaha
 Date  Dec. 30-31, 2016 (Friday/Saturday)
 Time  8:07 p.m. ET, Fri. | 5:07 p.m. ET, Sat.
 Location  Baxter Arena | Omaha, Neb.

 Audio | 1180 The Zone 2 (Omaha Radio)
 Live Stats  College Hockey Stats
 Twitter  @HockeyLSSU
 LSSU Record  8-9-1, 5-8-1 WCHA
 UNO Record

 9-6-3, 4-4-0 NCHC

Coming Up This Weekend

Lake Superior returns to action this weekend at Nebraska-Omaha, following a two-week hiatus for the holiday break. The weekend series caps the 2016 portion of the schedule for the Lakers, who enter the matchup 8-9-1 overall and in eighth place of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association with a 5-8-1 in conference play.

The Mavericks welcome their former Central Collegiate Hockey Association counterparts ranked 20th nationally and boast a 9-6-3 overall record 4-4-0 record in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. During the month of December, the Mavericks posted a 2-1-1 record and a 5-3-2 mark in their last 10 games.

The Series vs. Omaha

Overall: UNO leads, 14-9-5... In Omaha: UNO leads, 11-4-3

Last meeting: Jan. 15-16, 2010 (Sault Ste. Marie), LSSU won 2-1 Friday and 5-4 Saturday

Streak: LSSU 3-0-0        Last 10: LSSU leads 4-3-3

The Mavericks joined the Lakers in the CCHA during the 1999-2000 season and the teams met 28 times over 11 seasons, including a pair of CCHA playoff games. This weekend's series marks the first time the teams will meet as nonconference opponents.

UNO holds a 14-9-5 series lead in the all-time series and boasts a 9-4-3 record over the Lakers at home during the regular season. Omaha also swept LSSU in a pair of first-round CCHA Playoffs games at home in 2005. The Lakers have won three straight against the Mavericks and hold a 4-3-3 record in the previous 10 meetings.

Scouting the Mavericks

The 20th-ranked Mavs boast the highest scoring team in the NCHC and seventh-ranked offense nationally with 3.56 goals per game and are led in scoring by senior forward Austin Ortega. Ortega ranks second overall in the NCHC with 12 goals and 23 points in 18 games and leads the conference with 11 power-play points, including four power-play goals.

Two other Maverick scorers currently sit in the NCHC top-10, junior Tyler Vesel with 7-13--20 to rank tied for fourth and junior Jake Randolph at 4-13--17 tied for eighth overall. Juniors David Pope (5-11--16) and Luc Snuggerud (6-10--16) round out the Mavericks' top-five scorers and are tied with Ortega and Vesel with four power-play goals to lead UNO.

Between the pipes, Evan Weninger has been reliable with a 6-3-2 record and 2.65 goals against average. Weninger's .915 save percentage ranks third overall among NCHC goaltenders.  

With an extra attacker, this season the Mavericks have connected for 26 power-play goals in 93 attempts to lead the NCHC and rank second nationally with a 28-percent mark on the power play.

Last Time Out Against the Beavers (Fri.: 1-1, TOT, SOL | Sat.: 3-2, L)

Prior to the break in action for the holidays, the Lakers wrapped up the first half of the season with tie and shootout loss at Bemidji State in the series opener on Friday night before losing an early one-goal lead in Saturday's series finale to fall 3-2.

The loss at the hands of the Beavers dropped the Lakers to under .500 (win percentage) for the first time this season. In fact, since starting the season 5-0-0, the Lakers have gone 3-9-1 and have just two wins in their last 10 games (2-7-1).

Laker Log

  • Sophomore forward Mitch Hults leads the Lakers and ranks second among WCHA players in scoring with six goals and 15 assists for 21 points in 18 games this season and is followed by linemate Gage Torrel with 8-7--15.
  • Diego Cuglietta (8-6--14), J.T. Henke (5-9--14), and Owen Headrick (2-12--14) are tied for third among the Lakers lineup in scoring.
  • Torrel and Cuglietta currently sit tied with Minnesota State's Brad McClure for fourth in total goals scored among WCHA players with eight
  • Following a 6-1-0 start to the season and averaging 5.0 goals per game, the Lakers have since been held to two or fewer goals in eight of their last 13 games.
  • In their last 11 games the Lakers are 2-8-1 and average 2.0 goals per game.
  • Still, the Lakers lead the WCHA with a 3.17 goals per game mark.
  • On the power play the Lakers are connecting on just 13.0 percent of their opportunities and have allowed a league-high five shorthanded goals, tying three other teams in shorthanded goals allowed.
  • The penalty kill has been successful just 83.8 percent of the time, ranking fifth in the WCHA. The Lakers have also scored a WCHA's best five shorthanded goals this season.
  • With a combined 31 goals and 53 assists for 84 total points, the Lakers' sophomore class leads all other classes in combined goals, assists and points this season.
  • As a group, the Lakers' forwards are tied with three other teams, including WCHA rivals Bowling Green, for 12th nationally in combined points (117). Their 52 combined goals rank eighth nationally.
  • After registering his third-straight weekend tallying eight or more blocked shots on the weekend at Bemidji, freshman defenseman Collin Saccoman continues to lead the nation with 53 blocked shots. Saccoman's 2.94 blocked shots per game is also a national best.
  • Junior defenseman Aidan Wright leads the WCHA in plus-minus rating and ranks tied for eighth nationally among defensemen. The Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., native also ranks tenth in the WCHA with 37 blocked.
  • Wright's defensive partner Kyle Chatham (1-6--7) is tied for second among WCHA players with a +10 rating and has 31 blocked shots on the season.
  • Owen Headrick is tied for third in overall defenseman scoring with 14 points on the season. His 12 assists are tied for the most by a WCHA defenseman.

Looking Ahead (vs. Northern Michigan, Jan. 6 & 14 | at NMU Jan. 7 & 13)

The Lakers open 2017 with consecutive home-and-home series against Upper Peninsula rivals Northern Michigan on January 6 at home before making the trek to Marquette for the series finale (Jan. 7). The following week the teams reverse roles with the Wildcats (4-15-2, 2-11-1 WCHA) hosting the Lakers Friday (Jan. 13) and the Cappo Cup rivalry coming to a close in Sault Ste. Marie on Saturday (Jan. 14).

LSSU reclaimed the Cappo Cup last season with a 2-1-1 advantage over  NMU. The trophy awarded to the victors of the season series every year since the 1994-95 season and named in honor of Monsignor Louis Cappo, was first awarded in the 1991-92 season when the teams split the series but the Lakers held a 9-5 advantage in goal differential.

All-time, the Wildcats hold a 14-9 advantage in the Cappo Cup series.

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

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

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.