SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. - The Lake Superior State hockey team opened their 2017-18 season on Sunday, October 1st, with a matchup against Laurentian University at the Taffy Abel Arena. The Lakers, under fourth year head coach Damon Whitten, came from behind to defeat the Voyageurs 3-2.
The Voyageurs struck first when defenseman Jayme Forsland took advantage of a penalty by Lake Superior defenseman Matt McArdle and put the puck past Laker junior goaltender Nick Kossoff for a power play goal. Laurentian would go 1 for 4 on the power play.
The Lakers struck back later in the period, when junior forward Jake Hand buried the puck on Voyageurs goaltender Joel Vienneau. Vienneau was the goaltender for Laurentian when the Lakers played them in an exhibition game last season, making 50 saves in that game. Vienneau posted 23 saves in 40 minutes of play, before being relieved by Charlie Millen in the third period.
In the second period, the Lakers shook off a sluggish start, outshooting the Voyageurs 17-8 for the period. Laurentian, however, scored the only goal of the period when Tyler Shaw scored on a breakaway, sending the Lakers back to the locker room down 2-1 after two periods.
Two quick goals in the final period put Lake Superior ahead for good. With Laruentian's Shaw off for tripping, junior forward Diego Cuglietta collected a rebound off the stick of freshman forward Hampus Erikkson and scored on Millen to tie the game on the power play. Just over a minute later, sophomore forward Max Humitz put the puck over the left shoulder of Millen, putting the Lakers ahead for good.
Lake Superior outshot Laurentian 41-21 on the game, and dominated the shots in the third period, 19-3.
"After watching the blue and gold game, I was concerned with our conditioning, but I thought we looked good out there in the third period," said Whitten. "We had a couple of guys who played some minutes, but we had a good pace, good legs, so maybe we're a little bit better than we thought following Saturday."
"I thought we responded well and really began to handle the pace," said Whitten. "We had a really strong finish, from halfway through the second period on. We controlled play and did a really good job."
Kossoff had 19 saves on 21 shots faced. Counterpart Vienneau had 23 saves on 24 shots, while Millen chalked up 15 saves on 17 shots.
Despite the Lakers winning the game in regulation, a five minute 3 on 3 overtime period was played to help Lake Superior get some practice in 3 on 3 play. Last season, the Western Collegiate Hockey Associaion (WCHA) implemented a 3 on 3 overtime to be played if a game was tied after regulation and still tied following the NCAA-mandated five minute 5 on 5 overtime. Should nobody score in the 3 on 3 overtime, a sudden death shootout is played to determine a winner in league play.
In the overtime, junior forward Anthony Nellis slipped the puck through the five hole of goaltender Millen to end the session.
Lake Superior officially opens the season on Friday, October 6th with a non-conference home-and-home series against Upper Peninsula rivals Northern Michigan.
"They are a total unknown this year," said Whitten on Northern Michigan. The Wildcats will have a new coach this year in Grant Potulny. "I'm expecting a much different style of play, or some differences for sure. We will have to be sharp on the bench to help our players adjust."
The Friday game starts at 7:07 p.m. at the Taffy Abel Arena, while the Saturday matchup will take place at the Berry Events Center in Marquette, Michigan, also at 7:07 p.m. Tickets for Friday can be purchased online at lssulakers.com/tickets or at the Norris Center ticket office.