SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – The Lake Superior State men's hockey team under head coach Damon Whitten is set to play their first conference games of the 2017-18 season, as they enter Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) play. The Lakers will host the defending WCHA Conference Tournament champions, the Michigan Tech Huskies on Friday, October 13th at 7:37 p.m. and Saturday, October 14th at 7:07 p.m. at the Taffy Abel Arena on the campus of Lake Superior State University. The series will highlight Lake Superior State's annual Great Lake State Weekend (GLSW).
The Lakers (1-1-0, 0-0-0 WCHA) split their opening weekend series with Northern Michigan. The series, played as a home-and-home and non-conference affair, resulted in each team winning its home games, as the Lakers won the Friday night game 5-3, while the Wildcats took the Saturday game 4-1. During the Friday game, the Lakers' power play was on full display, as they went 4 for 6 on the man advantage, and managed to chase Northern Michigan goaltender Atte Tolvanen. Tolvanen was recently named to the watch list for the Mike Richter Award, given out annually to the most outstanding goaltender in Division I men's ice hockey.
The Huskies (2-1-0, 0-0-0 WCHA) played in the 2017 IceBreaker Tournament in Duluth, Minnesota. Michigan Tech won the Friday game against Union 6-3, before defeating host Minnesota-Duluth to win the tournament by a 4-3 score. Huskies defenseman Mark Auk was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts, while forward Justin Misiak received WCHA Rookie of the Week accolades.
About the Lakers
The Lakers finished 11-18-7 in 2016-17, going 8-13-7 in conference play. After averaging 1.8 goals per game in 2015-16, last year's squad managed 2.83 goals per game – over a full goal higher. Among the highlights were the first six goal game since 2013 (October 14th vs. Michigan State,) the first seven goal game since 2009 (October 15th vs. Michigan State,) and participating in the WCHA Tournament for the third consecutive year.
Of the top nine scorers from last season, seven return, including senior J.T. Henke, and sophomore Max Humitz. Henke (10-20—30) finished second on the team in scoring as a junior, after leading the team in his sophomore season, while Humitz (13-7—20) was selected to the WCHA All-Rookie team. In addition, juniors Gage Torrel (14-8—22), Anthony Nellis (9-13—22) and Diego Cuglietta (12-13—25) return as members of what was one of the highest scoring classes in the country last season. Two new forwards, Hampus Erikkson of Sweden and Sault Ste. Marie native Chase Gamelin, will join 12 returning forwards.
On the blueline, three senior defenseman will suit up for the Lakers this season, including team captain Aiden Wright, assistant captain Ryan Renz and Kyle Chatham, who led the team in plus/minus last year with a +8 rating. Also returning is sophomore Collin Saccoman, who was among the nation's leaders in blocked shots, and junior Matt McArdle, who logged solid minutes for the Lakers in his first two seasons. Joining them are five new defensemen, including Steven Ruggiero, a transfer from Providence College. Ruggiero is not expected to play until midseason.
In goal, junior Nick Kossoff and sophomore Cooper Lukenda will be joined by freshmen Mareks Mitens and Roman Bengert. Each will be vying for the starting goaltending position, which was vacated with the graduation of Gordie Defiel.
Through two games, the Lakers are led by Cuglietta (2-1—3), freshman defenseman Lukas Kaelble (0-3—3) and junior forward Jake Hand (1-1—2). In net, Kossoff has posted a .906 save percentage and a 3.01 goals against average. On the strength of four power play goals in their Friday opener, the Lakers currently hold a .444 power play percentage (4 for 9) and a .200 mark on the penalty kill (2 for 10).
About the Huskies
Michigan Tech finished 23-15-7 for the 2016-17 campaign, with a 15-7-6 record in conference play. A 3-5-2 record in October, combined with a hot start by Bemidji State, resulted in a gap in the standings that the Huskies were unable to close. Despite their start, Michigan Tech still finished the WCHA in 2nd place. In the tournament, the Huskies swept the Lakers and downed Minnesota State before defeating Bowling Green 3-2 in double overtime in Houghton to be crowned WCHA Tournament champions. By winning the tournament, the Huskies earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament where they lost to eventual national champion Denver 5-2.
Michigan Tech returns their leading scorer in senior forward Joel L'Esperance (11-17—28). Other forwards returning include sophomore Gavin Gould (12-11—23), junior Jake Lucchini (11-11—22) and sophomore Alex Smith (7-13—20). Among the losses for the Huskies are Reid Sturos (11-14—25), Michael Neville (7-16—23) and Tyler Heinonen (7-6—13).
Defensively, senior Mark Auk (5-18—23) returns to anchor the blueline, along with sophomore Mitch Reinke (6-14—20) and junior Dane Birks (2-7—9). Three D-men were lost to graduation, including Shane Hanna (8-19—27), Chris Leibinger (9-6—15) and Cliff Watson (3-12—15), plus Matt Roy (5-21—26), who opted to forego his senior season to play for the Los Angeles Kings organization.
In goal, the Huskies lost 2016-17's starting goaltender, Angus Redmond. Redmond (22-10-5, 1.85 GAA, .917 SV%) signed a pro deal with the Anaheim Ducks organization. In addition to Redmond, Michigan Tech also lost goaltender Matt Winjtes to graduation. Coming in for Michigan Tech is Patrick Munson. Munson played his freshman season at Vermont, before transferring to Denver last season. There, he did not play during the season which saw the Pioneers claim the National Championship. After last season, Munson, now a junior, transferred again, this time to the Huskies.
Easily the highest profile loss for Michigan Tech, however, was head coach Mel Pearson. Perarson, after six years behind the Huskies' bench and putting together a 118-92-29 record, returned to Michigan following the retirement of Wolverines head coach Red Berenson. Pearson was an assistant under Berenson for 22 years before returning to his alma mater in Houghton.
Homecoming for Shawhan
Like Lake Superior's opponent last week, the Huskies have a new bench boss – one with whom Sault Ste. Marie natives and longtime Laker fans are familiar in Joe Shawhan. Shawhan, a Sault Ste. Marie native, played for the Lakers from 1983 to 87, and also served as an assistant coach with Lake State from 2005 to 2008. He also served as head coach of the Soo Indians of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) from 1995 to 2005, putting together a 474–162–43 record, and was an assistant at Northern Michigan from 2008 to 2014. He joined the Huskies in 2014 when then-assistant coach Whitten was tabbed for the head coaching position of the Lakers.
Tickets for Friday and Saturday night can be purchased at the Norris Center ticket office or by going to lssulakers.com/tickets.
Tickets are $12.50 for adults, $10.50 for seniors and $6.50 for children (under 18). Single-game tickets have increased 50 cents to help cover mounting ticket vendor service charges. LSSU students receive free admission and must possess a valid student ID. For tickets, call or visit the Norris Center Ticket Office, 635- 2602. Fans can also now order their tickets online at lssulakers.com/tickets/index and pick them up at will call before a game or during regular business hours.
Every home game and all road games against conference opponents will be available via live stream hosted by Stretch Internet on WCHA.tv.
Season tickets for the 2017-18 Laker Hockey season, which includes an action-packed Fall, are available online or at Norris Center Guest Services.
This year's season-ticket packages are $197.00 for adults and $92.00 for children 17-and-under. The Snowbird Package, which includes the first 13 games, is available for $112.00. Season tickets can be purchased or renewed at the Student Activity Center Help Desk during the Norris Center's normal operational hours, or by calling 906-635-2602. Visit www.lssulakers.com/tickets to order online.
The season ticket package includes three playoff games. Should the Lakers not host a first-round playoff series, playoff ticket refunds will be offered through May 15, 2018.
Adult season packages are $197 and include 17 home games plus three Western Collegiate Hockey Association first-round playoff games. Child season tickets are $92 and also include three playoff games. The Snowbird package includes the Lakers' first 13 home games for $112.
Season tickets can be purchased online through www.lssulakers.com/tickets or at the Norris Center Guest Services Desk during summer hours. LSSU faculty/staff and retirees must pick up tickets at the Norris Center.
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. A review of past games, a look ahead to future action and more information and insight on the team and players. The show is live from the Antlers restaurant on East Portage Avenue every Tuesday night starting at 6 p.m. and can be heard on WKNW ESPN Radio 1400.
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) 248-5732.
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.
On the Road
Three Laker teams will hit the road over the next week, as volleyball, men's golf and women's golf will each be travelling to tournaments.
The Laker volleyball team, who is coming of its first Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) win of the season, will be headed to Aurora, Illinois for the Midwest Region Crossover. There, the Lakers (2-13, 1-8 GLIAC) will face the Truman State Bulldogs of the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC), the Missouri S&T Miners, also from the GLVC, and a former GLIAC foe in the Ohio Dominican Panthers, now a member of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (GMAC). Lake Superior takes on the Bulldogs (7-11, 3-6 GLVC) on Friday, October 13th at 3:30 p.m. On Saturday, October 14th, Lake Superior faces the Miners (5-13, 1-8 GLVC) at 11 a.m., before taking on Ohio Dominican (3-15, 2-7 GMAC) at 5 p.m.
The Men's golf team will participate in their final event of the 2017 fall season when they will play in the Wayne State Motor City Invitational in Dearborn, Michigan. The team is coming off of a fifth place finish in the Findlay Invitational. There, they shot a 295 score on both days of the event, finishing 14 over par. Senior Jason Kerr tied for sixth place, compiling a 143 score (72-71—143, -1) and beating his 146 strokes from the GLIAC North Invitational. Other results from Findlay include freshman Nick Oosterof (74-71—145, +1), junior Gavin Maciver (74-75—149, +5), freshman Ryan Page (75-78—153, +9) and senior Mitchell Toth (76-78—154, +10). The two day event starts on Sunday, October 15th.
The Laker women tee off on the Davenport Battle in Belmont on Monday, October 16th. The team comes into the final event of the 2017 fall campaign off of a 6th place finish in the Gilda's Club Grand Valley State Laker Invitational in Allendale, Michigan. The team improved on its 8th place finish on the first day to climb two spots on day two. Leading Lake Superior at Allendale was freshman Naomi Keyte (76-81—157, +9). The rest of the results from the Gilda's Club Invite consist of freshman Taylor Simoneau (83-78—161, +17), senior Taylor Trzasko (80-83—169, +25), junior Reanna Barth (87-83—169, +25) and junior Tatiana Hulan (86-90—176, +32). The two day event at Belmont concludes on Tuesday, October 17th.