Cullen Maksimowski, LSSULakers.com
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich.— The Lake Superior State hockey team will play host to No.8-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato this weekend in a two-game Western Collegiate Hockey Association tilt inside Taffy Abel Arena. Puck drops at 7:07 p.m. for both games.
Last Time Out:
The Lakers (4-9-3 overall, 3-5-2 in WCHA) are coming off a series split with Alaska-Fairbanks at home last weekend. LSSU fell to the Nanooks, 5-3, in Friday's opener before bouncing back with a, 4-1, victory in Saturday's finale.
"On Friday night, you're not going to give up five goals and win a lot of hockey games," said Lake Superior coach Damon Whitten. "That was a tough loss for us with home (WCHA) points being so valuable in our league and we didn't get them.
"We had a real good bounce back effort (Saturday). As poor as we were across the board on Friday; we were that good on Saturday. Every player showed up to play and we had a good all-around effort."
Lake State will need that same effort this weekend with the Mavericks entering play as the No.2 team in the conference standings with 21 pints and a 9-5-0, 7-3-0 record this season. MSU also paces the WCHA in scoring offense (3.80 GPG) and rank No.9 nationally (3.43 GPG).
"They bring a little bit of everything," Whitten said. "They have a really strong (Defensive) core that gets involved in the rush offensively. They're very active so you really have to be alert to beat them up ice.
"There top nine forwards are all extremely skilled as well. If you give them time and space, they are going to create some offense and probably score some goals. For us, we can't give them short ice, make them play 200 feet and make sure we're on the right side of pucks."
Closing The Gap:
LSSU will look to gain some ground in the WCHA standings this weekend as they enter the series tied for the seventh with Alaska-Fairbanks (11 points).
"Huge points on the table for us with the four games we have left before the break," said Whitten. "Two at home (MSU) and two on the road (Michigan Tech) with two team teams that, arguably, have been the best in the league the last couple of years.
"It's a big task but we have to find a way to get points and climb the ladder a little bit. It hasn't been a great start; we've put ourselves behind the eight ball a little bit. We just have to worry about the next day and come to the rink ready to get better and have good attention to detail."
The power play has been one of the biggest strengths throughout the first half season for the Lakers as their 18.8 conversion percentage in WCHA games ranks No.4. Their 23.19 conversion percentage overall is good for No.13 Nationally.
Senior forward J.T. Henke has been the rock for the Lake State offense this season. Henke's 15 points in WCHA play leads the league and his 20 points overall this season puts him at No.10 in the nation.
"Just a huge impact player for us obviously," Whitten said of Henke. "He's leading the league in scoring right now for a reason. He's one of the most highly skilled players I've ever had the chance to coach so that's really enjoyable.
"I still think, even with his great performance so far, he can maybe be even better. I think he has the ability to dominate every game on any given night. He's so important to our success and our team and we'll continue rely on him more heavily through the stretch run."
Junior forward Max Humitz has been the leading goal scorer for the Lakers so far with eight total goals (5 in the WCHA). Humitz also trails Henke in total points with 15 this year.
Junior netminder Nick Kossoff has been the leader in between the pipes this season owning a 3-4-2 record with 303 saves for a .915 percentage.
C.J. Suess has been the biggest offensive weapon for the Mavericks this season with 16 total points with 13 in league play, which ranks No.2 in the conference. Marc Michaelis leads MSU with 7 total goals on the season.
Connor LaCouvee leads Minnesota State with 7-2 record with 185 saves for a .907 percentage.
Friday's game will be 'Sooper Hero' night in Taffy Abel honoring local law enforcement, first responders and military personal and veterans. All fans with valid military ID get in for $5.
Prior to Friday's game, the annual 'LSSU Chili Cook-off" fundraiser benefiting the United Way of the Eastern Upper Peninsula will be held inside the Bud Cooper Gymnasium from 4-7 p.m. Tickets are $6 and fans to sample more the 18 different Chili's from local community.
LSSU Athletics will offer $3 off each general admission ticket for Friday's game for fans that present their Chili Cook-off tickets at the box office.
On Saturday, a 'Teddy Bear Toss' will take place at the first intermission. Fans are encouraged to bring new Teddy bears to throw onto the ice. All Teddy Bears collected will be donated to local children this Holiday season.
Lakers Welcome No.8 Minnesota State-Mankato in Crucial WCHA Series