This is part 3 of a 3 part series previewing the 2018-19 season of the Lake Superior State hockey team.
Mike Barrett, LSSULakers.com
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — At first glance, there appears to be little change for the Lake Superior State hockey team at the position of goaltender. After all, the three goaltenders on the roster this season are the exact same three on the roster at the conclusion of last year.
Digging a bit deeper, one may come to realize there is more different than everybody simply being a year older and wiser.
New assistant coach Zach Cisek comes to the Lakers from Notre Dame. While an assistant for the Fighting Irish, he worked closely with the goaltenders, including Cale Morris, who was named the 2018 recipient of the Mike Richter Award as the top collegiate goalie in the nation. A former college netminder himself, Cisek spent two seasons at Michigan State before working as a graduate assistant at the University of Miami. After two seasons with the RedHawks, he landed the affore mentioned job with Notre Dame, working under former Lakers head coach Jeff Jackson.
"He brings a strong goalie expertise with him and that's certainly something we were looking at through the [hiring] process," said Whitten on Cisek. "He'll do a lot more than just goaltending, but he's already had a lot of time with our goaltenders one on one. I think we're going to see great dividends early on from them."
Senior Nick Kossoff and sophomore Mareks Mitens split the time in net last season. While Kossoff saw the majority of the starts last season, Mitens saw more action than the average backup, earning the decision in 15 games. The tandem combined for back to back shutouts on the road against Bemidji State late in the season during the Lakers' playoff push that ultimately fell short. The weekend shutout of the Beavers was the first time Lake Superior had kept an opponent off the scoreboard for an entire series since November of 2010, when Kevin Kapalka blanked Ferris State on consecutive evenings.
Kossoff put together a 7-12-2 record in 26 games last season, posting a 2.99 goals against average (GAA) and a .911 save percentage (SV%). Kossoff's most impressive outing saw him break the school record for saves in a contest. His 63 saves against Denver eclipsed the previous best of 60 saves, set by Matt Violin in 2002. Going into last season, the junior netminder was the only one on the roster that had collegiate experience, which served him well throughout the year.
Before coming to Lake Superior State, Mitens, a native of Ventspils, Latvia, was recognized as both the 2016-17 North American Hockey League's (NAHL) Most Valuble Player and Vaughn Goaltender of the Year as a member of the Aston (Pa.) Rebels. He produced a 31-10-0 record between the posts with a a league-leading 1.63 GAA and a .925 SV% in 41 regular-season matchups that season. In 19 games for the Lakers, he posted a record of 3-10-2, sporting a 3.46 GAA and a .896 SV% and picked up one shutout.
"We saw Nick and Mareks last year and saw that they're capable of doing, especially with that finish they had," said Whitten. "We're strong from the back out."
Rounding out the tandem is sophomore Roman Bengert. Last season, Bengert was ruled ineligible by the NCAA. Now he is eligible and will compete for time with Kossoff and Mitens. Before coming to Lake State, the native of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia capped off his final season in the junior ranks by backstopping the Steinbach Pistons to a 49-10-1 overall record, which included a league-best 2.14 GAA and a .926 SV% in 46 regular-season games. Highlights of Bengert's playing resume include being named to the 2016-17 MJHL All-Star First Team and receiving MJHL Top Goaltender Award honors along with being voted as the Most Valuable Player of his team.
"Roman Bengert is eligible this year. Due to some NCAA rules, he was not eligible to play [last year] but he'll join the playing group and compete for a spot to play and has the ability to do that."