SAULT STE. MARIE - Lake Superior State hockey will welcome nine newcomers to the lineup for the 51st varsity season of Laker Hockey in 2016-17, their fourth as members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
Eight freshmen, as well as redshirt freshman Brendan McKay, younger brother of 2015-16 captain Austin McKay, comprise the class of 2020. The group includes six forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender. They will join 17 returning letter winners from last season's squad, which boast approximately 85 percent of both the total goals and total points from the 2015-16 Lakers.
The newcomers' task will be to fill a void left by 11 departures of letter winners from last year's team, including five players with collegiate eligibility remaining.
The returning forwards include the team's lone senior, Gus Correale (5-8--13), as well as the four other top-five scorers from last season: J.T. Henke (10-12--22), Mitch Hults (9-11--20), Gage Torrel (8-11--19) and Anthony Nellis (4-13--17). The Lakers also welcome back Diego Cuglietta (5-7--12), Jake Hand (3-6--9), C.J. Hayes (3-4--7), and Josh Nenadal (5-1--6).
The incoming forwards include:
Brendan McKay (6-3 • 190 • Toronto, Ont./Weyburn (SJHL))
Prior to LSSU: Red-shirt in 2015-16. Played 55 games for the Weyburn Red Wings of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in 2014-15, scoring 15 goals and 23 assists for 38 points. Produced one goal and three assists in nine playoff games.
Luke Morgan (5-11 • 190 • Brighton, Mich./Cedar Rapids (USHL))
Prior to LSSU: Appeared in 60 games for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders during 2015-16. Scored 10 goals and 15 assists while logging 24 penalty minutes during the regular season. Tallied a goal, an assist and logged 19 penalty minutes in five playoff games.
Brayden Gelsinger (5-10 • 165 • Regina, Sask./Victoria (BCHL))
Prior to LSSU: Played 58 games for the Victoria Grizzlies of the British Columbia Hockey League, scoring 25 goals and 36 assists for 61 points. Ranked 24th in the BCHL for total scoring and 23rd in total goals.
Bryan Basilico (6-3 • 207 • Macomb, Mich./West Kelowna (BCHL))
Prior to LSSU: Appeared in 33 games for the Prince George Spruce Kings of the BCHL, scoring 10 goals and 13 assists. Finished the regular season with five goals and seven assists in 19 games for the West Kelowna Warriors (BCHL). Scored two goals and added seven assists in 24 playoff games, helping the Warriors claim the Fred Page Cup (BCHL Champions), Western Canada Cup and the Royal Bank Cup- the Canadian Junior "A" Hockey National Championship.
Ian Johnston (5-11 • 187 • Ottawa, Ont./Brockville (CCHL))
Prior to LSSU: Began the season by appearing in 13 games and scored one goal and eight assists for the Kanata Lasers of the Central Canada Hockey League. Finished the season with 19 goals and 32 assists in 49 games for the Brockville Braves. Scored two goals and three assists in eight playoff games with the Braves.
Max Humitz (5-8 • 167 • Livonia, Mich./Tri-City (USHL))
Prior to LSSU: Appeared in 33 games, scoring seven goals and tallying five assists, for the Muskegon Lumberjacks before being traded to the Tri-City Storm. In 21 regular season games with the Storm, recorded four goals and three assists. Scored three goals in 11 playoff games, while helping the Storm capture the USHL's Clark Cup Championship.
On the back end the Lakers return four junior defensemen and two sophomore blue liners, including the team's Most Valuable Defenseman and Most Improved Player as voted on by his teammates last season, Kyle Chatham (1-5--6). Chatham produced 78 blocked shots last season to ranks second in the WCHA and 17th nationally. Also returning to the Lakers defense corps are juniors Aidan Wright (1-3--4), James Roll (1-7--8), Ryan Renz (1-3--4); and sophomores Owen Headrick (5-7--12) and Matt McArdle (1-2--3).
The newcomers on the Lakers defense include:
Kristofers Bindulis (6-3 • 180 • Riga, Latvia/Aston (NAHL))
Prior to LSSU: Appeared in 57 games for the Aston Rebels of the North American Hockey League during 2015-16, serving as the team's captain for home games. Scored 10 goals, added 36 assists, logged 75 penalty minutes and held a +13 rating on the season. In eight playoff games he scored three goals and two assists while also accruing a +6 rating. Played 28 games for the Soo Eagles (NAHL) in 2014-15 and 52 games for the Eagles in 2013-14.
Colin Saccoman (6-1 • 196 • Stillwater, Min../Waterloo (USHL))
Prior to LSSU: Scored four goals and tallied four assists while registering 102 penalty minutes in 50 games played for the Waterloo Black Hawks. Also scored a goal and was +4 in nine playoff games. Was named the team's unsung hero award winner and won the Black Hawks Booster Club award in recognition for both his efforts on the ice and his interaction with the fans.
In net, the Lakers return All-WCHA Third Team goaltender Gordon Defiel and sophomore Nick Kossoff. Defiel, a junior, produced an 11-14-4 record with a 2.47 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. His three shutouts last season boosted Defiel into a tie with John Grahame and Duffy Lewis for fourth place on the LSSU all-time shutouts list with seven.
Kossoff earned his three victories as a freshman all by the way of shutout and finished with a .918 save percentage and 2.39 goals-against average.
Forming the team's goaltending trio this season is freshman Cooper Lukenda.
Cooper Lukenda (6-2 • 175 • Sault Ste. Marie, Ont./Shattuck St. Mary's)
Prior to LSSU: Appeared in 33 games for Shattuck St. Mary's Midget (AAA) team, posting a 2.79 goals-against average and .897 save percentage in 2015-16. Played 27 games for Shattuck St. Mary's Midget (AAA) team in 2014-15. Posted a 2.41 GAA and .901 save percentage as a junior.
The Lakers open the season with a home exhibition contest against Laurentian University (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) on Sunday, Oct. 2 at 5 p.m. The team's annual Blue vs. Gold scrimmage will be held on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 1 p.m. The regular season begins by hosting former Central Collegiate Hockey Association rival Michigan State for a two-game series, Oct. 14-15, as part of Great Lake State Weekend.
Season tickets for all 17 home games are now available online through lssutickets.universitytickets.com or at the Norris Center Guest Services Desk during summer hours. LSSU faculty/staff and retirees must pick up tickets at the Norris Center. Returning season ticket holders have until Sept. 9 to reclaim their seats.
Adult season packages are $199 and include the first round of the WCHA playoff games, of the Lakers are to host a first round series. Child season tickets are $95 and also include the potential playoff series. The Snowbird package includes the Lakers' first nine home games for $90. Single-game tickets will again be $12 for adults and $6 for children 17 and under. LSSU is also introducing a new senior citizen single-game ticket rate of $10 for seniors 60 and over.