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Historic rivalry renewed this weekend as Lakers head to Bemidji State

Photo Courtesy Kati Doty
Photo Courtesy Kati Doty
Lake Superior State at Bemidji State
 Date  Dec. 9-10, 2016 (Friday/Saturday)
 Time  8:07 p.m. ET, Friday | 8:07 p.m., Saturday
 Location  Sanford Center | Bemidji, Minn.


 Windows | TuneIn
 Live Stats  College Hockey Stats
 Twitter  @HockeyLSSU
 LSSU Record  8-8-0, 5-7-0 WCHA
 BSU Record

 12-5-1, 12-1-1 WCHA

Coming Up This Weekend

Lake Superior State travels to No. 13-ranked Bemidji State this weekend to face the Western Collegiate Hockey Association leading Beavers in a weekend series. The series is the first of two road trips the Lakers (8-8-0, 5-7-0 WCHA) will make through the Midwest during the month of December, marking the second consecutive month the Lakers host just one home series. LSSU is set to close out the first half of the season at Omaha on Dec. 30-31.

The Beavers enter the weekend 12-5-1 overall and lead the WCHA with a 12-1-1 record in conference play. Despite their hot start, BSU has suffered three losses in their last four games, including their first conference loss of the season last weekend at Michigan Tech.

The Series vs. Bemidji State

Overall: LSSU leads, 28-22-3... In Bemidji: LSSU leads, 13-10-2

Last meeting: Feb. 12-13, 2016, BSU won 2-1 Friday; LSSU won 3-0 Saturday

Streak: LSSU 1-0-0        Last 10: LSSU leads 5-4-1

The Lakers and Beavers first met during LSSU hockey's inaugural season of 1966-67. The teams split the first meeting, held in Sault Ste. Marie, with the Beavers claiming a 3-1 victory in the opener and the Lakers winning 5-1 in the finale.

In seven seasons from 1967-74, the Lakers and Beavers met four times in the NAIA National Championship with the Beavers winning three of the head-to-head championship meetings. In that stretch either LSSU or BSU won the NAIA Championship every season, with the Beavers claiming five of their eventual seven NAIA titles. The Lakers won the NAIA title in 1972 over Gustavus Adolphus and in 1974 over BSU.

As NAIA members the Lakers compiled a 20-15-1 record over the Beavers. Following the Lakers' 4-1 victory over the Beavers in the 1973-74 NAIA Championship, the teams wouldn't meet again until Dec. 29, 2000 when the former rivals were pitted against each other in the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis, Minn. The Lakers won the reunion game 4-2.

The teams have met 10 times since the Lakers joined the WCHA in 2013-14, with LSSU holding a 5-4-1 advantage in the meetings as conference opponents. Last season the Lakers picked up a win and a tie at the Sanford Center last November before splitting with the Beavers at Taffy Abel Arena last February.

Scouting the Beavers

The 13th-ranked Beavers have been one of college hockey's most surprising teams to open 2016-17 season, reaching as high as a No. 10 ranking after an 11-2-1 start to the season. Prior to the start of the season the league's coaches and media members predicted BSU to finish sixth in the league's standings, one spot ahead of the Lakers.

Undoubtedly the reason for much of the Beavers' success this season has been the play of junior goaltender Michael Bitzer. Bitzer has steadfastly turned in some of the nation's best goaltending marks. Nationally, Bitzer leads the NCAA in wins with 12, is tied for the nation's top goals-against average at 1.47 goals allowed per game, ranks second in save percentage with a .940 mark, and is tied for second nationally with three shutouts.

A trio of senior forwards lead the Beavers in scoring with Phillip Marinaccio and Brendan Harms each posting identical marks of six goals and eight assists for 14 points, while Charlie O'Connor has one less goal for a 5-8--13 mark. Junior forwards Gerry Fitzgerald (6-6--12) and Kyle Bauman (5-5--10) round out BSU scorers to reach double digits thus far.

While the team's scoring defense is tops nationally, allowing just 1.61 goals against per game, their 2.61 goals per game average ranks sixth in the WCHA and 39th nationally.

Last Week Against the Falcons (Friday: 4-2, W | Saturday: 5-2, L)

Last weekend the Lakers earned a split at home with preseason WCHA favorites Bowling Green. LSSU scored a 4-2 win in Friday's opener before falling 5-2 in the Saturday finale.

After trailing 1-0 through 40 minutes of play on Friday, the Lakers erupted for four goals in the final period to earn the comeback win over the Falcons. Sophomore forwards Mitch Hults and Gage Torrel, as well as fellow sophomore Matt McArdle, each produced two assists to help jump-start the LSSU offense. Four different Lakers scored, beginning with Luke Morgan's tally to tie the affair at 1-1, and quickly followed by Anthony Nellis returning for his first game after missing the previous three games due to injuries.

With the sixth goal of his collegiate career, freshman Max Humitz put the Lakers ahead for good with his first career game-winning tally with 4:37 remaining in regulation. Sophomore Diego Cuglitta would later add his team-leading eighth goal of the season on the empty net.

On Saturday the Falcons turned the tables on the Lakers with a three-goal third period to earn the split. Twice during the game the Lakers tied the game before the second intermission, but miscues proved costly down the stretch.

Laker Log

  • Freshman Brayden Gelsinger tallied his fifth goal of the season and broke a five-game pointless streak on Saturday. The tally also snapped a string of eight games without a goal for Gelsinger.
  • Torrel's goal on Saturday capped a three-point weekend for the Monticello, Minn., native. Torrel ranks second on the Lakers with 14 points on seven goals and seven assists.
  • Torrel trails Cuglietta with seven goals on the season, good for a tie for sixth among WCHA skaters, while Humitz ranks tied for ninth in the WCHA with six goals.
  • His goal on Saturday also moves Torrel up to the active goal scoring leader on LSSU with 15 career goals.
  • Hults continues to lead the Lakers with 19 points on the season and leads the WCHA with 14 assists. Hults ranks third among WCHA scorers in total points this season.
  • Hults (Stoughton, Wis.) also stands as the Lakers' active scoring leader with 14-25--39 in 56 career games.
  • Owen Headrick is tied for second in overall defenseman scoring with 2-11--13 on the season. His 11 assists are tied for the most by a WCHA defenseman.
  • Cuglietta ranks fourth and Hults ranks fifth overall in faceoffs won among WCHA players. Cuglietta has 162 wins on the draw (.514 faceoff percentage) and Hults has 161 wins (.548 percent).
  • After registering eight blocked shots on the weekend, seven of which came on Saturday, freshman defenseman Collin Saccoman continues to lead the nation in blocked shots and holds a +7 rating. Only Maine's Mark Hamilton averages more blocks per game (2.94) than Saccoman (2.64).
  • Junior defenseman Aidan Wright ranks fifth overall in the WCHA with 33 blocked shots and is tied with Minnesota State's Clint Lewis for the league lead in plus-minus rating with a +10 rating in 16 games.

Looking Ahead (vs. Omaha, Dec. 30-31)

To close the month of December and the 2016 portion of the season, the Lakers will travel to face Nebraska-Omaha in their final nonconference series of the season on Dec. 30-31. The Mavericks are currently ranked No. 20 nationally with an 8-5-3 record overall and 3-3-0 conference mark in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

Senior Austin Ortega and junior David Pope lead the Mavericks and rank fifth in NCHC scoring with nine points each. Ortega's five goals lead the team and are good for a tie for fifth-most among NCHC players.

The Lakers and Mavericks have not met since their final matchup as Central Collegiate Hockey Association rivals in January 2010. LSSU earned a sweep in that series, held at Taffy Abel Arena, however the Mavericks lead the all-time series 14-7-5. In 18 meetings between the teams in Omaha, the Mavericks are 11-4-3.

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.  The Laker Hockey Show provides a review of past games, a look ahead to future action and more information, as well as insight on the team and players.

The show is live from the Antlers restaurant on East Portage Ave. every Tuesday night starting at 6 p.m. and can be heard on WKNW ESPN Radio 1400 or you can catch up on any shows you have missed through podcasts that will be made available on

Laker Hockey Talk 

Laker Hockey Talk, also on ESPN 1400, returns this year on Thursday mornings at 8:30 a.m. Bill Crawford and Damon Whitten preview the upcoming weekend's match up. Podcasts for the Laker Hockey Talk show will also be available at

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 906-635-0568.

Laker Club

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.