SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Fourth-seeded Lake Superior State is set to face top-seeded Minnesota State in a best-of-three WCHA Semifinals series on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (if necessary) at Verizon Center in Mankato, Minnesota.
All of the games in the series between Lake Superior State (23-11-2) and Minnesota State (29-7-2) are slated to begin at 8:07 p.m. EDT
There will be a Laker hockey watch party at Buffalo Wild Wings in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan for each game this weekend.
The radio broadcast will be on 99.5 Yes FM and the series will be streamed on FloHockey.TV.
Last Time on the Ice
Fourth-seeded Lake Superior State swept fifth-seeded Bemidji State in a best-of-three WCHA Quarterfinals series last weekend at Taffy Abel Arena. The Lakers won 4-2 on Friday and 3-1 on Saturday. The series was the first home WCHA Playoffs series for the Lakers since joining the WCHA in 2013-14.
The series win over the Beavers was the Lakers' first-ever WCHA playoff series victory and their first playoff series win since defeating Alaska at home in two games during the 2011-12 season, when the Lakers were in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. The wins were also Lake Superior State's first victories in the WCHA Playoffs since a 2-0 win at Minnesota State on March 12, 2016.
With its WCHA Quarterfinals series win over Bemidji State last weekend, Lake Superior State advanced to the WCHA Semifinals for the first time since joining the conference in 2013-14.
Fourth-seeded Lake Superior State faces top-seeded Minnesota State in Mankato, Minnesota, while third-seeded Bowling Green travels to face second-seeded Northern Michigan in Marquette, Michigan.
NCAA Goal Scoring Leader
Senior center Diego Cuglietta (24-16--40) moved into first place in NCAA Division I Men's Hockey when he scored his 24th goal of the season in the Lakers' 4-2 win over Bemidji State in game one of the WCHA Quarterfinals on Friday at Taffy Abel Arena. Cuglietta's goal erased a 1-0 deficit at 5:17 of the second period and the Lakers did not trail again the rest of the series. Cuglietta is ahead of Northern Michigan's Troy Loggins and Arizona State's Johnny Walker, who each have 23 goals.
Cuglietta has the most goals by a Laker in a season since Sean Tallaire netted 32 goals in 1995-96.
WCHA Points Leader
With his three points last weekend, senior center Diego Cuglietta (24-16--40) enters the weekend leading the WCHA with 40 points on the season. His 24 goals are the most in the nation. Cuglietta is the first Laker to tally 40 points in a season since Joe Blaznek and Jason Sessa garnered 46 and 44 points, respectively, in 1996-97.
The Magic Man
Junior defenseman Collin Saccoman (10-15--25) is the reigning WCHA Defenseman of the Week.
He led NCAA Division I Men's Hockey with nine blocked shots, while leading WCHA blueliners in points (3), points per game (1.50) and goals per shot on goal percentage (.500) on the week. Saccoman also tied for the lead amongst WCHA defensemen in goals (1), assists (2), goals per game (0.50), assists per game (1.00), power-play assists (2) and power-play points (2). With his nine blocked shots, Saccoman moved into a tie for the most blocked shots in the WCHA this season (92), which is also tied for the second-most in the nation.
He began the weekend with two assists, six blocked shots and a +1 rating on Friday.
In Saturday's win, Saccoman blocked another three shots and he scored an empty-net insurance goal at 19:22 of the third period to seal the victory.
Saccoman has been named WCHA Defenseman of the Week three times this season and WCHA Defenseman of the Month twice.
Keeping up with Kossoff
Senior netminder Nick Kossoff (17-6-2) is the reigning WCHA goaltender of the week. Kossoff, who went 2-0 in the Lakers' sweep of Bemidji State in the WCHA Quarterfinals, led all WCHA netminders in saves (68) and save percentage (.958), while tying for the WCHA lead in wins (2) and win percentage (1.000) to help Lake Superior State to a sweep of Bemidji State in the quarterfinals of the WCHA Playoffs. In addition, his 1.50 goals against average ranked second in the conference. Kossoff began the weekend with 29 saves and a .935 save percentage on Friday. He then tallied 39 saves and a .975 save percentage on Saturday. In Saturday's series-clinching victory, 17 of Kossoff's saves came in the third period, while the Lakers scored twice in the final period to win 3-1.
Kossoff has the most wins by a Laker goaltender since 2011-12 when Kevin Kapalka finished the year with a 17-14-5 record. The last goaltender to have at least 18 wins in a season was Jayme Platt (18-13-2) in 1999-2000. The last Laker netminder to win 19 games in a season was John Grahame (19-13-4) 1996-97.
Head Coach Damon Whitten's Preview
Lake Superior State is ranked No. 20 in the most recent USCHO Poll. Minnesota State (No. 2) and Bowling Green (No. 15) are the other WCHA teams ranked in the USCHO Poll. The Lakers have been ranked in 10 consecutive polls, dating back to Jan. 7.
With their 23-11-2 record, Lake State has won more games than it won all of last season when the Lakers finished 10-22-4. The last time the Lakers won 23 games was1995-96 when the Lakers played to a 30-8-2 record.
100 Career Points
Senior center Diego Cuglietta (49-50--99, career totals) is closing in on 100 career points. The last Laker to tally 100 career points was Domenic Monardo (49-52--101), who was a member of the Lakers from 2009-13.
All-Time Goal Scorer
Senior center Diego Cuglietta (49-50--99, career totals) ranks tied for 29th in program history with 49 career goals. Cuglietta is tied with Domenic Monardo (2009-13) and Ron Sandzik (1975-79), while Bob Ciotii (1978-81) and Doug Weight (1989-91) are tied for 27th place in program history with 50 goals each.
The Lakers have scored 122 goals this season as a team, which is more than they scored all of last season (76). The Lakers' 122 goals is the most they have scored in a season since 1996-97 when they scored 154 goals.
Facing the Mavericks
Top-seeded Minnesota State (29-7-2) enters the WCHA Semifinals having swept Alabama Huntsville (3-1, 4-1)in the WCHA Quarterfinals last weekend at Verizon Center in Mankato, Minnesota.
The Mavericks, who are ranked No. 2 in the USCHO Poll and No. 3 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Poll, are led offensively by a pair of junior forwards: Marc Michaelis (19-20--39) and Parker Toumie (14-23--37).
In net, freshman Dryden McKay (21-6-2) has a .928 save percentage and 1.72 goals against average on the season.
The Lakers dropped three out of four games to the Mavericks this season, but the Lakers' lone win was a 1-0 victory at Verizon Center on Jan. 19 — the Mavericks only home loss of the season.
The winner of the series between the Lakers and the Mavericks will move on to the 2019 WCHA Championship, a single game played at the higher remaining seed, on March 23. The other team in the championship game will be the winner of the Northern Michigan and Bowling Green series.
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