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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hockey team ready to pick up where it left off.

Reprinted from the Summer 2006 Laker Log with permission from LSSU, the Laker Log, and Laker Athletics

Hockey coach Jim Roque enters his second year at the helm expecting his team to improve its skating and its overall play in 2006-07. "',

The Lakers improved markedly last season, moving to sixth place in the 12-team Central Collegiate Hockey Association, and earning home ice in the playoffs for the first time in six years. They finished 15-14-7 for their first winning season since 1999-2000. Roque knows that the Lakers must score more if they are to contend for a top spot this season.

"We have great goaltending," he said, referring to senior Jeff Jakaitis, a finalist for CCHA Player of the Year honors in 2005-06. “We improved our scoring last season, and our defense was better.

We need to step it up another notch or two this season. We need to support Jeff even better by providing more offense, and we need to rest him a little more than we have the past two seasons.”

Jakaitis enters his last season at LSSU as the all-time leader in save percentage (.922), second in career goals-against average (2.43) and third in career saves (2,387). He earned First-Team All CCHA honors in 2005-06 and was named a Scholar-Athlete in the league. Jakaitis has proven that he is a top-caliber goalie at the Division I level.

“We think that we have added depth and speed and improved out skating,” and the head coach. “(Assistant Coaches) Tim (Christian) and Joe (Shawhan) did a great job recruiting last year, and we will improve our ability to move the puck and should score more goals.”

This season, the Lakers believe that they have added some speed and skill up front, some stronger skating skills on the blue line and will help Jakaitis with the addition of goaltenders Patrick Inglis (6-4, 200 pounds) from Edmonton, Alberta and Mitch Edmondson (6-3,212) from Traverse City. It's expected that Inglis will be able provide good minutes early, giving Jakaitis more opportunities for a night off in 2006-07.

Sophomore forward Troy Schwab returns from a CCHA Rookie Team honorable-mention season, looking to improve his numbers and make a bigger impact in 2006-07. He had eight goals and 24 points in his freshman season good for second in scoring behind Trent Campbell (14-12-26), who returns for his senior year in 20(1)607.

The Lakers return 14 letter winners, including senior forwards Dominic Osman (9-9-18) and Jeff Rainville (4-11-15), and defenseman Barnabus Birkeland (l-10-11).

"Trent and Troy have the potential to become elite players in the CCHA,"said Roque. "Both are capable of all-league performances, for sure. Derek A. Smith is on the verge of being one of the best defensemen in the league, and other players are stepping in that direction."

The Lakers graduated 12 seniors last April, including four defense men who buoyed a top-10 national ranking in goals-against in 2005-06. Gone are Kory Scoran, Ren Fauci and Alex Dunn, who played both on the blue line and at forward last season. Returning on defense are Birkeland, sophomore Marty Gurnoe and junior Derek A. Smith.

"On defense is where the fans will notice the biggest change," said Roque. "We won't be as big, but we should be more mobile, and we should skate better. The way the game is now, skating is at a premium. Some people seem concerned about our defense this season, but I'm not. We have four real good players returning and are adding three very talented freshmen. I have no concerns about defense."

Incoming defensemen include Steven Kaunisto, a Michigan Sault native, Simon Gysbers from Richmond Hill, Ontario, and Ryan Baird out of Thunder Bay,Ontario. Gysbers ranked 15yd on the NHL's Central Scouting List for the 2006 entry draft (which was June 24), while incoming forward Nathan Perkovich, from Canton, Michigan, stands 6-5 and is an eighth-round pick of the New Jersey Devils in

Lake Superior signed forward Michael George from Battleford, Saskatchewan last fall. He was a teammate of Troy Schwab in Kindersley (Sask.) two years ago, and is a big winger/center who can handle the puck and skate. Also up front are John Scrymgeour from Pickering, Ontario, a smart, hard-nosed winger; Matt Martello, from North York, Ontario, a very talented forward; Nik Sellers from Plymouth, Michigan, a versatile forward who played for the Soo Indians two years ago, and Patrick Aubrey, from Ottawa, who will add depth and quickness to the forward units.

In addition, the Lakers have Michigan Sault native Jason Blain, a speedy forward and former Soo Indians' player, who transferred last January from Northeastern University. Blain will be eligible to play in January, and will add leadership and depth. Edmondson comes in as a third netminder looking to earn playing time. He played the last two seasons at Traverse City West High School, here he was coached by former Laker great Anthony Palumbo.

"We will not lean on the freshmen to carry us," said Roque. "We will be very patient with them, and they will learn from some very good upper classmen and sophomores."

Long-time Lake Superior State hockey fans can rekindle memories of the program's early days when the Lakers open the 2006-07 season with an exhibition game against Lakehead University at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7, at Pullar Stadium.

The LSSU-Lakehead rivalary dates back to the 1967-68 season and the days when Pullar Stadium was the Lakers' home rink. Last season, LSSUplayed in the TBay Tel Varsity Cup at Lakehead and defeated the Thunderwolves 4-0. It was the first time the teams had met since 2001. Lakehead was a finalist for the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic championship last spring.

"We're turning the clock back a bit with this game," said Roque."Many of our fans will remember games at Pullar Stadium when Lakehead was a regular rival. We'll charge general admission and we hope to pack the place and create a little early excitement. It was that way in the '60s and '70s."

This season, the Lakers will play a number of road series early and be at home more in the second half. They will travel to Ohio State, Clarkson University, Bowling Green, Alaska and Ferris State in the first half, with home series against American International (Great Lake State Weekend, Oct. 27-28), Miami (parents' Weekend, Nov. 10-11), Wayne State, Northern Michigan (home-and-away) and the USAUnder-18s (Dec. 16). Clarkson,

Providence College and NCAA champion Wisconsin will join the Lakers at the Badger Classic in Madison, Wisconsin Dec. 29-30. The Lakers will open that annual event against Providence College on Dec. 29.

In the second half, January home series are scheduled with Nebraska-Omaha (Youth Hockey Weekend, Jan. 5-6)), Notre Dame and Ohio State, while the only road series will be at Michigan State Jan. 19-20. In February, NMU, Michigan (Friday, Feb. 16) and Western Michigan will all play in Sault Ste. Marie, while road games/ series will be at NMU and Miami, and the Lakers will play Michigan at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday, Feb. 18, at 3 p.m.

Laker Log original text

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