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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

LSSU Hockey 2007-08 Season Preview

Questions abound as the Lake Superior State University Lakers get set to start the 2007-08 season. After losing 12 seniors following the 2005-06 season the Lakers where not expected to make much of an impact during the 2006-07 season, LSSU went on to surprise the college hockey critics making it to the CCHA final four at the Joe Louis Arena eventually falling to Michigan State University, who went on to win the national championship, on a controversial overtime power play goal after rallying to tie the game in the final two minutes of regulation. Playing a difficult schedule last season LSSU went 5-12-0 against teams that made it to the NCAA playoffs but went 14-5-1 against sub-.500 teams, winning games that they should win, a key to the sign of a great team. The schedule doesn’t get any easier this season with LSSU finding themselves in a cluster with Northern Michigan, Michigan State, and the University of Michigan, playing 14 games in total against teams that made the NCAA playoffs. Also new this year is Rodney Lowman who will take over as LSSU’s 6th president in early October.

Offense. Scoring this season will be a question mark for the Lakers as it has been for the past 10 years or so. Key returnees include Josh Sim and Nathan Perkovich who led the Lakers with 15 goals each last season, and Troy Schwab (tied for the team lead with 30 points, buoyed by a team leading 24 assists) who could be named team captain as a junior this season. Losses on the offensive side of the ice include defenseman Derek A. Smith and forwards Trent Campbell who lead the Lakers with 30 points last season and Jeff Rainville who posted 13 goals and 15 assists to finish off his LSSU career. Key returners to the power play this season are Perkovich, Sim, Schwab and Simon Gysbers. Look for transfers Carter Lee, and Zach MacVoy, as well as freshman Will Acton, Tyson Hobbins, Richard Schofield, and Chad Nehring to contribute in the attacking zone. LSSU will look to improve on the 2.58 goals per game that they averaged over 43 games last season including just 0.81 power play goals per game, both ranking them near the bottom of the CCHA.

Defense. Defensive stalwarts Derek A. Smith and Barnabas Birkeland will be missed on the blue line as will Ryan Baird who has been forced to leave hockey due to persistent shoulder injuries. The defense will be anchored this season by underclassmen Steven Kaunisto, Simon Gysbers, and Steven Oleksy, with incoming players Dillin Stonehouse, Matt Cowie, and Ben Kitzmiller expected to contribute on the blue line immediately. Last season LSSU allowed only 2.56 goals per games good for 4th best in the CCHA, will killing 83.2% of their shorthanded opportunities and scoring 1 shorthanded goal every 22 opportunity while only posting 12.84 penalty minutes per game making them the least penalized team in the CCHA.

Goaltending. Gone is LSSU’s all world goaltender Jeff Jakaitis. Sophomore Pat Inglis will compete with incoming freshman Brian Mahoney-Wilson for playing time after Inglis posted a .908 SV% and 2.89 GAA in 10 appearances last season for the Lakers. Last season the combination of Jakaitis and Inglis averaged 30.58 saves per game, the most in the CCHA buoyed by Jakaitis’s three shutouts. The loss of Jakaitis is tremendous in the eyes of most but I once heard that LSSU doesn’t recruit goaltenders they are cloned somewhere in a dark room over in Crawford Hall. With names like Bruce Hoffort, Darrin Madeley, Blaine Lacher, John Grahame, Jayme Platt, and Matt Violin coming to mind along with Jakaitis a big part of me believes in this theory.

Look for the CCHA’s annual Media and Coaches polls on the afternoon of September 25, and the annual Blue-White Game on October 6.

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