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Lakers resume quest for top-six finish

Kory Scoran

Jan. 4, 2005

SAULT STE. MARIE - After finishing the first half of the 2004-05 hockey season with grueling back-to-back road trips to Omaha, Neb., and Canton, N.Y., Lake Superior State returns home to resume its quest for a top-six finish in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

The Lakers (6-11-1 overall, 5-6-1 CCHA) have a shot at earning home-ice advantage during the first round of the CCHA Playoffs for the first time since 1999-00 when they tied for third in the regular-season standings. They are currently tied for sixth place with Alaska Fairbanks with 11 points. This weekend they play host to Notre Dame (5-10-4 overall, 3-8-3), which is tied for ninth place with nine points.

LSSU and UND play at 7:35 p.m. on Friday and 7:05 p.m. on Saturday at Taffy Abel Arena. Anyone with an LSSU or Sault Area Schools student I.D. will be admitted to Friday's game for $2. Canadian money will be at par when purchasing tickets to Saturday's game.

The Fighting Irish are coming off a non-conference home split with RPI on Jan. 1-2, while LSSU has not played since Dec. 19. The Lakers, who resumed practice on Dec. 30, had a chance to put some injuries and off-ice issues behind them during the break. Junior defensemen Barnabas Birkeland and Mark Adamek, who missed eight games for violating team rules, have been reinstated. Senior goaltender Matt Violin is also expected to be back in the lineup after missing seven games due to an injury.

The return of Birkeland and Adamek should bolster an LSSU offense that has been held to four goals in the past five games. With more depth on the blue line, versatile juniors Alex Dunn and Steve McJannet can return to forward. Both players provide a scoring punch and have the physical presence to create space when the Lakers cycle the puck in the opponent's zone.

Notre Dame has had its own share of injuries that have led to a lack of scoring. Sophomore forward Matt Williams-Kovacs (14 games, broken ankle), freshman defenseman Dan VeNard (six games, shoulder) and freshman defenseman Brock Sheahan (two games, concussion) returned to the lineup during the holiday break.

The Lakers are ranked ahead of UND in goals-for, goals-against, power-play proficiency, save percentage and average penalty minutes per game. Both teams are near the bottom of the CCHA in scoring and power-play success, but LSSU holds a distinct advantage in goals allowed. In league competition, the Lakers are fourth in goals-allowed with a 2.75 average, while Notre Dame is 11th at 3.57.

LSSU leads the all-time series against Notre Dame, 21-16-3, including a 12-7-0 advantage at home. Last March, the teams split a series in Sault Ste. Marie, with LSSU winning 3-0 on Friday and losing 2-1 on Saturday. Laker goaltender Jeff Jakaitis totaled 23 saves against the Irish on March 5 to record his first shutout victory in a unique game that included no penalties.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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