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Lakers, Irish continue battle for top-four CCHA finish

Dominic Osman

Jan. 9, 2007

SAULT STE. MARIE - Two of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association's up-and-coming teams will face off in Sault Ste. Marie this weekend when 15th-ranked Lake Superior State plays host to No. 5 Notre Dame.

The Lakers (13-6-3 overall, 7-4-3 CCHA), who are coming off a three-point weekend against Nebraska-Omaha, and league co-leader Notre Dame play at 7:35 p.m. Friday and 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Taffy Abel Arena. Both teams are in contention for a top-four finish in the CCHA standings.

The series was already much-anticipated due to the fact that it is former Laker coach Jeff Jackson's first time coaching against LSSU in Taffy Abel Arena - a rink he helped rebuild in 1995. Jackson took over the UND program in 2005-06, and the two teams split last season's series in South Bend, Ind.

The Irish tied for eighth in the CCHA in 2005-06 after finishing last under former coach Dave Poulin in 2004-05. This season, they are enjoying a 17-4-1 overall record and 11-2-1 start in CCHA play.

Notre Dame's success is no surprise to LSSU fans, who watched Jackson amass a 182-52-25 record while coaching the Lakers from 1990-96. Under his leadership, LSSU won NCAA titles in 1992 and '94. Jackson's UND assistant, Paul Pooley, also coached at LSSU from 1992-94 before becoming head coach at Providence.

LSSU coach Jim Roque assisted Jackson in 1990-91 and 1994-95. Roque and Jackson were also assistants under Frank Anzalone when the Lakers won the 1988 NCAA title.

As for the current college hockey scene, this weekend's series features a matchup of the CCHA's top two senior goaltenders - LSSU's Jeff Jakaitis and UND's David Brown. Jakaitis, who was named RBC/CCHA Player of the Month in December, is ranked second nationally in save percentage at .949 and fifth in goals-against average at 1.78. Brown, meanwhile, is ranked third in goals-against at 1.74 and 13th in save percentage at .927.

Due in large part to solid goaltending, both teams are also among the top defensive teams in the nation. Notre Dame is ranked second nationally in team goals allowed at 1.77, while LSSU is eighth at 2.14.

Notre Dame, which unexpectedly split last weekend's non-conference series against Robert Morris (7-10-1), is led in scoring by sophomore forward Erik Condra (8-22--30), junior forward Mark Van Guilder (13-12--25), and freshman forwards Kevin Deeth (11-13--24 and Ryan Thang (11-9--20). The Irish defeated Robert Morris 6-2 last Friday, but let a 2-0 lead slip away in a 4-2 loss on Saturday.

LSSU is led by senior forward Trent Campbell (7-11--18), junior defenseman Derek A. Smith (5-13--18) and sophomore forward Troy Schwab (9-7--16). The Lakers' top goal scorer is freshman forward Nathan Perkovich, who notched a goal in last weekend's 4-4 tie and 3-2 overtime victory over Nebraska-Omaha. For his efforts, Perkovich earned his second CCHA Rookie of the Week honor.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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