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Lakers and Alabama-Huntsville to play in first-time matchup

Bo Cheesman

Jan. 11, 2005

SAULT STE. MARIE - Lake Superior State hopes to use its final non-conference hockey series of the season as a tune-up for what may be the biggest Central Collegiate Hockey Association road trip since coach Frank Anzalone returned as head coach.

LSSU (7-11-2 overall, 6-6-2 CCHA) and Alabama-Huntsville will meet for the first time in school history on Friday at 7:35 p.m. and Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at Taffy Abel Arena. This weekend's series has been tabbed a "Laker Hockey Holiday." LSSU students who returned to classes this week and are suffering from the post-holiday blues can get a free ticket to Saturday's game if they purchase a ticket to Friday's contest.

The Lakers are coming off a three-point weekend at home against Notre Dame, which was a near-perfect start to the second half of the season. Now they hope to improve what has been a disappointing non-conference showing this season. They are 1-5 against non-league opponents.

Alabama-Huntsville is 8-5-3 overall and leads College Hockey America with a 6-1-1 record. The Chargers are 0-2 against CCHA competition after losing two games to Western Michigan in November. The Lakers are 1-1 against the CHA after splitting with Bemidji State in December.

UAH's veteran coach, Doug Ross, is a Dearborn, Mich., native who played at LSSU during the 1971-72 season. The former winger was a member of the Soo Lakers 1972 NAIA National Championship team that was inducted into the LSSU Sports Hall of Fame in 2001. Ross transferred to Oakland Community College and was named most valuable player of the Midwest Junior College Hockey Association Tournament the following year. Ross is in his 22nd season at UAH and has a 449-245-32 record through 24 years of coaching.

The Chargers are led in scoring by Ross' son, Jared, who has 12 goals and 13 assists this season. Jared Ross is a 5-9, 165-pound senior center, and, along with LSSU senior Bo Cheesman, is one of 15 nominees for college hockey's prestigious Humanitarian Award.

UAH, which graciously accepted an invitation to make the long trek to Sault Ste. Marie and replace Findlay on the 2004-05 non-conference schedule, will come in with a potent offense that averages 3.6 goals per game. The Chargers will be facing a stingy Laker defense that ranked fourth in the CCHA in goals-allowed at 2.7 gpg.

LSSU took over sole possession of sixth place in the CCHA last weekend, but next week's opponent, Michigan State, is right on the Lakers' heels. The Spartans, who play a home-and-home series with Western Michigan this weekend, are currently in seventh place and trail the Lakers by a mere two points.

Lake Superior State needs momentum heading into the MSU series and the Alaska Fairbanks series the following week. Sophomore goaltender Jeff Jakaitis kept the Lakers in contention against Notre Dame with a stellar performance that led to CCHA Goaltender of the Week honors. He is currently ranked fourth in the CCHA with a 2.37 goals-against average and second in save percentage at .931.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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