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Gutwald feels at home in the Sault after playing youth hockey in the city

Justin Gutwald

Jan. 12, 2007

By LINDA BOUVET, LSSU Sports Information Director

Junior defenseman Justin Gutwald is a member of a unique fraternity of Lake Superior State hockey players who have had the opportunity to continue their hockey careers in Sault Ste. Marie after becoming entrenched in the community as a youth player.

Gutwald, a native of Grosse Pointe, Mich., played nearly two seasons for the Soo Indians Junior A team prior to joining the Lakers in 2004. And he feels even more at home now that he's in the midst of his fifth year in the Sault.

"During the last couple years, Coach Roque has allowed us to meet a lot of people in the community," Gutwald said. "People I had never seen at the rink opened their homes to us (during the holidays), and now we see them around. I played in Chicago where we didn't know anybody. It's great that people do this, and it's nice to meet them."

During the 2002-03 season, Gutwald was traded from the Chicago Freeze to the Indians. He stayed in Dafter with John and Carla Cryderman. John Cryderman, a local outdoorsman extraordinaire, initiated Gutwald to the Upper Peninsula outdoors right away.

"During the first week I was there, John asked me to do him a favor - carry a dead, frozen coyote into the house," Gutwald recalled. "I couldn't say `no.' I think he did it just to warm me up.

"I went from living in the city of Chicago to living in the country. It was a total change of scenery. I learned a lot, went hunting a couple times and had the chance to shoot guns. I had never lived in a small town like this before."

During his juniors stint in the Sault, Gutwald also began dating Jackie Jorgensen. Her family, which owns Marchetti Distributing, is a hockey-loving, community-minded clan.

"I was defensive partners with her brother, Jimmy, when I started dating Jackie," Gutwald said. "The Jorgensen's are supportive of LSSU hockey and Ferris hockey. They have a bunch of Laker season tickets. They support me and Lake State really well. Jimmy and I have a good rivalry. I skate with him in the summer.

Jim Jorgensen, a junior defenseman for the Bulldogs, is Ferris State's fourth-leading scorer.

Gutwald appeared in 16 games as freshman, but never cracked the Laker lineup in an official game as a sophomore. This season, he has appeared in four games. His most-important contribution was Nov. 3 at Bowling Green State. When Roque called him that morning to say that two players were ill and his team was short-handed, Gutwald jumped out of bed and drove to BGSU. He helped the Lakers win 3-1.

"I was sleeping and had no idea who it was on the phone," Gutwald said. "I had to come to the rink to get a jersey and equipment. I got there two hours before the game, just as the guys were getting there from the hotel. I played that game on adrenaline."

This season, senior Barnabas Birkeland and junior Derek A. Smith have led a Laker defensive unit that regularly includes four freshmen.

"Barnabas and Derek have been playing fabulously, and I'm sure they will keep it up," Gutwald said. "Derek is just great - a total hockey player. Barnabas (the Lakers' captain) shows a lot of candor, and he won't let things slide. I lived with him this summer, and he's really open about stuff. He's never on any power trips. He's a great leader."

Gutwald has been impressed with the immediate contributions made by LSSU freshmen defensemen. He continues to battle for a spot in the lineup and hopes his presence helps makes the team stronger.

"I'm just trying to get into the lineup and make everyone else better," he said. "I try to improve myself every day. It's been a battle, but I try to never get down on myself. There's no point in being down, and there's no reason for it...This is the first team I've been on that has no cliques. Everybody gets along great. We're all just the best of friends."

When Gutwald gets into the lineup, he said the toughest challenge is acclimating himself right away to game conditions.

"In the first period it's tough to get the legs going," he added. "When you sit two games and play one, or sit three and play one, it's hard to get your legs into the speed of the game."

As the Lakers dive into the second half of the season, Gutwald tries to not look too far ahead. He expects the Lakers to be tested every weekend.

"We will be tested right away, so we will see where we stand," he said. "It will be good to play some of those tough teams at the end of the year, so once we get into the playoffs we won't be lackluster," he said. "I think the schedule works out great for us."

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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