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Lakers to begin season's toughest stretch at OSU



Ryan Branham

Jan. 13, 2004

SAULT STE. MARIE - This weekend's Central Collegiate Hockey Association series in Columbus, Ohio, will pit the league's biggest team based on average weight, Ohio State, against the second-biggest team, Lake Superior State.

LSSU (6-7-5 overall, 4-7-3 CCHA) and Ohio State (13-10-0 overall, 8-7-0 CCHA) play Friday at 7:05 p.m. and Saturday at 8:05 p.m. at Value City Arena (17,500), which is the nation's biggest college hockey venue. Both games will be broadcast live on WSUE 101.3 FM and simulcast on www.lssulakers.com.

The Buckeyes tip the scales at an average weight of 194 pounds. Their lineup boasts 12 200-pounders, including senior forward Dave Steckel (6-5, 220), junior forward Lee Spector (6-4, 220) and freshman forward Kenny Bernard (5-11, 210).

The Lakers have nine 200-pounders remaining on their roster. Among those who play regularly are senior defenseman Ryan Branham (6-3, 215), sophomore defenseman Kory Scoran (6-3, 210) and senior forward Tim Krueckl (6-3, 205).

With two big teams on the ice, look for positioning battles in front of the net. LSSU coach Frank Anzalone hopes the Lakers can control the tempo of the game with their "low play." They have had more success executing their system this season than they had in the past two, but occasional breakdowns are still proving costly unless goaltenders Matt Violin and Jeff Jakaitis are on top of their game.

The Buckeyes are coming off two losses at Michigan, including a 7-1 setback on Saturday, which was their worst loss since February, 2000. They have lost four straight CCHA games, including two to Miami in early December. Following a similar stretch during the 2001-02 season, Ohio State went on a 4-0-2 tear.

LSSU, which tied the U.S. National Team Developmental Program Under-18 squad 3-3 last Friday, is looking for its first victory over OSU since February, 2000. The Lakers are 0-5-2 against the Buckeyes since recording a 1-0 overtime victory in Columbus four years ago. None of the current players on the LSSU roster has ever beaten Ohio State.

Early last season, OSU swept the Lakers 4-1 and 5-2 in Sault Ste. Marie. LSSU leads the all-time series, 65-43-9, but Ohio State is 10-2-2 against the Lakers dating back to January, 1998.

With the amount of muscle that both teams put on the ice, it's no surprise that the Lakers and Buckeyes are both ranked in the top half of the CCHA defensively. OSU is tied for third in the league in total goals allowed with 36 (CCHA games only), while LSSU is ranked fifth with 43.

Both teams are struggling on the power play in CCHA games this season. LSSU is tied for seventh at .151, while Ohio State is ranked 11th at .118. The Buckeyes, however, are ranked second in penalty killing, while LSSU is 12th.

The OSU series is the start of what is slated to be the Lakers' most-difficult stretch of the season. After returning from Columbus, they play host to Providence, travel to Michigan and play host to Michigan State.



Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
 
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