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No lead should be safe when LSSU and MSU square off at Munn



Dan Eves

Jan. 16, 2007

SAULT STE. MARIE - Two teams that have displayed a knack for coming from behind will square off when 17th-ranked Lake Superior State plays 11th-ranked Michigan State in a Central Collegiate Hockey Association series Friday and Saturday in East Lansing.

The Lakers (13-8-3 overall, 7-6-3 CCHA) and Spartans (14-8-1 overall, 10-6-1 CCHA) play at 7:05 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday at Munn Arena. Saturday's game will be televised on FSN Detroit. Both games will be broadcast on WSUE 101.3 FM and simulcast on www.lssulakers.com.

Neither team should be too comfortable when taking a lead this weekend. MSU, which is 8-1-1 on home ice after last weekend's 3-2 (OT) and 4-3 sweep against Alaska, has recorded three straight come-from-behind victories and four in its last seven games.

LSSU came from behind to tie or take a lead in four of its last five games, but won only two of those contests. The most-thrilling of those comebacks was the Lakers' 4-3 OT victory over Nebraska-Omaha on Jan. 5 when they battled back from a 3-0 deficit. Last Friday, the Lakers came back to tie Notre Dame three times before losing a heartbreaker in overtime. They never got on track Saturday and dropped a 4-1 decision.

LSSU's current players have never beaten Michigan State, but the Lakers have had the Spartans on the ropes several times in recent games. Only one goal has separated LSSU and MSU in the three meetings that followed the Lakers' 8-0 loss in East Lansing on Jan. 21, 2005. The Lakers bounced back from that game to tie MSU, 2-2 overtime, on Jan. 22. On Feb. 23, 2006, Michigan State edged LSSU, 3-2, in Sault Ste. Marie. Two days later at Joe Louis Arena, the Lakers and Spartans skated to another 2-2 overtime draw. LSSU has beaten Michigan State twice and has a 2-23-4 record against the Spartans dating back 10 years.

Lake Superior State, which is facing a top-four CCHA team for the second straight week, is currently tied for fifth place with Ohio State in the league standings, while MSU is third behind leaders Notre Dame and Miami. The Lakers have a 5-4-2 road record and are traveling to a CCHA venue for the first time since they played at Ferris State Dec. 8-9.

This weekend's series pits two of the CCHA's top-scoring defensemen against each other. Junior Derek A. Smith is LSSU's scoring co-leader with 5-13--18 and is tied for third in the league in points by defensemen. MSU senior Tyler Howells (2-13--15) is tied for eighth in that category and has nine points in his last seven games. Smith shares LSSU's points lead with senior forward Trent Campbell (7-11--18).

Senior goaltender Jeff Jakaitis leads the nation in save percentage at .943 and is ranked seventh nationally in goals-against average at 1.99. MSU sophomore goalie Jeff Lerg has a save percentage of .904 and 2.65 goals-against average.

The Spartans are led in scoring by sophomore forward Tim Kennedy (12-12--24) and junior forward Bryan Lerg (13-10--23).

Neither Lake Superior State nor Michigan State are ranked among the top CCHA teams in scoring, but LSSU is second (2.29) and MSU is third (2.61) behind Notre Dame in goals-allowed. Both teams are also strong in penalty killing. The Lakers are fourth (.850) and the Spartans fifth (.845), respectively, in that category. MSU has killed off 22 of its opponents' last 23 power plays.



Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
 
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