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LSSU to take on CCHA leader Ferris State
Feb. 4, 2003
SAULT STE. MARIE - Most years, Lake Superior State and Ferris State have much in common. They are two of the three schools in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association that compete at the NCAA Division II level in every sport except hockey.
Three assistant coaches have ties to the opposing school. LSSU first-year assistant coach Tim Christian played at Ferris State from 1991-95 and is the Bulldogs' 12th-leading all-time scorer. FSU 10th-year assistant coach Drew Famulak played at LSSU from 1986-88 before transferring to Wisconsin-Stevens Point and was a teammate of LSSU assistant coach Jim Roque. FSU third-year volunteer assistant Tim Blashill is a former Soo Indian and the son of Jim Blashill, the dean of the LSSU College of Arts, Letters and Social Sciences.
Usually LSSU and Ferris State are fighting for respect from the Big Ten or Mid America Conference schools. This year the 11th-ranked Bulldogs, who hold a three-point lead over Ohio State heading into this weekend's series, are wearing a big target on their backs, while the Lakers are welcoming some anonymity as they strive to rebuild their program.
"We obviously want our team to do well, but we take some satisfaction in seeing the other schools of similar size to well," said Ferris State coach Bob Daniels, whose team travels to Sault Ste. Marie for a series this Friday and Saturday beginning at 7:05 p.m. both nights. "The GLIAC has to stick together in some way."
Ferris State (19-8-1 overall, 14-5-1 CCHA) has already posted the second most CCHA wins in the history of its program. The Bulldogs' highest regular-season finish in the league history was third in 1990-91 and 1980-81.
"The guys are handling it real well," Daniels said of the increased media attention and pressure as the regular season winds down. "This is new to all of us, but for the players, the sheer volume of media attention has been a little overwhelming."
LSSU coach Frank Anzalone remarked that he is not surprised that Ferris State is leading the conference. With seven seniors and four juniors, and 10 of their top 11 point leaders from last year's squad, the Bulldogs are primed to make a strong run at a CCHA title.
"Drew Famulak told Jim Roque, 'We have a goalie playing at 96 percent and a guy who scores two goals every game - Chris Kunitz. We have to win some games,'" Anzalone said. "And they have."
Ferris State is coming off last weekend's split during a home-and-home series with third-place Michigan. Kunitz was named CCHA Offensive Player of the Week after notching four goals and one assist in the series. He had two goals in Friday's 6-4 loss and two more in Saturday's 4-3 win.
The Bulldogs also split with Miami and Northern Michigan in January and are 4-3-1 in their last eight games.
"I have always felt this way - it is scary playing any team in our league," said Daniels, who was satisfied with last weekend's split because his squad recovered from a loss at U-M's Yost Arena and won at home the following night. "If you watch the scores in the CCHA or college hockey in general, you would see that it would be a tough sport to make a living off if you were a gambler."
Kunitz, a 6-0, 186-pound senior forward, leads the CCHA in scoring with 24 goals and 29 assists in 28 games, while teammate Jeff Legue, a 5-10, 165-pound sophomore forward, is second with 18 goals and 20 assists.
"Kunitz scores every game, like it or not, and their D are playing very hard," Anzalone said. "They are very close right now to winning the league. Good for Ferris, and hopefully we'll be able to compete with them."
This weekend's series will be a clash between the No. 1 scoring team in the league and the No. 12 team. Ferris State is averaging 4.43 goals per game, while LSSU is averaging 1.58, but the Lakers have scored 2.25 goals per game during their last eight games.
The Lakers (4-18-4 overall, 1-16-1 CCHA) were idle last week following their "home and Joe" series with Michigan, which included a 4-1 loss in Sault Ste. Marie and a 5-0 loss at Joe Louis Arena. The Lakers are looking to snap a three-game losing streak. They are 1-4-3 in their last eight games.
"We have played a lot of games where we do it all correctly for eight minutes, then we go into a funk and give up six shots in three minutes," Anzalone said following the U-M series. "But I am proud of the fact that we always get up and come back to play."
Eight freshmen have accounted for 42 percent of the Lakers' scoring this season.
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