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Lakers head to Yost Arena to take on seventh-ranked Wolverines
Feb. 7, 2006
SAULT STE. MARIE - The 19th-ranked Lake Superior State hockey team will take on its most highly-ranked opponent since playing Central Collegiate Hockey Association leader Miami in early November.
The Lakers (14-8-6 overall, 10-8-4 CCHA) travel to Ann Arbor to take on seventh-ranked Michigan (16-10-3 overall, 11-7-3 CCHA) at 7:35 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at Yost Arena. Both games will be broadcast live on Rock 101 FM and simulcast on www.lssulakers.com. Saturday's game will also be televised live on FSN Detroit with Ken Daniels providing play-by-play, and Fred Pletsch and Shireen Saski adding color.
Only one point separates third-place Michigan and fourth-place LSSU prior to the Wolverines' mid-week game at Western Michigan on Tuesday. U-M has had games in hand on the Lakers for several weeks, but the teams will have played an equal number of games heading into this week's pivotal CCHA series.
Michigan was the CCHA's pre-season No. 2 team and is still in contention to finish in that spot. But the Wolverines have had some ups and downs, going 4-4-2 since the beginning of January. They have stayed in the top 10 in the national polls due to strength of schedule and their highly-touted roster, which includes nine NHL draft picks.
"Their biggest issue right now is not talent, it's inexperience," LSSU coach Jim Roque said. "Their talent level and their speed are still the same."
Despite last weekend's 8-0 loss at Nebraska-Omaha, Roque remains confident in his team's leadership and depth. He believes the Lakers can handle a high-flying team like the Wolverines.
According to Roque, last Friday's performance was not a failed attempt to "run-and-gun" with the Mavericks.
"They ran and we stood still," he said. "Saturday we played our normal aggressive game (and tied 2-2). We moved our feet. Speed is only an issue when they skate and we don't. On Saturday, we showed up, played hard and played aggressively. We played well enough to win the game"
Roque noted that he will focus on preparing his team for a good start to Friday's game at Michigan. The Lakers have gotten off to rough starts in their last two Friday road contests, giving up a goal at 4:06 of the first period at Ferris State and 2:59 of the first period at UNO.
The Lakers rebounded with good efforts in the Saturday games of both series, but struggled to cash in on scoring opportunities. Roque recalled Matt Wheeler, Mike Adamek, Troy Schwab and Jeff Rainville all creating great scoring chances and coming up empty at Omaha.
"We had four or five Grade-A, us-and-the-goalie chances," Roque said. "What really bothered me was that four of the five missed the net. We didn't even force the goalie to make the save. It was the same way at Ferris State (a 3-1 loss on Jan. 21)."
The Lakers can't afford to let those opportunities slip by if they are going to snap their 10-game losing streak against Michigan. Their last victory over U-M was 4-3 on March 8, 2002, at Yost Arena during the first round of the CCHA Playoffs. Since then, six of their 10 losses have occurred in Ann Arbor.
LSSU led early in both games of last year's series against Michigan, but failed to close out the wins. The Lakers were up 2-0 through the first period of the Oct. 21 game, and held a 3-1 lead midway through the second period before falling 4-3. At Joe Louis Arena on Oct. 23, they led 2-1 midway through the second period and gave up four unanswered goals.
Despite some inconsistencies this season, Michigan's offense is averaging 3.79 goals per game and is ranked third nationally - one spot ahead of Nebraska-Omaha. LSSU's defense dropped two spots in the national rankings, but is still a respectable seventh at 2.14 goals-allowed per game.
Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey