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Lakers, Wildcats look to revive offense

Freshman forward Jon Booras

Feb. 11, 2003

SAULT STE. MARIE - Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan need to regroup after being swept by 10th-ranked Ferris State and eighth-ranked Michigan, respectively, last weekend.

The Lakers and Wildcats are looking to rekindle their offense during this weekend's home-and-home series, which includes games in Marquette on Friday and in Sault Ste. Marie on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. Both games will be aired live on WSUE-101.3 FM and simulcast on Friday's game will also be broadcast on a tape-delay basis on Leafs Television based in Ontario and air at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 21.

LSSU (4-20-4 overall, 1-18-1 Central Collegiate Hockey Association) started the second half of the season averaging 2.8 goals per game, but has scored only three goals in its last four games. The Lakers also have hit another power-play slump, going 0-for-19 in their last four games.

NMU (14-12-2 overall, 10-9-1 CCHA) is coming off 3-1 and 5-1 losses to Michigan and is 0-for-13 on the power play in its last three games. The two goals scored against U-M represented the fewest goals the Wildcats have scored in a series this season. Prior to playing the Wolverines, they led the CCHA in power-play conversion.

Last weekend's scores don't indicate how well the Lakers played on Saturday against CCHA leader Ferris State. They outshot the Bulldogs 31-25 after being outshot 43-12 on Friday. They were beaten by long passes up the ice as FSU forwards outskated the young LSSU defense. Lake Superior State freshman Jon Booras highlighted the series with his sixth goal of the season that tied Saturday's game 1-1. He spun around twice, maintained possession of the puck and slid a shot past Ferris State goalie Mike Brown.

"He's coming through with some timely goals," said LSSU coach Frank Anzalone, who hopes Booras' goal scoring is a sign of good things to come for Laker Hockey. "Whenever we're playing well, he seems to have a hand in it."

Booras is tied with senior captain Jeremy Bachusz in goals scored.

LSSU's skating speed will again be tested when the Lakers compete on an Olympic-sized ice sheet for the fourth time this season. They are 0-2-1 on the bigger sheet, including a 3-0 loss at NMU on Nov. 2.

"We just want to play a good game on the big sheet," Anzalone said. "Maybe this won't be so bad for us because it will force our defense to play a little better and a little smarter."

LSSU hasn't forgotten a 3-2 home loss to NMU during which the Lakers gave up two goals during the final 1:38. So far this season they have paid dearly for their lapses, no matter how brief.

When the Upper Peninsula rivals last met, several players with connections to the Sault made key contributions. Chris Gobert of NMU had a goal and two assists, while Wildcat Alex Sawruk had one goal and one assist and Justin Kinnunen added an assist. Bo Cheesman scored one of LSSU's two goals.

Gobert, Kinnunen and Cheesman, along with NMU's Juha Alen and Jamie Milam are all former Soo Indians Junior A players. Sawruk is a Sault Area High School graduate.

Sawruk, who is a junior, described returning to the Sault as an intense situation for he and the former Soo Indians, but said the Wildcats are focusing first on Friday's game and the ultimate goal of earning home ice for the CCHA Playoffs.

"We have to consider it just another game," Sawruk said. "We are going for home ice and every game is so important. Despite their record, Lake Superior State will be a tough team to play against. They are so defensive-minded, and we will have to play our best to beat them."

Sawruk grew up around Laker Hockey and urged the community to be supportive of the program during the rebuilding process.

"Our community is so involved with NMU hockey," he said. "I wish the Sault Ste. Marie community was more involved with the Lakers. I think they would see that the success will come."

Senior forward Mike Stutzel leads the Wildcats in scoring with 20 goals and 11 assists, while Gobert is second with eight goals and 22 assists. Milam (3-15-18) and Alen (3-13-16) are sixth and seventh, respectively, while Sawruk (5-5-10) is 10th. Stutzel has scored 12 power-play goals this season, while Bryce Cockburn has five and Terry Harrison four.

"We have to get back to being effective on the power play," NMU coach Walt Kyle told the Marquette Mining Journal. "This will be a big series for us."

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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