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Blain, Gutwald and Eves to be honored during Alaska series

Justin Gutwald

Feb. 19, 2008

SAULT STE. MARIE - Lake Superior State will pay tribute to seniors Jason Blain, Justin Gutwald and Dan Eves when the Lakers play host to Alaska during their final regular-season homestand. LSSU will also honor long-time Sault Michigan Hockey Association volunteer Diane Floyd when her husband, Willie, drops the puck in her honor prior to Saturday's game.

LSSU (6-18-6 overall, 4-15-5 Central Collegiate Hockey Association) and Alaska (8-17-5 overall, 8-14-4 CCHA) will play at 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Taffy Abel Arena. Both games will be broadcast live on Rock 101 FM and simulcast on Pay-per-view video feeds are available on the B2 Network. Free thundersticks will be distributed to fans attending Friday's game.

Blain, Gutwald and Eves progressed admirably during their collegiate careers and have provided a much-needed veteran presence to this year's young team. Eves entered the program as an 18-year-old true freshman, and has matured into a team leader and physical forward. The assistant captain has seven goals and 12 assists through 30 games, and he is tied for the team lead in points with sophomore Zac MacVoy.

Gutwald played in 16 games as a freshman and didn't crack the lineup as a sophomore. He played 23 games as a junior, starting out on defense and finishing the season at forward when John Scrymgeour was injured. Gutwald is back on defense this season and one of only two LSSU upperclassmen on the blue line. Blain, a 4.0 student, has been playing the best hockey of his career since moving from right wing to the center position in January. He has a point in three of his last five games.

All three seniors and their families will participate in the traditional spotlight ceremony following Saturday's game.

Willie Floyd will drop the puck prior to the Saturday game in honor of his wife, Diane, who was killed in a car accident in November. Diane Floyd was active in the Hiawatha Skating Club in the 1970s, then became an SMHA officer when her sons began playing hockey. Long after her children were grown, she and Willie remained involved in SMHA, and Willie went on to serve as director of officials for the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association.

Diane, who is best-known as the SMHA's former ice scheduler, received numerous awards, including MAHA's 15-year service award and the prestigious Chuck Brown Memorial Trophy. Prior to the internet, she had three phone lines coming into her home, and they were usually all ringing during hockey season. She loved children and felt that youth hockey was instrumental to building character in young lives.

LSSU, which is playing three of its last four regular-season games at home, is coming off of back-to-back 4-2 losses at No. 1 Michigan. The Lakers scored with approximately five minutes remaining in both games to close within one goal of U-M, but the Wolverines secured the wins by scoring last-minute empty-net goals.

The Lakers, who are 3-2-2 in their last seven games, are led in scoring by MacVoy (8-11--19), Eves (7-12--19), sophomore Nathan Perkovich (14-4--18) and junior Troy Schwab (4-14--18). The true key to their recent success is the team's overall defensive improvement. When Lake Superior State and Michigan first met in mid-November, the Wolverines scored five unanswered goals in the second and third period of both games and dominated the series. Last week, U-M out-scored the Lakers by a total of 5-2 in the second and third periods, but two of those goals were empty-netters and one occurred nine seconds after LSSU fended off a two-minute 5-on-3 Michigan power play. The Lakers have significantly closed the gap.

Alaska is 3-2-1 in its last six games, including a 2-1 loss and 1-1 tie at home against ninth-ranked Notre Dame last weekend. The Nanooks are led by junior defenseman Tyler Eckford (6-21--27) and sophomore center Dion Knelsen (10-16--26), while senior goaltender Wylie Rogers has an impressive 2.58 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. Rogers totaled 40 saves to salvage the tie against UND.

Alaska's 22-hour trip to Sault Ste. Marie is its longest of the season.

LSSU closes out the regular season with a home-and-home series against Northern Michigan. The Lakers' final regular-season home game is Thursday, Feb. 28, at 7:05 p.m. against NMU. The game was moved up one day to accommodate LSSU students leaving for spring break.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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