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Lakers play host to Spartans in Thursday's regular-season home finale



Nathan Ward

Feb. 21, 2006

SAULT STE. MARIE - The Central Collegiate Hockey Association Playoff pairings and first-round byes won't be decided until the final horn sounds during the league's final regular-season game on Saturday night. Miami clinched the regular-season title last Tuesday, but was promptly swept by second-place Michigan State last weekend.

The rest of the playoff scenario is a toss-up.

Fifth-ranked Michigan State (19-10-7 overall, 13-7-6 CCHA) overall is coming to Taffy Abel Arena at 7:35 p.m. on Thursday night holding a two-point lead over third-place Michigan. The Spartans have won five straight since going 0-2-2 in late January. They are arguably the league's hottest team heading into the CCHA Playoffs, but need one more point to secure a first-round bye.

Michigan, which split with Nebraska-Omaha last weekend, closes out the regular season with a home-and-home series against Ferris State, which is currently in a three-way tie for eighth place with Alaska Fairbanks and Notre Dame.

Fourth-place Nebraska-Omaha, which has a three-point lead over fifth-place Lake Superior State (15-11-6 overall, 11-11-4 CCHA) and Northern Michigan, travels to 12th-place Western Michigan. The Wildcats, who swept the Lakers 4-3 in overtime and 5-1 last weekend and hold a tie-breaker advantage over LSSU, play host to seventh-place Ohio State. The only season-ending series that does not have pairing implications is 11th-place Bowling Green at Miami.

Only eight points separate the teams in second through 10th place. Only Miami has secured a first-round bye, which goes to the top four teams in the regular-season standings. LSSU and NMU have an outside chance of catching UNO for fourth place, but they also have yet to secure a top-eight finish and a chance to host a first-round series. The Lakers have a shot at hosting a CCHA Playoff series for the first time since the 1999-00 season.

Based on the current standings, the Lakers have a 2-3-1 record against the CCHA teams that are ahead of them and a 3-8-3 record against the remaining teams battling for home ice. That fact indicates that they have had a tendency to play better against the league's top teams, but are definitely a bit inconsistent.

LSSU heads into this week's series with a three-game losing skid and will try to end a five-game winless streak against the Spartans. Last season in East Lansing, MSU handed the Lakers their worst loss of the season, 8-0, but LSSU came back to tie the second game of the series, 2-2. A similar scenario happened to the Lakers two weeks ago in Omaha, and they followed that roller-coaster series with a 3-2 overtime victory over Michigan.

Notes: LSSU will be honoring its largest senior class in the 40-year history of Laker Hockey following Thursday's game...Don't forget that Saturday's regular-season finale against Michigan State will be at 2:05 p.m. at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The game will not be televised, but will be broadcast live on Rock 101-FM. Visit www.collegehockeyatthejoe.com for ticket information. LSSU alumni can receive a $3 discount on tickets by calling the JLA Box Office...If the Lakers play host to a first-round CCHA Playoff series, tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. on Monday. All season ticket holders must purchase tickets for playoff games, but their seats will be held until Thursday of that week. Adult tickets will be $10 per game. LSSU students, with or without an athletics pass, must pay $3 for tickets. Children's tickets are $5.50.



Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
 
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