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Lakers look to keep movin' up

Jeff Jakaitis

Feb. 24, 2004

SAULT STE. MARIE - By taking three out of four points during last weekend's home-and-home hockey series against Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State moved out of 12th place in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association standings.

Now LSSU's goal is to catch Ferris State and Bowling Green, who are tied for ninth place.

The Lakers (7-16-7 overall, 5-14-5 CCHA) have a chance to do that when they travel to Big Rapids to play the defending CCHA regular-season champion FSU Bulldogs (14-15-3 overall, 9-14-1 CCHA) at 7:35 p.m. Friday and 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Ewigleben Arena.

LSSU coach Frank Anzalone compares the Ferris State program to his in that the Bulldogs don't have a deep well of blue-chip players and rely on their ability to develop relatively unknown talent. Injuries and the graduation of All-America forward Chris Kunitz have taken their toll on FSU this season. A much-improved LSSU team expects to be a better match for the team that out-scored the Lakers 24-4 in four games last season.

Lake Superior State will be invading Big Rapids on Senior Night. The Bulldogs will recognize seniors Derrick McIver, Brett Smith, Trevor Large, Simon Mangos and Matt Swanson prior to Saturday's game.

While the Bulldogs will play on the emotions of Senior Night, they will have a three-game losing streak and a long power-play drought weighing on their minds. FSU has not scored a power-play goal in its last 22 chances and has been scoreless on the power play in 19 games this season.

Lake Superior State's impeccable discipline could be a factor in the game despite the fact that neither team has impressive special teams statistics. The Lakers are ranked 11th (.126) and the Bulldogs 12th (.110) in the league on the power play. LSSU and FSU are ranked 10th (.784) and 11th (.776), respectively, in penalty killing.

LSSU, however, is the least-penalized team in the CCHA, averaging only 9.37 penalty minutes per game. Ferris State, meanwhile, is ranked ninth at 19.41 penalty minutes per game, so the Lakers should get more power-play opportunities. Ferris State was idle last week, giving Matt York and goaltender Mike Brown some extra time to recover from injuries. York (3-5-8), a junior defenseman, is expected to return to the lineup after missing 10 games.

The Bulldogs are led in scoring by Smith (13-17-30), junior forwards Jeff Legue (10-13-23), Derek Nesbitt (10-13-23) and Mike Kinnie (9-12-21) and McIver (10-9-19). Brown has a 3.11 goals-against average and .898 save percentage.

FSU's offense is much more dangerous on home ice than it is on the road. The Bulldogs have averaged 3.44 goals per game in 16 home games, but only 2.13 gpg on the road.

Freshman forward Dominic Osman, who had two goals and an assist in last Friday's 5-2 victory at Northern Michigan, leads the Lakers with 10 goals and nine assists. Junior Bo Cheesman (11-7-18), who had a goal and an assist last Friday, and freshman Trent Campbell (3-13-16) are second and third in scoring, respectively.

Freshman Jeff Jakaitis is emerging as the Lakers' No. 1 goaltender. He stopped 66 of 70 shots last weekend and has started five straight games for LSSU. He has a 2.16 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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