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LSSU's lone senior will play final home game
Feb. 26, 2003
By Lindsey Mechalik, LSSU Sports Information intern
As the only senior on the Lake Superior State hockey team, Jeremy Bachusz at times has the weight of a young team on his shoulders. He is captain of a team that is comprised of three juniors, five sophomores, and 13 freshmen.
It may be a few years before he realizes the significance of the contributions he has made to Laker Hockey.
Bachusz began playing for Lake Superior State in 1998. At the completion of his first season, he was named outstanding freshman after leading all rookies with 14 points. During his first two seasons, Bachusz only missed one game because of a knee injury.
He was granted a hardship waiver by the National Collegiate Athletic Association after his 2000-01 season was cut to 12 games due to mononucleosis and the Epstein Barr virus. He came back to the Lakers in 2001 and led the team in total points. He was named the team's most valuable forward and received the Blue Liner Award for outstanding representation of Laker Hockey.
This season Bachusz has a team-leading 18 points with eight goals and 10 assists. Bachusz scored two goals in the team's 4-2 victory over Northern Michigan on Feb. 15, and he added two assists in last week's 3-2 loss to Notre Dame. During Bachusz's 151 games as a Laker, he has totaled 78 points with 32 goals and 48 assists.
LSSU coach Frank Anzalone said that Bachusz would be a second or third-line center on a very good hockey team. His most important role on this team doesn't have anything to do with scoring goals. He is the only member of his class who has refused to give up on his teammates and LSSU.
"He has helped our team learn and grow through example," Anzalone said. "I don't think some of the players have understood how hard he's worked to become a better player. Maybe when he leaves they will understand the significance of what he's done."
Bachusz's older brother, Mike, captained the Laker team from 1991-1993. He feels that his brother has been the greatest influence in his life, both on and off the ice. Bachusz knew that he wanted to follow in Mike's footsteps and lead the LSSU hockey team.
"I think I became a leader through learning the game from my brother," he said. "I grew up watching him and saw him as captain here at Lake State. I saw his great work ethic and decided that one day I was going to do that. I have always wanted to out-work the guy next to me to try and set an example for the other guys."
"He is a great captain because of his natural capacity to lead the team by example," sophomore goaltender Matt Violin said. "He doesn't always have to have big locker room talks with the whole team. He will always show what needs to be done on the ice. Bachusz is a quiet leader. Because of that, when he talks, everyone listens."
"I don't always feel the need to talk to the team as a group," said Bachusz. "If I feel that I need to talk to a guy on the team, I will bring him aside and talk to him individually, whether it be about hockey or school. I am not always the most vocal member of the team. The main thing I try and bring to the team is work ethic, and hopefully I can do that by setting a good example"
To help Bachusz ease into the role of team captain he developed a strong friendship with former Laker captain Dean Dixon, who played at LSSU from 1983-87 and helped his teammates through a similar rebuilding process.
"I met him this past summer during hockey school," Bachusz said. "Coach Anzalone had asked him to give me a call. Ever since, I talk to him at least once or twice a month. He has really mentored me. It's different because I have always had my brother helping me, but it has been really nice to have another past captain to look to for advice. He brings more insight because he may have experienced things differently than my brother did. Dean Dixon has given me some really good advice about where we are at right now and has helped to keep me focused."
Anzalone said that neither he nor Bachusz ever dreamed that this season would be this challenging. Other upperclassmen have helped Bachusz deal with the pressures that come with leading a young team.
"The pressure I feel comes from wanting to help the team every night," Bachusz said. "With the large number of freshmen on the team, all of the upperclassmen have really been captains. I talked to all the upperclassmen and we all try to lead together. Without their help and us all coming together it would be impossible. There have been some frustrating times, but I think I have grown as a person and as a player, and matured. I can't let the negatives wipe out all the great positive things that have happened."
"Persistence would be the first word that comes to mind," said assistant captain Bo Cheesman about Bachusz's leadership abilities. "It is really easy to lead a team that is winning all of the time. It is really hard to want to be a player and lace your skates up every night on a team that's not winning. And it's even harder to be the captain of that team and be positive every night and every shift. Not a whole lot of guys have that, but Jeremy does."
All good captains leave something behind with their team after graduation. After five years of Laker hockey, he brought much-needed experience to the Lakers.
"I hope that they saw a little bit of how I try to do what Coach Anzalone asks of the team," he said. "He doesn't ask for a lot - just working hard, playing the systems and being disciplined. I hope that they saw that in me, that I had drive left even if we lost. I still care and still want to play hard to win. Hopefully they will bring that into next season."
After graduating from Lake Superior State with a business administration degree, Bachusz hopes to play professional hockey. Anzalone said that he is capable of playing minor pro hockey if he can "protect his size."
"I want to see what my options are, hockey-wise, first," Bachusz said. "If that doesn't happen, I guess I have to find a job and become a real grown-up. I am not really sure what kind of job yet, except probably something with my business major."
Five years of college hockey has prepared Bachusz for the real world.
"The ups and downs of hockey are something many people can't handle," he said. "We are asked to do so much on and off the ice with school and hockey. We carry such a heavy load. We have to handle wins and losses, and no matter what go out and play again the next weekend. I think that will really help me in the future. When I begin a career, I don't think that I will feel like I am overloaded because I will be used to balancing a personal and professional workload."
Anzalone asked Laker fans to show up to support Bachusz during his last home game.
"Hopefully Saturday night we'll have a real good crowd," he said. "Jeremy stood up for our program and the university during these dire times. He deserves a lot of applause when he takes that lap.
Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey