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Lakers and Wildcats are both hot heading into final regular-season series

Steven Kaunisto

Feb. 26, 2008

SAULT STE. MARIE - Two of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association's hottest teams will face off Thursday at Taffy Abel Arena in the first game of a home-and-home series.

Lake Superior State, which is 5-3-2 in its last 10 games, squares off at 7:05 p.m. against Upper Peninsula rival Northern Michigan, which is 6-2-2 in its last 10 games. The teams also play at 7:35 p.m. Saturday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. Both games will be broadcast live on Rock 101 FM and simulcast on Pay-per-view video feeds are available on the B2 Network.

Last weekend, the Lakers (8-16-6 overall, 6-15-5 CCHA) beat Alaska 2-1 in overtime and 5-3 for their first series sweep of the season, while the Wildcats swept Nebraska-Omaha, 6-4 and 4-3. Northern Michigan (15-16-3 overall, 12-12-2 CCHA) began its turnaround after getting swept by Wayne State in January. The Wildcats' recent run included back-to-back 3-3 ties at No. 1-ranked Michigan, followed by a home sweep of No. 6 Michigan State.

The Lakers have been playing consistently well since splitting the Jan. 25-26 series at Ohio State and have shown the most improvement on defense. They were giving up an average of 4.2 goals per game against CCHA opponents when they last played NMU and were in the midst of a 12-game winless streak. They have allowed only 2.8 goals per game during their last 10 outings.

NMU already secured a chance to host a CCHA first-round playoff series, but the Wildcats are trapped in a four-way tie for fifth place with Bowling Green, Ferris State and UNO. LSSU, which will travel to one of those four schools during the first round of the playoffs, is currently tied for 10th place with Ohio State. The Buckeyes close out the regular season with a home and home series against No. 5 Miami. LSSU and OSU can catch ninth-place Alaska, which is idle this weekend. Both teams trail the Nanooks by three points.

The Wildcats, who swept the November series against LSSU, 4-2 and 3-1, are trying to reclaim the Father Cappo Cup, which LSSU won last year for the first time since 1999-00. NMU leads the total-goals series, 7-3.

The Lakers aren't the same team they were three months ago, and several players can prove it with the positive streaks they have going. Freshman forward Rick Schofield was named CCHA Rookie of the Week after extending his goal-scoring streak to three games. Sophomore defenseman Steven Kaunisto has an assist in each of his three last games. Senior forward Dan Eves has contributed 3-7--10 and sophomore forward Zac MacVoy has 5-6--11 in the Lakers' last 10 games. Sophomore goaltender Pat Inglis, with a season goals-against average of 3.84 and save percentage of .873, is 2-1-1 with a 2.47 GAA in his last four games.

Junior forward Nick Sirota leads NMU in points with 16-15--31, followed by freshman forward Mark Olver with 14-15--29. Olver, who is ranked fourth in the CCHA in points by a freshman, is riding a six-game point streak of 5-4--9. Sirota is ranked ninth in the CCHA in goals scored and is tied for the lead in short-handed goals with four.

From a special teams standpoint, NMU is ranked 11th in the CCHA in penalty killing, while LSSU is 12th. The Lakers' are seventh in the league in power-play conversion, while the Wildcats are 12th. LSSU has an overtime record of 2-0-7, while NMU is 2-1-3. Both teams posted an overtime victory last weekend.

Notes: LSSU sophomore forward John Scrymgeour was featured on the Toronto hockey podcast "A Foot in the Crease." To access the interview, visit drawing for the Cancun Getaway sponsored by Passageways Travel will take place during first intermission of Thursday's hockey game.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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