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Tough to beat a team three times in one season, try six

Matt Wheeler

Feb. 28, 2006

SAULT STE. MARIE - Coaches always say it's hard to beat a team three times in one season. Well, the Lake Superior State hockey team is faced with the challenge of beating a team six times if it wants to advance out of the first round of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association Playoffs for the first time since 1995-96.

The sixth-seeded Lakers (15-12-7 overall, 11-12-5 CCHA) play host to 11th-seed Western Michigan (8-22-6 overall, 7-16-5 CCHA) in a best-of-three first-round series beginning at 7:05 p.m. Friday at Taffy Abel Arena. Saturday's second game and Sunday's if-necessary game are also slated for 7:05 p.m. All three games will be broadcast live on Rock 101 FM and simulcast on

Tickets for this weekend's games are $10 for adults, $5.50 for children age 17-and-under, and $3 for LSSU students. All season-ticket holders, LSSU faculty and staff, and LSSU students with an athletics pass must purchase a ticket. Season-ticket holders' seats will be held through Thursday.

LSSU is playing host to a CCHA first-round series for the first time since the 1999-00 season, when the Lakers suffered back-to-back playoff losses to Bowling Green State. LSSU and WMU last met in the CCHA Playoffs in 1994-95 when the Lakers swept the Broncos 7-2 and 5-0 in the first round.

The Lakers, who are enjoying their most-successful season in six years, are 4-0 against WMU this season and 6-3-1 in their last 10 games against the Broncos. They swept WMU 10-0 and 3-1 on Nov. 4-5 in Kalamazoo, and won 6-1 and 4-0 Jan. 6-7 in Sault Ste. Marie.

The Lakers' statistics against WMU are remarkable. Leading scorers include junior forward Trent Campbell (4-4--8), freshman forward Troy Schwab (4-3--7), senior forward Nathan Ward (1-5--6) and junior forward Jeff Rainville (2-4--6). LSSU has a +47 rating, and junior goaltender Jeff Jakaitis has a 0.50 goals-against average and .980 save percentage against WMU.

Western Michigan avoided a last-place finish in the CCHA by taking three of four points during last weekend's home series against Nebraska-Omaha. The Broncos' 5-5 tie and 6-3 win also knocked the Mavs from fourth to fifth place, and allowed Northern Michigan to earn a first-round bye along with Miami, Michigan State and Michigan. Other first-round series include Bowling Green at UNO, Ohio State at Ferris State and Alaska Fairbanks at Notre Dame. UAF and UND also played last weekend in South Bend, Ind., and split the series.

LSSU is coming off a 3-2 loss in Sault Ste. Marie and a 2-2 tie at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit during last week's series with second-place Michigan State. The Lakers drew a season-best home crowd of 3,084 last Thursday and entertained 6,241 fans at the JLA. Series highlights included Nathan Ward's short-handed goal that cut MSU's lead to 3-2 on Thursday, and Jakaitis' 45-save performance that salvaged the tie on Saturday. Campbell finished the weekend with a goal in both games and one assist. MSU played into overtime for a school-record 12th time.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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