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Laker Hockey season preview
Sept. 29, 2002
The 11 returnees who have a year of Coach Frank Anzalone's style of Laker Hockey under their belts will be expected to teach what they know to 15 newcomers during the 2002-03 season.
"We are still in a training mode," said Anzalone, who is in the second year of his second stint as Lake Superior State's head hockey coach. "Jim (Roque), Tim (Christian) and I are still teaching what is necessary to make us successful. This is still a learning process, but the nice thing is the players coming back, from (senior) Jeremy Bachusz to (sophomore) Matt Violin, have a year under their belts. They've chosen to stay. They've chosen to wear the jersey. This freshman class will be farther ahead than anyone last year because the message will be magnified from our coaching staff through the returnees and on to the freshmen. There will be more clarity each day."
Lake Superior State is a young team coming off a 12th-place finish in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association last season, but Anzalone has brought the Laker program from the bottom to the top before. He rebuilt Laker Hockey during the 1980s and won a NCAA title in 1988 with 10 freshmen, including several who played regularly. That season, however, he had a core of players who had been with him more than one year. This year's team might have to be a bit more patient, but the Lakers are looking to their physical size, a promising group of netminders and their strong showing in last year's CCHA First Round Playoffs as an optimistic starting point.
LSSU seniors Bachusz (6-14-20) and Aaron Davis (6-10-16) are looking to improve upon last season. Both must have strong offensive seasons.
Other returning forwards include juniors Kyle Anderson (1-3-4) and Chris Peterson (2-9-11), and sophomores Bo Cheesman (5-2-7), Jeff Cochrane (0-0-0) and Derek Seal (2-1-3).
Eight rookie forwards will add size and strength up front: David Kellington (6-2, 200), Bobby Joe Pelkey (6-2, 210), Nathan Ward (6-0, 200), Matt Chafe (5-11, 195), Adrian Kremblewski (6-3, 195), Colin Nicholson (6-2, 185), Jon Booras (5-11, 180) and Mike Adamek (6-2, 190).
"They all have innate ability," Anzalone said. "It's going to come down to who's prepared the best over the summer, who grows quickest mentally, who can work at 100 percent, yet stay mentally relaxed."
As the Lakers become more accustomed to Anzalone's defensive-minded systems, the team will improve offensively.
"The bottom line is that we had some guys last year who could easily have scored 15-18 goals if they had put their chances away, but they were always trying to score in stressful situations - trailing one-nothing, trailing two-nothing, or after the first two shifts of the game where we didn't get a shot on goal for nine minutes. When everybody's on the same page and everybody's working, pucks will go in. Certainly some guys can bury a puck better than others, but we have to continue to work from our net out."
A lack of consistency hurt the Lakers last season, and Anzalone will be striving to get consistency out of a very young team in 2002-03. He will give his players some leeway to "explore their offensive abilities" as long as they understand and execute LSSU's tough defensive style.
"As long as they are willing to stop, look and listen, they'll be OK," Anzalone said. "If they're going to cheat, and that's what I mean about 100 percent effort but relaxing mentally, they're going to be in the middle of confusion all the time and will not accomplish much."
It is too early for Anzalone to project which freshmen will step to the front.
"We like them all," he said. "They all have character, talent and size. They understand what we're trying to do and where we want to go."
Violin and sophomore Terry Denike split time in goal for most of the 2001-02 season. Violin (3.06, .913, 4-11-2)) emerged as the No. 1 goalie at the end of the year and was named the team's most valuable player. Denike finished 3-10-0 with a 3.60 goals-against average and .888 save percentage. Freshman walk-on Willie Ciccone joins Violin and Denike in goal this season. "We have to hope that Violin and Denike continue to grow," Anzalone said. "They're major factors right now. We think one or both of them can play. We don't know anything else right now other than the net might be good. If we can defend and stop people it will give us a chance to be in every game."
Junior Ryan Branham (0-3-3) and sophomore Ryan Reid (0-4-4) are the Lakers' only returning defensemen. Six incoming defensemen are Kory Scoran (6-3, 200), Mike Kautz (6-1, 190), Alex Dunn (5-11, 175), Ren Fauci (6-3, 190), Mark Adamek (6-2, 190) and Steve McJannet (6-3, 195). The defense is young, but Anzalone said that all of the newcomers are feisty and should improve dramatically as the season wears on.
An enthusiastic attitude will be evident this fall as the new, young Lakers look to build upon the fine showing they had in last season's CCHA Playoffs when they shocked top-seeded Michigan 4-3 in Ann Arbor before bowing out in the best-2-of-3 series.
Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey