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Laker hockey team is starting fresh in 2003-04

Ryan Branham, team captain

Oct. 6, 2003

SAULT STE. MARIE - Regardless of how many games the Lake Superior State hockey team wins this season, 2003-04 will be different.

Gone are the pressures on last year's huge freshman class. Gone are the comparisons to past Laker eras.

This team is starting fresh and is only looking to the future. This team expects to be better than a 12th-place team in the CCHA. This team expects to score more than 1.6 goals per game. The refreshed attitude is coming straight from the top - Frank Anzalone, who is in his the third year of his second stint as the Lakers' head coach.

"A lot of the responsibility for us getting better lies with me," he told reporters during CCHA Media Day in September. Anzalone has had two years to re-acclimate himself to college hockey after spending 10 years in the pros, and he is more confident than ever about the direction he wants the Lakers to go.

Despite winning only six games last season, the Lakers made strides. They played solid hockey in early January, when they split a home series with Michigan State, and late February, when they split with Northern Michigan and Bowling Green. Goaltender Matt Violin had several milestone games while anchoring the Laker defense. More important, all 13 freshmen who finished last season have returned in 2003-04. The Lakers have 19 returning letterwinners on their roster, including three seniors. A fourth senior, Tim Krueckl, was the second-leading scorer at Iona, which dropped its hockey program at the conclusion of the 2002-03 season.

In 2003-04, LSSU is one of the biggest teams in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association based on average weight. The Lakers' average weight of 193 pounds is second only to Ohio State's - and is identical to the University of Windsor, the team that will open the Lakers' season at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Taffy Abel Arena.

"It's not he size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog," reminded Lancers coach Vern Stenlund.

Windsor's roster includes 11 returnees from last season's 10-18-1 team. The Lancers' top-returning scorer is junior forward Jason Melo (13-8-21). Windsor's roster also includes former Lakers Scott Murray and Rob Rosati, and Sault, Ont., native Eric Gawant, who is a Lancers' assistant captain.

Murray, a goaltender, played three seasons at LSSU before transferring after the 2001-02 season. Rosati was on LSSU's roster in 1996-97, but did not appear in a game.

While LSSU was the only idle team in the CCHA last weekend, Windsor opened the season with a grueling three-day trek that included a 9-2 loss at Bowling Green on Friday, a 6-0 loss at Ferris State on Saturday and a 6-0 loss at Michigan State on Sunday.

LSSU's season-opening week also includes the annual "Meet the Lakers" gathering from 5-6 p.m. on Tuesday at the Cisler Center. The players will be introduced, and Anzalone is expected to name senior defenseman Ryan Branham as team captain for 2003-04.

The first Laker Hockey Show of the season will air live from Moloney's Alley on Monday at 6:05 p.m. on WSOO 1230-AM. Anzalone will also be interviewed Tuesdays at 8:35 a.m. on John Bell's radio show on 1400-AM and Wednesdays at 7:25 a.m. by Tom Ewing on WSOO.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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