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Lakers to face another MAAC Opponent

Oct. 15, 2002

SAULT STE. MARIE - The Lake Superior State hockey team hopes to rebound from last weekend's 8-1 loss to fifth-ranked Maine when it takes on Mercyhurst College for the first time in school history during a home series Friday and Saturday.

Both games will begin at 7:05 p.m. at Taffy Abel Arena. It is the second Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference opponent in as many weeks for the Lakers (1-1), who defeated MAAC member Quinnipiac 2-1 last Friday at the Black Bear Classic in Orono, Maine. The series is also the highlight of the annual Great Lake State Weekend festivities and will include introductions of LSSU's Outstanding Alumnus and Sports Hall of Fame inductees.

The Mercyhurst Lakers have a 59-14-6 record, two league championships and a runner-up finish in their first three seasons in the MAAC. Last season, Mercyhurst won the MAAC regular-season title with a 21-2-3 record (including a 20-0-3 start), but lost to Quinnipiac in the league tournament.

LSSU coach Frank Anzalone greatly respects Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin, who has a 256-142-24 record through 14 seasons and has led the Lakers to four NCAA Tournament appearances. He said that Mercyhurst would be a worthy opponent in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

"They get the best of the rest," said Anzalone, referring to Mercyhurst's ability to attract talented recruits who are overlooked by the top Division I programs.

Mercyhurst is one of three opponents that the Lake Superior State hockey team and LSSU's Division II athletic teams have in common in 2002-03. Northern Michigan and Ferris State are the other two. Anzalone noted that LSSU and Mercyhurst are based in Great Lakes communities with very similar roots.

"Mercyhurst is in Erie, Penn., which is a town that, like ours, is not cosmetic, but has a lot of hard-working, caring people," Anzalone said.

"If we could be a little bit like Lake Superior State in hockey, we'd be happy about that," Gotkin said. "They have a great tradition there. I know they are rebuilding their hockey team under Frank Anzalone and his staff."

Sixteen players, including eight of last year's top 10 scorers, return for Mercyhurst. Last season, junior forward Adam Tackaberry (6-0, 195) was second in scoring with 15 goals and 18 assists, while junior forward Mike Carter (5-8, 170) was third with 12 goals and 16 assists and junior forward Peter Rynshoven (6-2, 200) tied for fourth with 13 goals and 14 assists. The Lakers also return four defensemen and junior goaltender Matt Cifelli, who had a 2.50 goals-against average and a 5-3-1 record.

Mercyhurst's list of recruits includes forward Dave Borrelli (5-9, 180) of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., who was a team captain of the Soo Thunderbirds (Northern Ontario Junior Hockey Association).

Last week, Mercyhurst tied Brock University 2-2 in an exhibition game. Seniors P.J. Hiscock and Adam Rivers scored goals, while Cifelli and freshman goaltender Andy Franck split playing time.

"I'm not sure what we have yet," Gotkin said. "We played without some players who we'd like to have, and a couple of them may be back this weekend. We're still trying to figure out who we are."

Mercyhurst is not as experienced as Maine, but not as young as Lake Superior. Mercyhurst plans to have six freshmen and four seniors in its lineup. LSSU has gone with two seniors and 10 freshmen in its first three games, including the exhibition victory over Western Ontario.

Lake Superior State must regroup after its long journey to Orono, Maine, and a disappointing showing against Maine. Anzalone isn't sure how his team will respond to the loss.

"I was impressed with Maine's ability to put the puck on the net," Anzalone said. "We just haven't been able to do that."

He delivered "a hard message" to his young team after Maine out-worked the Lakers.

"It will depend on how they handle the message, especially if the message is hard, bone-crushing," Anzalone noted. "Maine is a good team, better than we are, and we have to grow to that level down the road."

The bright spots for the weekend were LSSU's victory over Quinnipiac, which included two power-play goals and solid third-period defense after the Lakers built a 2-1 lead. Senior center Jeremy Bachusz, who assisted on both goals, was named to the Black Bear Classic All-Tournament Team.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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