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Lakers biggest home game of the year will be CCHA opener

Barnabas Birkeland

Oct. 18, 2004

SAULT STE. MARIE - The Lakers are jumping right into the fire.

Thursday's Central Collegiate Hockey Association opener against fourth-ranked Michigan is also Lake Superior State's biggest game of the season from a local fan perspective. Home games against CCHA rivals Michigan and Michigan State highlight every season, and this is the only time during the 2004-05 regular season in which either of those teams will be playing in Sault Ste. Marie.

LSSU and Michigan will play at 7:35 p.m. at Taffy Abel Arena as part of the annual Home-and-Joe Series. Game 2 of the series will be played at 7:35 p.m. Saturday at Joe Louis Arena.

The Lakers (0-2) kicked off the season with an impressive 15-1 exhibition win over Toronto at home on Oct. 8, but they must stop an equally-explosive team by CCHA standards when they take on the Wolverines (2-1-1).

Michigan started the season ranked No. 1 in just about every poll, but suffered a surprising 4-2 loss to Northeastern in its opener at the Lefty McFadden Invitational in Dayton, Ohio, on Oct. 8 and tied seventh-ranked New Hampshire 4-4 last Friday in Ann Arbor in a rematch of the 2004 NCAA Tournament first round. They beat Boston University, 7-2, and St. Lawrence, 5-2.

The senior-laden Wolverines will be looking to take some frustrations out on LSSU, while the Lakers will have an axe to grind after suffering two hard-fought, one-goal losses at Colgate last weekend.

Michigan is impressive on paper with 21 returnees, including 10 seniors and five juniors. The Wolverines' roster is a who's who of Unites States National Team Development Program alumni and includes 14 National Hockey League draft picks (three first-rounders). They return All-CCHA First Team forward T.J. Hensick, second-team defenseman Brandon Rogers and second-team goaltender Al Montoya. Hensick and defenseman Matt Hunwick made the CCHA All-Rookie Team, while Montoya went on to earn All-America honors.

LSSU leads the all-time series against Michigan at home, 21-13-3, but trails overall, 45-44-6, following last year's 5-1 and 4-0 losses to the Wolverines. U-M holds a 9-4 edge over the Lakers at Joe Louis Arena. LSSU's all-time record at JLA is 20-19.

The Lakers are showing signs that they have improved offensively, especially on the power play. At Colgate, junior forward Mike Adamek figured in on LSSU's three goals, which were all scored with the man advantage, and put constant pressure on standout goaltender Steve Silverthorn. LSSU sophomore goaltender Jeff Jakaitis was solid in net, stopping 54 of 59 shots for the series. The Lakers were also well-disciplined, earning 15 power-play opportunities and allowing only six.

The Lakers' goal this week will be to finish strong. Despite coming from behind in both games against Colgate, they allowed the Raiders (4-0) to score two late game-winning goals -- with 5:25 remaining in the third period on Friday and 33 seconds into overtime on Saturday.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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