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Lakers are off to a good start in 2005-06

Jeff Rainville

Oct. 25, 2005

SAULT STE. MARIE - The Lake Superior State hockey team is off to its best start since it was 3-1 at the beginning of the 2002-03 season. This is the first time the Lakers are unbeaten in their first four games since they took off to a 6-0 start in 1995-96.

LSSU is 1-0-3 heading into this weekend's home-and-home series with 14th-ranked Northern Michigan (3-1-0). The Lakers and Wildcats play Game 1 of the series at 7:35 p.m. Friday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. The series returns to Sault Ste. Marie at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Taffy Abel Arena.

The Lakers, who have the luxury of playing nine of their first 12 games at home, totaled a school-record seven ties in 2003-04 and 2004-05. They have already deadlocked in three out of four games in 2005-06, but it's clear that the circumstances in overtime games this year are much different.

During the previous two years, it was obvious that the Lakers had trouble scoring goals and sometimes played to hang on to a tie rather than going for the win at the end of games.

During the past two weeks, a sense of urgency - energy - intensity - confidence can be felt even if the end result has not always been a victory.

The Lakers already appear to be ahead of where they were last year in shots-for and against, and scoring. They are out-shooting their opponents by an average of 5.8 shots per game, and holding a slight edge in power-play percentage and goals per game. Most importantly, LSSU coach Jim Roque is pleased with the Lakers' play down the stretch. They are becoming more aggressive and getting better scoring chances in the third period. Bob Daniels, coach of last week's opponent Ferris State, praised both teams for their "entertaining" style of hockey and considerable scoring chances.

NMU will be playing is first CCHA series of the season this weekend and hopes to draw more than 4,000 fans for the second straight week. The Wildcats, who swept Michigan Tech 5-1 and 2-1 in a home-and-home series, set a new home attendance record of 4,260 last Friday night.

NMU's record also includes a 3-0 win and 3-2 overtime loss at home to St. Cloud State. The Lakers would like to knock a team out of the national rankings for the second time in three weeks. They bumped 16th-ranked Colgate out by taking three of four points on Oct. 14-15.

LSSU has lost three straight to the Wildcats since winning the opener of last year's four-game series, 3-1. NMU leads the all-time series, 45-23-7, including a 27-8-3 advantage in Marquette and an 18-15-4 edge in Sault Ste. Marie. The Lakers are 1-1-1 in their last three home games against NMU.

Junior forward Trent Campbell had two goals and an assist to lead the Lakers against Northern Michigan last season, and 12 LSSU players picked up points in those four games in 2004-05.

Junior forward Jeff Rainville (1-2--3) is taking a three-game scoring streak into this weekend's games, while freshman defenseman Marty Gurnoe leads the team in points with four assists.

Senior forward Dirk Southern leads the Wildcats in scoring with one goal and four assists and has a point in three of four games. Sophomore goaltender Bill Zaniboni heads into the weekend with a 3-0-0 record and 0.67 goals-against average.

Last season while playing backup to Tuomas Tarkki, Zaniboni appeared in eight games and had a gaa of 2.79. Zaniboni played junior hockey for the Soo Indians and was teammates with Lakers Justin Gutwald, Gurnoe and Dominic Osman.

NMU, with 11 NHL draft picks on its roster, is on a bit different track than LSSU after posting four straight 20-win seasons, but similarities exist between the two teams. Both teams return nine of their top 10 scorers from last season and most of their defense. The Wildcats had the league's best defense in 2004-05, allowing only 2.04 goals per game, while LSSU was tied for sixth at 3.0.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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