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Lakers begin Cappo Cup series with Northern Michigan

Oct. 29, 2002

SAULT STE. MARIE - Friday night is student appreciation night, and the Lake Superior State University hockey team hopes to reward its classmates with another thrilling performance when it plays host to Northern Michigan at 7:05 p.m. at Taffy Abel Arena.

The Lakers (3-3-0 overall, 0-2-0 in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association) rebounded from last Thursday's 7-0 loss to Michigan State and played a solid game Friday before giving up the game winner with 2.7 seconds remaining and falling 3-2. But the positives definitely out-weighed the negatives as LSSU played three strong periods of hockey, starting goalie Matt Violin had a stellar performance and the Lakers came back from a 2-0 deficit with two goals late in the third period. They were within three seconds of earning their first CCHA point and kept their composure for all but 40 seconds at Munn Arena.

"To tie the game like that was just great for our guys," said LSSU coach Frank Anzalone, who hopes the game was a confidence-builder despite the loss. "We finished the weekend on a good note."

Michigan State had a similar fate in an Oct. 18-19 series against Northern Michigan (2-4-1 overall, 1-3-0 CCHA) as LSSU had with the Spartans last week. Two weeks ago, MSU rebounded from a 10-4 loss with a 3-1 win over the Wildcats.

NMU's explosive scoring in the Friday game against MSU had the CCHA buzzing, but the Wildcats have since lost three straight, including 7-1 and 6-3 setbacks last weekend at Miami. They have been outscored 16-5 in their last three games. They haven't lost four straight since the 1983-84 season when they started 0-5, but went 16-9-0 the rest of the way.

Anzalone said that Miami's Goggin Arena is a difficult place to play, and noted that the Wildcats might be a bit out of synch as they adjust to anything new that first-year head coach Walt Kyle is bringing into the program. Anzalone warned that NMU is loaded with experienced players and team speed, and has a strong goaltender in junior Craig Kowalski.

"Last weekend at Miami we didn't show a lot of speed," Kyle said. "I think we (LSSU and NMU) are very similar teams."

"Their goaltender is one of the best in the country," Anzalone said. "MSU could have easily won the Friday game (against Northern Michigan), but Kowalski made some great saves."

The Wildcats return four of their top five scorers from last year's 26-12-2 season. They are seniors Bryce Cockburn (20-19-39), Chris Gobert (19-19-38), Mike Stutzel (16-17-33) and Peter Michelutti (1-17-18).

Gobert, a Marquette native and product of the Soo Indians Junior A team, is currently tied for third in the CCHA in overall scoring with three goals and nine assists. Stutzel is tied for seventh with four goals and five assists.

"It's hard to judge Northern Michigan," Anzalone said. "They have a few transfers sitting out because they're not eligible until Christmas. NMU is a team deep with upperclassmen, but I believe we are capable of playing hard against them." "We're really just trying to get better in all aspects of the game," Kyle said. "We're not where we need to be."

As LSSU seeks its first CCHA win of the season, and both teams hope to rebound from a winless weekend, Kyle expects the home-and-home Upper Peninsula series to offer two good games.

"I have a lot of respect for Frank," Kyle said. "I coached against him in the pros. His teams are always well-prepared and are hard teams to play. Plus they are a rival."

Kyle, a 1981 NMU graduate and two-year letter winner, replaced Rick Comley as the second Wildcat hockey coach in school history. His tenure in professional hockey included assistant coaching positions with the New York Rangers and Anaheim Mighty Ducks. He has also coached in the American, International and Western hockey leagues.

Gobert is one of six NMU players with ties to Sault Ste. Marie. Freshman defensemen Juha Alen (3-3-6) and Jamie Milam (0-5-5), and junior defenseman Justin Kinnunen (0-1-1) also played for the Soo Indians. Junior forward Alex Sawruk (0-1-1) is a Sault Ste. Marie native, and freshman forward Andrew Contois is a transfer from LSSU.

Last season, NMU claimed the Father Cappo Cup, which determines CCHA bragging rights in the U.P., by sweeping all four games by a 22-4 margin. The Lakers were 1-3 against the Wildcats in 2000-01. They last won the Cappo Cup in 1999-2000.

Game 2 of this year's four-game series will be Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at NMU. The teams have another home-and-home series on Feb. 14-15.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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