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LSSU vs. NMU is a key CCHA series

Matt Restoule

Nov. 23, 2004

SAULT STE. MARIE - Lake Superior State alum Rick Comley is long gone from Northern Michigan, but the Lakers don't have to look hard to find another reason to get up for a series against the Wildcats.

This weekend's home-and-home series may be one of the most important LSSU-NMU matchups in several years. Yes, Upper Peninsula bragging rights and the Father Cappo Cup are important. But they are not as important as the current deadlock in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association standings.

The Lakers and Wildcats play at 7:35 p.m. Friday at Taffy Abel Arena in Sault Ste. Marie, and meet at 7:35 p.m. Saturday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.

LSSU (3-6-1 overall, 3-4-1 CCHA) is one of four teams tied for fifth place in the CCHA. The other three are Bowling Green, Northern Michigan (5-3-2 overall, 3-2-1 CCHA) and Western Michigan. BGSU and NMU have two games in hand on the Lakers and Broncos, but the Lakers have a shot at assuming a solid spot in the CCHA's top six for the first time since 1999-2000.

What a confidence boost that would be going into a tough road stretch that will end the first half of the season.

LSSU and NMU both hope to gain ground on Bowling Green, which plays host to defending regular-season runner-up Miami, and Western Michigan, which plays host to non-conference Alabama-Huntsville. By the way, the Lakers' next CCHA opponent, Nebraska-Omaha, is the surprise team of the league. The Mavs have bolted from last place to third following last weekend's win and tie against CCHA leader Ohio State.

Last year, LSSU was 1-2-1 against the Wildcats. The Lakers suffered back-to-back 3-0 losses in December. They bounced back in February with a 5-2 win in Marquette and a come-from-behind 2-2 tie in Sault Ste. Marie. During the fourth meeting of the year between the two teams, LSSU scored the game-tying goal with 30 seconds remaining in regulation while playing with the goalie pulled in favor of an extra attacker.

Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan are evenly-matched in most areas this season. LSSU has moved past Michigan State top the top of the league in fewest average penalty minutes per game at 13.70, while NMU is ranked 11th at 27.30.

NMU (.924) and LSSU (.921) are the top two teams in the league in save percentage and among the top three in goals-allowed. Wildcat senior Tuomas Tarkki is the CCHA's No. 2 goaltender with a 2.13 goals-against average and .936 save percentage, while freshman teammate Bill Zaniboni is 10th at 2.90 and .908.

LSSU sophomore goalie Jeff Jakaitis is ranked eighth in the league with a 2.77 gaa and .916 save percentage. Senior Matt Violin hasn't played enough games to be ranked, but also has impressive stats with a 2.09 gaa and .938 save percentage.

In league games, Tarkki is ranked first statistically, while Violin is third, Zaniboni seventh and Jakaitis ninth.

After contributing a goal and two assists in last weekend's series against Ferris State, junior forward Jon Booras (4-3--7) leads LSSU in scoring. Sophomore Matt Restoule (2-4--6) is second, and five players are tied for third. Among those is junior Kory Scoran (2-3--5), who is continuing to be the Lakers' most-consistent defenseman.

NMU is led in scoring by sophomore forward Darin Olver and junior forward Dirk Southern, who both have three goals and seven assists for the season. Freshman Mike Santorelli (5-4--9) is the Wildcats' leading goal scorer.

Reminder: LSSU wants to remind all Edison Sault and Cloverland Electric customers that Dec. 1 is the deadline for bringing bill statements to the Norris Center Ticket Office to receive ticket discounts and qualify for a prize drawing during the Edison Sault Power Night on Friday, Dec. 3. Anyone who brings in an electric bill can get adult tickets for $5 and children's tickets for $2. Sorry, LSSU won't be paying your electric bill.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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