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LSSU, NMU open home-and-home series in the Sault

Steven Kaunisto

Nov. 28, 2006

SAULT STE. MARIE - Lake Superior State plays host to 20th-ranked Northern Michigan at 7:30 p.m. Friday to open this weekend's home-and-home series against its Upper Peninsula rival.

LSSU (8-4-1 overall, 3-4-1 Central Collegiate Hockey Association) is home only twice in December. The Lakers' other home contest is an exhibition game against the USNTDP U-18s on Dec. 16.

Saturday's game at the Berry Events Center in Marquette begins a stretch for Lake Superior State that includes five of six games on the road. The contest marks the beginning of a four-game NMU homestand that spans the first three weekends in December.

The Lakers and Wildcats (7-6-2 overall, 4-3-1 CCHA) are both looking to get back on a winning track this weekend. LSSU took only one point during last weekend's six-day trip to Alaska. NMU, which was idle last weekend, split with Western Michigan on Nov. 17-18 in Kalamazoo. The Wildcats, whose lineup includes nine NHL draft picks, tied defending NCAA champion Wisconsin 3-3 early in the season, but are 3-4-1 in their last eight games and 1-1-1 in their last three home games. Their power play has been hot, however, connecting for 10 goals on 23 chances in their last four games.

LSSU hopes to snap a seven-game losing streak against NMU. Last season, the Wildcats swept the October series 3-1 and 2-1. The Lakers lost 4-3 in overtime at home during Game 1 of the second-half series last February and dropped a 5-1 decision in Marquette.

LSSU and NMU are regarded as two of the youngest teams in the CCHA. Both have only 12 returning letter winners. The only CCHA team close to the Wildcats and Lakers in that category is Miami, which returned only 15 letter winners. LSSU plays seven freshmen regularly, while NMU plays three.

This weekend's series marks the beginning of a four-year clash between cousins Steven Kaunisto (LSSU) and Ray Kaunisto (NMU), who are both freshmen from Sault Ste. Marie and regulars in their respective lineups. They were teammates last season in Cedar Rapids and throughout youth hockey. Their uncle is LSSU assistant coach Joe Shawhan.

Senior Trent Campbell (5-9--14) leads the Lakers in scoring, while freshman Nathan Perkovich (8-4--12) is second and junior Derek A. Smith (2-10--12) is third.

Perkovich is the CCHA's top freshman goal scorer and ranked fifth in the league in points by freshmen. He is ranked 24th nationally in that category. Smith is ranked sixth in the league and 17th nationally in points by defensemen.

LSSU senior goaltender Jeff Jakaitis is ranked No. 1 in the CCHA and No. 2 nationally in save percentage at .944. He is second in the CCHA and seventh nationally in goals-against average at 1.89.

Former Soo Indians goaltender Bill Zaniboni, an NMU senior, is ranked 15th nationally in save percentage at .920 and 19th in goals-against at 2.33.

Junior forward Mike Santorelli (12-9--21) is ranked fourth in the CCHA in scoring and leads the Wildcats. He and Laker senior Jeff Rainville are among the league leaders in game-winning goals with three each. Santorelli also leads the CCHA in short-handed goals with three.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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