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Lakers play host to Alaska Fairbanks

Bo Cheesman

Dec. 9, 2003

SAULT STE. MARIE - Lake Superior State hopes to get back on track offensively when it plays host to Alaska Fairbanks in a Central Collegiate Hockey Association series Friday and Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at Taffy Abel Arena.

The Lakers (4-6-4 overall, 2-6-2 CCHA) had previously shown drastic improvement this season, but took a step backward offensively with last weekend's back-to-back 3-0 losses to Northern Michigan. Now they want to close out the first half of the 2003-04 season on a positive note by bouncing back against the Nanooks (7-7-0 overall, 6-4-0 CCHA).

This weekend's series is LSSU's last before final exams and a three-week hiatus. The Lakers return to action with home games against Western Michigan on Jan. 2-3.

Alaska Fairbanks swept Nebraska-Omaha 5-2 and 4-1 last weekend to improve to 7-1-0 at home this season. The potentially high-powered Nanooks rank second in the CCHA in shots per game at 35.29 and third in goals per game at 3.36. They are led in scoring by sophomore forward Kelly Czuy (5-8-13), senior forwards Ryan Campbell (4-9-13) and Cam Keith (7-5-12), and freshman forward Curtis Fraser (5-6-11).

AUF senior defenseman Felipe Larranga (2-8-9), one of the top-scoring defensemen in the CCHA, is a former member of the Soo Hawks AAA midget team. He played junior hockey for Des Moines of the United States Hockey League before returning to his hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska.

LSSU can counter the Nanooks' attack with solid defense. The Lakers are ranked fourth in the CCHA in goals-allowed per game at 2.67, while AUF is ranked 11th at 3.50. Although both teams are among the league's most-disciplined, their penalty-killing units haven't been strong. AUF is ranked 10th in the CCHA in penalty killing at .764, while LSSU is 11th at .735. Michigan State is a surprising 12th.

The Nanooks have also struggled on the road, where they are 0-6-0 heading into a six-game stretch.

Lake Superior State leads the all-time series against UAF, 17-7-1, including an 11-4-0 advantage at home. Last year, the Nanooks and Lakers tied 2-2 on Friday as goaltender Matt Violin totaled a single-game school record 60 saves to salvage the point for LSSU. AUF took advantage of an exhausted Violin in Game 2 and skated to a 5-2 win.

LSSU coach Frank Anzalone will have a tough decision to make regarding this weekend's starting goaltender. Despite suffering the first two losses of his collegiate career last weekend, freshman Jeff Jakaitis (2-2-2) still leads the CCHA with a 1.86 goals-against record. Violin (2-4-2), however, had a record-setting weekend at AUF last year. He replaced injured starter Terry Denike in Saturday's game and stopped another 28 shots to set a school record for most saves in a series (88).

Note: LSSU concessions and Cola-Cola are promoting holiday spirit by sponsoring "Caring Cans at the Norris" Weekend. Laker hockey fans who bring a canned good to either game will receive at free 12-oz. soda at the concession stand.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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