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LSSU begins second half of season at home vs. WMU

Ryan Branham

Dec. 30, 2003

SAULT STE. MARIE - Lake Superior State already surpassed last season's Central Collegiate Hockey Association point total, so the feeling going into the second half of the 2003-04 season is nothing but positive.

The Lakers face a senior-laden Western Michigan team (by the LSSU's standards) in their first January series, which includes games Friday and Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at Taffy Abel Arena. The Broncos' roster includes seven seniors and four juniors compared to LSSU's four seniors and three juniors. WMU also boasts three of the CCHA's top 10 scorers - senior Dana Lattery (11-11-22), and sophomores Brent Walton (7-14-21) and Vince Bellissimo (6-14-20).

Lattery has been named CCHA Offensive Player of the Week twice this season. He leads a potent offense that is averaging 3.5 goals per game and ranks second in the league in overall games. WMU's power play is also ranked second at .207, but the Broncos are ranked 11th in goals allowed at 3.6.

Their high numbers are partially attributed to two shootouts with Notre Dame on Dec. 5-6, which resulted in 8-6 and 6-4 victories. WMU has won seven of its last eight games, including three straight during a Canadian tour Dec. 17-19.

LSSU, meanwhile, went into the two-week holiday break lamenting a few games that got away, but relishing being out of last place in the CCHA standings. The Lakers closed the first half of the season with a 7-2 win and 7-4 loss at home against Alaska Fairbanks on Dec. 12-13.

In the winning effort, the Lakers had their best offensive outing since a 7-1 victory over Michigan State in January, 2003. Senior forward Tim Krueckl tallied two goals and two assists for LSSU's first four-point game since Aaron Davis had two goals and two assists in a victory over UAF on Dec. 9, 2000. Krueckl was named CCHA Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts.

The Lakers fell behind 3-0 in the second period Saturday after an LSSU goal was disallowed and trailed 4-0 early in the third period, but they gave fans a thrilling finish in the second game. Coach Frank Anzalone pulled goalie Matt Violin seven times for a total of 7:29, and the Lakers outscored the Nanooks 4-3 while playing with an extra attacker. They cut UAF's lead to 5-3 and 6-4 before giving up empty-net goals on long shots from the Nanooks' zone.

LSSU finished one win shy of .500 during the first half of the season, but posted its best first-half record since going 9-11 prior to Christmas in 2000-01. At this time last season, the Lakers were 3-14-1 and averaging 1.3 goals per game. This year they are 5-7-4 and have doubled their scoring average.

Freshmen forwards Dominic Osman (7-5-12) and Trent Campbell (3-9-12) lead LSSU in scoring. They are followed by junior Bo Cheesman (7-3-10), Krueckl (3-5-8) and sophomore Jon Booras (1-7-8).

Violin, a junior, appears to be back on track to start the year. He appeared in both games against UAF after sitting on the sidelines during the Northern Michigan series Dec. 5-6. He stopped 49 of 54 shots in 87:43 against the Nanooks. Freshman Jeff Jakaitis, who played briefly in Game 2 of the UAF series, is working on puck control, but still leads the CCHA with a 1.89 goals-against average and .933 save percentage.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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