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Friday, September 28, 2007

Lake Superior State ’07-08 Preview

by Mike Burrill/Lake Superior State Beat Writer

Despite losing two of the programs premiere players last season, Lake Superior State players, coaches, and fans are very optimistic about this season’s Laker squad.

According to head coach Jim Roque, season ticket sales have already doubled from last year.

The Lakers (21-19-3, 11-14-3 CCHA last year) are in one of the toughest clusters in the CCHA this season, matching up against defending national champion Michigan State, Michigan and archrival Northern Michigan.

“Our goal is just to improve on last year,” said Roque, entering his third season as head coach with the Lakers. “I think if we can just continue to build every year to get better and better and better, I think good things will happen.”

The aforementioned key losses to the program are goaltender Jeff Jakaitis and defenseman Derek A. Smith, who gave up his senior season to sign with the Ottawa Senators.

Jakaitis was one of the best netminders to ever don the anchor and set multiple records in his four-year collegiate career. He will spend the 2007-08 season with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.

Smith had a breakthrough year with the Lakers last season, tying for the team lead in points on 10 goals and 20 assists. He also led the team in shots with 131.

Key returnees for the Lakers include juniors Troy Schwab and Josh Sim and sophomore Nathan Perkovich.

Schwab was also tied for the team lead in points, led the team with 24 assists and was third on the team in power-play points with 12. He was named an assistant captain last season and is a good bet to wear the ‘C’ this year.

Sim also had a great sophomore year for Lake State. He tied for the team lead in goals with 15 and led the team in shot percentage.

Perkovich was pleasant surprise as a freshman for the Lakers. He tied Sim for the team lead in goals with 15, led the team in power-play and game-winning goals with nine and four, respectively. His size and speed also helped the Lakers on special teams.

The Lakers will have a young defensive core and will rely heavily on sophomores Simon Gysbers and Steve Kaunisto. Gysbers scored 12 points last season and was second on the Lakers with a +5 rating. Kaunisto, a Sault Ste. Marie native, scored eight points and only took 18 minutes in penalties.

Taking over the reigns of the goaltending department will be sophomore Pat Inglis. Inglis played in 11 games last season, going 5-3-0 with a 2.89 goals-against average. Inglis has good size at over six foot and moves well for a big guy. He will be challenged by freshman and San Jose Sharks draft pick Brian Mahoney-Wilson.

“We've been blessed at Lake State with great goaltending for a lot of years and I expect that to continue,” added Roque.

Incoming players Zac MacVoy, Carter Lee, and Rick Schofield will help out LSSU as well.

MacVoy, a former member of the U.S. National Team Development Program, played with CCHA rival Michigan in 2005-06 scoring a goal and adding three assists in 20 games. He spent last season in the United States Hockey League with the Omaha Lancers and Ohio Junior Blue Jackets scoring 25 points total.

Lee has some D-I experience as well, playing for Northeastern of Hockey East for two seasons. Also drafted by the Sharks, he’s noted for having good speed and a laser-like shot.

Schofield comes to Lake State from Pickering, Ontario. He played last season for his hometown Panthers of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League, scoring 36 goals and 34 assists for 70 points, good for 14th in the league. He was named the South Division’s Most Improved player and was the MVP of the OPJHL All-Star Game.

The Lakers were picked to finish seventh in this years Coach’s Poll and ninth in the Media Poll. Last season they were picked 10th in both polls, but surprised everyone by making it to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA finals after an eighth-place finish during the regular season.

“We have one senior on scholarship so we're a little young,” Roque noted. “I'm just hoping for some leadership to emerge over the first three weeks and the next couple of months to really solidify our team. I thought a key reason why we had some success at the end last year was our leadership."

A repeat performance in the playoffs is something Laker fans will look forward to.

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