The Lake Superior State Lakers could look at the loss of their No. 1 goaltender and three of their top five scorers as an excuse for a slow start in 2019-20, but that wouldn’t be the LSSU way.
Following a sweep by No. 2-ranked Denver earlier this month, Lakers coach Damon Whitten told Rob Roos of The Sault News that there were “a lot of lessons and a lot of things and ways to improve through a tough series.”
The lessons continued after two more sweeps by two equally tough opponents in Michigan and No. 5 Notre Dame. A total of 21 NHL draft picks are split evenly between the three programs, giving the Lakers a long, firsthand look at the premier talent that hauls high expectations around storied teams.
The Lakers want a share of the expectations and don’t care if they lack the star potential of NHL draft picks. It’s why Whitten dealt his team such a tough schedule ahead of conference play.
Because after a taste of success last season in which the Lakers went 23-13-2 for their best overall record since 1995-96, it wasn’t much more than the lack of strength of their schedule that held the Lakers away from an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Now the Lakers have primed themselves for conference play against a pair of undefeated teams in current No. 1 Denver and No. 5 Notre Dame. The Lakers were visibly better in each second-end game over the past three weeks and even though it didn’t favor them, it showed on the scoreboard.
Gotta keep our heads up after tonight’s battle! Big props to Roman for standing on his head a few times in tonight’s battle.— Lake State Hockey (@HockeyLSSU) October 27, 2019
Goals: Saccoman (2), Miura, Riedell
SOG: Lakers 33, Irish 30 pic.twitter.com/V2zdzCBJww
Even in the midst of a six-game losing streak, there’s always an upside. For the Lakers, that upside is a clean conference slate.
With the Lakers’ packed schedule in no rush to slow down, they’ll play 10 games over the course of November, taking on WCHA foes Ferris State, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Bowling Green, and Bemidji State again. The Lakers went a combined 10-3 against the aforementioned teams and used their rivals as stepping-stones to fourth place in the conference last season (16-10-2).
Now, they’ll look to apply the lessons learned from a few of the league’s top teams to their upcoming schedule and hope familiarity and hunger can help elevate their play to regain some confidence and gain traction in the coming weeks.
Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.