History is not melodrama, even if it usually reads like that. — Robert Penn Warren
Ah, Frank. Why did you have to go? We hardly knew ye.
So it took a few years for CCHA fans to adjust to the unique coaching and public speaking style of Frank Anzalone. It certainly took this writer more than one season to begin to understand Anzalone’s near-fanatic dedication to Laker hockey. And it took the man himself a couple of college seasons to remember how to play all aspects of the game.
Anzalone went from a man who in his first season trashed his players without provocation in post-game interviews, to someone who fiercely protected the innocent-until-proven-guilty few who brought such drama to Laker hockey last season.
This deserves to be said: Anzalone got the bum’s rush.
No, this isn’t an apology for Anzalone’s style, nor is it a reconfiguration of history. In his four seasons with LSSU, Anzalone reinvented Laker hockey, infusing the program with a disciplined work ethic second to none in the league, and rebuilding the program to the point where it could see a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel — even if that light didn’t always include the elusive flicker behind an opponent’s cage.
That discipline will serve this current Laker squad well through its coaching transition, and new head coach Jim Roque credits Anzalone for that. “That’s one things he’s always maintained all his years at coaching at every level.”
Roque inherits a sincere and dedicated but offensively tentative Laker hockey team. The Lakers lost several games in spectacular fashion last season, but not so many as the year before, and in fact LSSU played a good many close games in 2004-05, recording 10 one-goal losses — including two 4-3 first-round CCHA playoff road losses to Nebraska-Omaha — and six ties.
The Lakers can compete and they can play defense — they can trap, at least, with the best of them. Now, says Roque, the challenge is to get the Lakers to trust themselves enough to play both ways in their own zone and create more offense.
“We’re not going to get less defensive, but we want to do a better job — I don’t think we’ve done a very good job from the other team’s blue line down to their net,” says Roque. “That’s one thing we’re trying to correct.
“The thing that’s helped us improve in that area is that we skate better now than we did two, three years ago. A couple of years ago, we didn’t skate as well defensively to get back.”
There are few names on the Laker roster synonymous with offense, but Roque points to three he’d like to see make strides offensively. “We have a group of juniors — Jeffrey Rainville, Trent Campbell, Dominic Osman, who is back from surgery — those are the three main guys who are ready to step up and score goals.”
And the Lakers have a distinct advantage in that they are returning one of the few proven CCHA goaltenders in Jeff Jakaitis, who is as real as they come.
“He’s our guy,” says Roque. “He’s a real asset to the team on and off the ice because he’s probably a better person than a goalie. If he has a great year, we’ll have a great year. He’s played a lot of minutes.”
Given the drama surrounding the dismissal or suspension of several Laker players last season and the firing of Anzalone, if Roque can provide enough stability for LSSU, perhaps the Lakers will provide more goals.