The good news for Lake Superior State is that the Lakers return seven of eight defensemen and three of five double-digit goal scorers from a season ago. The bad news for Lake Superior State is that the Lakers return seven of eight — oh, do I really have to say it?
“We have not been real happy obviously with the last couple of seasons here,” said Lakers coach Jim Roque. “I thought a couple years back when we did get to Joe Louis we were turning a corner. I think we’ve kind of underachieved the last couple of seasons. We’ve had to look hard at everything we’ve done here the last couple of years here over the summer, where we can change and get better.”
With 110 goals for and 115 against last season, the Lake Superior State Lakers were capable of finding the net … and of offering up opponent opportunities in nearly equal — sometimes spectacular — measure. The Lakers were utterly inconsistent, trading lopsided wins and losses with opponents in a single weekend yet recording eight ties for the year and a 1-12-0 record in games decided by a goal.
A 10th-place finish last season, tied for ninth in 2007-08 — and Roque said that he need look no further than himself for the reasons.
“I think if anything, we’re a little disappointed in how maybe we’ve gotten a little bit passive the last two years with our game, and I think right now we’re looking to going back to more of how we played a couple years back — a little more aggressive, a little more of in-your-face hockey,” Roque said. “I thought maybe we got a little too conservative the last two seasons.
“I wouldn’t blame that on the players. That’s obviously a coaching decision; you want to be more conservative or you’re trying to win games with a little different style and that’s something that I’ve reevaluated this season and trying to get our guys to go again.”
As the Lakers lost three of their top five goal scorers from a year ago, some of those guys are going to have to get going, in a hurry. Only senior Zac MacVoy and sophomore Fred Cassiani return from 10-plus goal seasons, although juniors Rick Schofield, Will Acton and Chad Nehring could perform this year.
“I think we’re okay at the top,” said Roque, “but we need a middle group core of guys — the Aubrys, the Scrymgeours, the Nehrings, the Hobbins, the Brad Coopers — guys that I think are good enough but need to take another step to really help our team move up in the standings and prove the coaches and media wrong.”
That would be the Pat Aubrys, John Scrymgeours, and Tyson Hobbins (Hobbinses?) that need to improve, plurally.
One area that seems pretty solid for Lake Superior is goaltending. Junior Brian Mahoney-Wilson and senior Pat Inglis split time in the Laker net last year, giving the team a combined .909 save percentage. Yes, the Mahoney-Wilsons and Inglises seem perfectly capable of contributing to the Laker objective of disproving the theory that LSSU will finish no higher than 10th, as predicted by the CCHA media and coaches in the preseason.
“I have no issues with the poll,” said Roque. “I think [10th is] where we belong right now. It’s based on what we’ve done the last couple of seasons and it’s certainly up to us to prove people wrong.
“Like every team, we have very high hopes to start the season.”
That’s hopes with an “s” — completely and perfectly plural when the season is entirely potential.