If there’s one team in the CCHA that can be described as a typical, workaday, no-frills team, that would be Lake Superior State. There’s no shame in that. The team’s blue-collar ethic comes straight from coach Jim Roque, who gets every bit out of every player that he can — and the team gives, willingly.
Take, for example, goaltender Brian Mahoney-Wilson. “He played hurt last year,” Roque said. “He probably should have had surgery last summer [before the 2009-10 season], but he probably wouldn’t have been able to start.”
After a good first half last season, the Lakers slid toward a 10th-place finish, winning just five games in the second half and ending the season with seven consecutive losses. Part of that is because of the difficulty LSSU had in net.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize [Mahoney-Wilson] didn’t practice over the last month,” Roque said. “He was basically playing his games and trying to do it that way and it didn’t really work out. At that time, we didn’t have a lot of confidence in our next guys and Brian still had given us the best chance to win the games.”
This particular story has a happy ending; Mahoney-Wilson had surgery in April and Roque declared him “fully recovered” and feeling “good.”
Even with the injury and the inability to practice, Mahoney-Wilson’s stats were just a shade off his career-high .915 save percentage from his sophomore season, so this should be good news for the Lakers, indeed.
Another bright spot for LSSU is Rick Schofield, who led the team in scoring last season. According to Roque, Schofield’s value is “not only as a player, but he’s a tremendous leader, tremendous student.” Schofield will captain the Lakers this season.
“He’s had a couple of small offers to go pro but he’s still getting his degree,” Roque said. “He’s a school of business scholarship winner. I look for him to be one of the better free-agent signings for the next level in the spring. If you look at it over the past season, when he’s played well we’ve usually had success.”
The Lakers will field a mix of rookies and veterans this year. “Right now you’re probably talking six freshmen will play plus the seventh, a backup goalie to Brian,” Roque said.
Look for that goaltender to be Kevin Kapalka, whom Mahoney-Wilson will mentor. Roque has called Kapalka the “heir apparent” in net.
Roque likes the balance between upperclassmen and rookies. “We have a lot of experience so we don’t really have to put those [freshmen] in situations where they can’t have success,” he said.
The Lakers also are looking forward to renovations of Abel Arena, which should be ready by the 2012-13 season. “We’ve had a private donor step up who wants to do a couple of different things to our facility,” Roque said. “We’re excited about it.”