SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — The Lake Superior State Lakers were without six of their top players Friday night, but still overcame an early one-goal deficit to win their first CCHA game by a score of 4-3 over the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks.
Scratches for the Lakers included senior captain Ryan Knox and junior Jeremy Bachusz, two of their top scorers. Knox is out with an injury, while Bachusz is suffering from mononucleosis.
Because of these scratches, the Lakers added freshmen Myles Kuharski, Ryan Branham, and Justin Micek to the lineup. While Micek has previously played in two games, Kuharski and Branham made their collegiate debut.
“I was really pleased; I think they represented themselves very well,” said Laker coach Scott Borek.
David Brisson put the Mavericks on the board first with a shorthanded goal at the 5:49 mark of the first period, but the Lakers were able to tie the game at one when sophomore Jason Nightingale scored his sixth goal of the season at 8:49.
Early in the second, senior Mike Vigilante scored for the Lakers, giving them a 2-1 lead, but this time UNO answered, as Jeff Hoggan sent one past Jayme Platt just past the halfway mark of the second to again tie the game.
At 2:52 mark of the third, Vigilante scored his second of the night for a 3-2 Laker edge.
“Vigilante has played very well all year, and I thought he played very well again tonight. He drove to the net and did some little things that we needed from him,” said Borek.
Yevgeniy Dubravin scored the fourth goal for the Lakers at 15:09 to increase their lead to 4-2, so with only 1:10 remaining in the game, the Mavericks pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker and Brisson netted his second of the night to pull the Mavericks within one.
But the Mavericks were unable to capitalize on any further chances in the final minute of the game and the Lakers took their first CCHA win this season.
“Lake Superior dictated the pace through much of the game. They did a very good job of bottling us up. They got out of their own end when they had the opportunities to transition and did a good job of making sure we didn’t get very many clear opportunities,” said UNO coach Mike Kemp. “We got a lot of first-time chances, as shots would indicate, but our second shots they did a really good job of boxing out and not giving us any good second opportunities to score.”
Heading into Friday’s game the Lakers were 0-2-0 in the CCHA and coming away from a pair of tough losses to Western Michigan last weekend. The Lakers dropped a 5-2 contest to the Broncos last Friday night and a 10-3 contest on Saturday.
“Our defense was a hundred percent better than it was last weekend. We played a much tighter gap and that was able to slow the game down a bit,” said Borek. “Tonight we were definitely much better and I think we played at a better pace.”
The Lakers are now 4-4-0 overall and 1-2-0 in the CCHA.
UNO headed into Friday’s game tied for third in the CCHA with Michigan State. The Mavericks swept Ferris State last weekend, defeating the Bulldogs, 7-4 and 7-3. UNO is now 4-3-0 overall and 3-2-0 in the CCHA.