MADISON, Wis. — Lake Superior State goaltender Jeff Jakaitis may have lost his bid for his fourth shutout, but the senior certainly saved his best for last in the Badger Hockey Showdown here Friday evening.
Jakaitis made four of his 37 saves in the final 25 seconds to close the door on Providence 2-1.
“Jeff’s obviously the kind of thing that kind of holds (our team) together,” Lake Superior State head coach Jim Roque said.
Already with some added energy after cutting their deficit in half just four minutes earlier, the Friars pulled their netminder for an extra attacker and just about forced an overtime period.
But Jakaitis made three consecutive saves before covering up with 15 seconds left and was called on for perhaps his biggest save in the waning seconds.
It looked like Jon Rheault might tie the game up, but Jakaitis got back to his right just in time to save it with his arm and cover with 2.3 seconds left, securing a victory for the No. 18 Lakers.
“You get a six-on-five or some types of situations your goalie might have to make a save and he did,” Roque said.
“I don’t think he got everything he wanted on it,” Jakaitis said. “I just tried to get everything over there that I could.”
Despite some early pressure from the Friars, it was Lake Superior State that struck first, just 5:29 into the opening period.
Freshman blue-liner Ryan Baird cycled the puck to senior captain Barnabas Birkeland atop the left faceoff circle. The defenseman blasted a wrister over Tyler Sims shoulder near-side for his third goal of the season.
After taking a 10-8 shot advantage into the first intermission, the Lakers wasted little time in doubling their lead in the second frame.
During a sustained possession in their zone, Sim could not control a Josh Sim shot, leaving the rebound to Lake Superior’s Trent Campbell. Instead of trying to bury the puck himself, Campbell shuffled it quickly across the top of the crease to a ready-and-waiting Troy Schwab.
Schwab hit a wide-open left side as every member of the Lakers’ top line picked up a point.
The Friars found themselves down 2-0, a situation that head coach Tim Army knows all too well this season.
“Tonight was kind of a microcosm of our season,” Army said. “We’ve fallen behind, in 17 games I bet we’ve fallen behind in 12 of the games 2-0.
“It’s kind of how our year has been to this point.”
Though it was a pretty even period, Lake Superior State could have added to its lead with less than five minutes remaining. Jason Blain skated in all alone, but was thwarted by Sims.
The teams were tied with 22 shots on goal apiece, but it was the Lakers carried their 2-0 advantage into the final 20 minutes.
The Friars continued to outshoot the Lakers the rest of the way, and showed some life when they finally found a way past Jakaitis with less than five minutes left in the game.
Freshman John Cavanagh swiped a backhand pass from deep in the right circle above the crease the left-hand side. A streaking Derek A. Smith was there to bury the puck, cutting the deficit to 2-1.
But Jakaitis remained calm and came up huge for the Lakers in the end.
“We’ve been just like that this year, we’ve been inches (away),” Army said. “You keep thinking that at some point it’s got to kind of swing your way.”
Lake Superior State will face the winner of the Wisconsin/Clarkson game in the Badger Hockey Showdown championship game at 7:07 p.m. Providence will face the loser of that matchup in the consolation game at 4:07 p.m.