SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — Over 3,300 left the Taffy Abel arena on Saturday night having been treated to some extra hockey.
They also left wondering about the status of Lake Superior State Lakers goaltender Kevin Kapalka.
The Lakers needed a shootout, in which they defeated the Michigan State Spartans after a 2-2 tie. It helped the Lakers avoid a sweep at the hands of the Spartans after dropping a 4-0 decision a night earlier.
“Our guys came back and battled really hard tonight,” said Lakers coach Jim Roque. “We had a little adversity at the end there with all of the penalties.”
Just to get to the shootout, the Lakers found themselves forced to kill off a major penalty to Dan Radke late in the third period that carried into the overtime frame. Radke was nabbed for checking from behind after a hit on Spartans forward Dautan Leveille in the Spartans zone with just over four minutes remaining in the frame. The Lakers were also forced to kill off a minor penalty in the overtime period to Nick McParland.
The shootout victory pleased Roque, who noted that the Lakers have been snakebitten at times recently.
“I think our guys have deserved better,” said Roque. “They’re playing hard. They’re playing well defensively. It’s not like we’re giving up a lot. I feel for guys like Dominic Monardo and Will Acton, who just can’t seem to find the net. We hit two crossbars tonight where we could have had the lead. We just have to stick with it.”
Ben Power scored the shootout winner in the fourth round after Rick Schofield of the Lakers and Greg Wolfe of the Spartans traded earlier goals.
The Lakers were without senior goaltender Brian Mahoney-Wilson, who has surgery scheduled to repair a torn labrum and will miss the rest of the season.
Schofield and McParland provided the scoring for the Lakers, who received a 31-save performance from Kevin Kapalka but almost lost the services of the freshman goaltender during the shootout after he popped his shoulder out facing Wolfe. He proceeded to stop the next two Spartans shooters. Fellow freshman goaltender Niels-Erik Ravn was in to face the following shooter in what would have been his first CCHA appearance before Kapalka came back.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a goalie leave and come back like that, but good for him,” said Spartans coach Rick Comley.
Brock Shelgren and Derek Grant scored for the Spartans in the loss while freshman goaltender Will Yanakeff stopped 34 shots in his second start of the weekend.
“Will played great,” said Comley. “He was outstanding. It’s the first time he’s played back-to-back games and started two games in a row. He made a lot of big saves. It was a different game than (Friday) night. Tonight was an up-and-down game where both goalies had to come up big.”
Comley added how pleased he was to be able to make the trip north and grab a win and a shootout loss.
“For us, it was a real good weekend,” said Comley. “It’s been a struggle for us. To come up here and get four points, there’s nothing terrible about that.”
The Lakers improved their record to 6-11-5 overall (4-8-4-3 CCHA) while the Spartans record fell to 9-11-4 (5-9-2-0 CCHA).
Both teams are back in action next weekend. The Lakers host a weekend set against Western Michigan in an important series if the Lakers hope to move up in the standings as the season winds down. For the Spartans, they return home to face Miami.