SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — The Lake Superior State Lakers opened the 2011 CCHA playoffs in strong fashion.
The Lakers skated to a 4-0 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes on Friday night at the Taffy Abel Arena. The win gives the Lakers a one-game lead over the Buckeyes in the best-of-three series heading into game two on Saturday night.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Lakers head coach Jim Roque. “It was a 1-0 game for a long time. There wasn’t much difference between the teams. The game was probably a little more wide-open than what both teams wanted but the funny part is, they’re having a hard time scoring and so are we so everything is going to the net. We’re shooting from everywhere and they’re shooting from everywhere.”
The Buckeyes posted 48 shots on Lakers goaltender Kevin Kapalka but couldn’t beat the freshman goaltender.
“(Lake State) played well in front of their net,” said Ohio State head coach Mark Osiecki. “They did a really nice job keeping us to the outside in their defensive zone. They worked extremely hard there and put up a good shield.”
Said Roque: “(Ohio State) had some good chances and Kevin played really well…he played outstanding tonight. He saw a lot of pucks and our guys did a good job around him. (Ohio State never really got many second or third whacks at him. He made some key saves. He made a pad-save in the second period. You need goaltending, if you don’t have it you have no chance at all.”
Dan Radke’s first-period goal held up as the game winner. Kellan Lain gave the Lakers some insurance midway through the third period and the host-team sealed the win with a pair of empty net goals, by Rick Schofield and Nick McParland in the final two minutes of action.
The Lakers directed 40 shots at the Ohio goal, keeping junior goaltender Cal Heeter busy for much of the night. Osiecki commented on the 36-save performance put up by Heeter.
“He played well,” Osiecki said. “I don’t think the second goal was very good but he played well and gave us an opportunity.”
The game marked the first playoff game hosted by the Lakers since the 2006-07 season when the Lakers hosted Ferris State, a series in which the Lakers won in three games. The series also marked the first post-season meeting between the two schools since 1998, a series Ohio State won.
With the Lakers up 1-0 in the series, the two teams are back in action on Saturday night at Taffy Abel Aerena for game two of the best-of-three series.
“It was just one game though, we have to find a way to win another game now,” said Roque. “I expect them to battle even harder (Saturday night) and get more pucks to the net. We have to find a way to not give up as many shots.”
Said Osiecki: “We have to get more pucks and bodies to the net and find a way to get some bodies in front of the net. We certainly had some opportunities around the net (Friday) but we’ve got to bear down. It’s tough to win games if you don’t score goals.”