SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — Having lost three of their last four games entering a weekend series with Northern Michigan, a sweep is just what the doctor ordered for the Lake Superior State Lakers going into the Christmas break.
The Lakers capped off their weekend with a 3-1 win over the Wildcats in Central Collegiate Hockey Association action to complete a weekend sweep, the first of the season for the Lakers. Previously, the Lakers had split eight of nine weekend series and had lost three of four in coming into the weekend.
“We probably deserved a sweep earlier in the year, but we’ve grown from the mistakes we made early in the year in those games,” said Lakers coach Jim Roque. “We battled through the first half of the year and I’m glad to be in fifth place at Christmas. We had some guys leave in the summer and things happened, but our guys stuck with it.”
Said Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle, “First, you have to give (Lake State) a lot of credit. They were absolutely the best team this weekend. They deserved both games. The biggest difference in the game was both special teams. Their power play scored two each night and generated a ton of offense and a ton of momentum, and ours did neither. We’re an offensively-challenged team, and we’re not very good on either special team right now.”
Lake State opened the scoring just 4:01 into the game when Chris Ciotti jumped on a rebound moments after junior defenseman Zach Sternberg’s point shot beat NMU starter Jared Coreau, only to hit the post.
The Lakers had opportunities to increase the lead midway through the period, but Coreau made a pair of solid saves on Austin McKay and Bryce Schmitt in tight. NMU got the game back on even terms late in the period thanks to a goal by defenseman Jake Baker.
After killing off a short five-on-three early in the second period, Matt Bruneteau gave the Lakers a 2-1 lead midway through the period. Nick McParland increased the lead to 3-1 just under six minutes into the third period to cap off the scoring. Bruneteau’s goal was the first of his collegiate career for the junior defenseman.
Lakers goaltender Kevin Murdoch stopped 22 shots, while Coreau stopped 34 shots for Northern Michigan.
Lake State and Northern have one more series as members of the CCHA prior to season’s end. Lake State travels to Marquette for the final series of the season in early March.
Next up for the Lakers (10-10-0, 7-7-0 CCHA) is a home series against Union following the Christmas break on Jan. 4. Northern Michigan (6-10-3, 2-9-3-1 CCHA) begins the unofficial second half of the season on the road as they travel to St. Cloud, Minn., to take on St. Cloud State, also on Jan. 4.