Facing one of the top ranked teams in college hockey, the Lake Superior State Lakers wrapped up a weekend series with the Minnesota State Mavericks on Saturday with a 6-2 loss at Taffy Abel Arena in the Michigan Sault.
The weekend marked the first Western Collegiate Hockey Association conference action for the Lakers.
Saturday’s result was a disappointing one for the Lakers, who entered weekend action against Minnesota State with a 6-1-3 (win-loss-tie) record in non-conference action.
“We’re not happy,” Lakers head coach Damon Whitten said in a post-game interview on the Lakers radio broadcast on YesFM. “We wanted to come in and sweep a weekend and keep this thing rolling. Now our response will be really important.”
“If we learn from it, it could be a really good lesson coming out of a really disappointing weekend,” Whitten also said.
Whitten called the weekend results, specifically Saturday’s game, a major learning point for the team.
“They key is to learn from this game,” Whitten said. “This is the most adversity we’ve faced all season. It’s been a good start. Our guys see some of those things and the rankings. Those things creep up on you and you get away from what makes you successful. This has to sharpen us back up.”
Junior forward Sam Morton opened the scoring for Minnesota State midway through the opening period.
After senior Dallas Gerads had his initial shot from the right wing stopped by Lakers senior goaltender Mareks Mittens, Morton moved into the right circle and scored on the rebound at 10:28.
Gerads made it 2-0 just over five minutes later as he beat Mittens in close after the Lakers netminder made the initial stop on Minnesota State senior defenceman Riese Zmolek, who assisted on three goals in the game.
Leading by a pair, Minnesota State extended the lead to 3-0 at 3:39 of the second period when Morton scored on a one-timer from the slot on a feed from Cade Borchardt on the power play.
Senior Minnesota State defenceman Jack McNeely made it 4-0 at 10:11 of the second period, beating Mittens through traffic from the right faceoff circle.
The Lakers got on the board at 14:10 of the second period as junior forward Miroslav Mucha picked up his fourth goal of the season, jumping on a loose puck in close after a faceoff win by Ashton Calder and beating Minnesota State senior goaltender Dryden McKay.
The goal by Mucha broke a shutout streak of 218:41 by McKay.
Senior Yuki Miura cut the Minnesota State lead to 4-2 1:31 later as he took a feed from senior Hampus Eriksson and slid a backhand past McKay. The goal came with the Mavericks on a 5-on-3 power play.
Following some pressure by the Lakers early in the third period, senior Reggie Lutz made it 5-2 Minnesota State as he took a feed from Zmolek at the point and beat freshman Lakers goaltender Ethan Langenegger from in close at 6:57.
Freshman defenceman Jake Livingstone capped off the scoring for Minnesota State, beating Langenegger with a shot from the right faceoff circle stick side at 9:05 of the third.
Mittens made 26 saves in just over 30 minutes of work on Saturday night.
Langenegger entered the game during the mid-period media timeout in the second period and stopped 25 shots the rest of the way.
“He was tremendous,” Whitten said of Langenegger, adding that the goaltending change was made to give Mittens a rest.
McKay made 16 saves for Minnesota State.
Saturday’s loss drops Lake State’s conference record to 0-2-0 (6-3-3 overall including non-conference games).
Minnesota State remains unbeaten in conference action at 4-0-0 (7-1-1 overall).
Up next for the Lakers is a pair of games on the road next weekend against Michigan Tech.