What happened last weekend?
The Huskies had a strong showing at home against the Brock Badgers, outscoring their Canadian college opponents 6–2 before the final buzzer sounded. Freshman winger Alex Petan led the charge for the Huskies, netting three goals, including a pair of power play markers. The Huskies offense peppered the Badgers’ goaltenders with 47 shots while their netminders made just 26 stops on 28 Badgers’ shots.
The Lakers found themselves in a goaltending duel with the Ryerson Rams until junior winger Dan Radke broke a 1–1 tie with an even-strength goal at the 12:21 mark of the third period. Junior goaltender Kevin Kapalka made 26 saves to get the win, but more importantly the Lakers were unable to spell him during the game to get a look at either Kevin Murdock or Niels-Erik Ravn.
What were the positives the Huskies learned about themselves?
Head coach Mel Pearson identified two areas where his staff felt the exhibitions had gone well. The first area that pleased them was in goal. All three goaltenders, Kevin Genoe, Pheonix Copley, and Jamie Phillips, saw action against the Badgers.
“First and foremost I learned our goaltenders were going to be okay there,” said Pearson. “I thought they looked very good. So we are going to be fine there.”
The second area that impressed Pearson was the depth the Huskies seem to have offensively. Of the six goals scored on Saturday night, four were scored by freshmen and another was scored by a sophomore, showing that the young Huskies have plenty to be excited about moving forward.
Two depth forwards saw plenty of extended action Saturday night. Sophomore Blake Hietala drew two power plays with his hard work, and junior Daniel Holmberg played with different linemates throughout the game, but never seemed out of place no matter who he was playing with.
“Up front we do have some skill and some talent,” said Pearson. “We have a nice blend of size and speed and skill.”
The third and final area Pearson mentioned was the way the team played despite injuries to a pair of key upperclassmen. Junior Jacob Johnstone and senior Chad Pietila both missed the exhibition game with injuries, giving Hietala and others a chance to showcase their abilities.
“I like our depth up front,” said Pearson. “I think we are going to have better depth than originally thought.”
What still needs work for the Huskies?
The one area Pearson discussed as a work-in-progress was how the Huskies played defense. The Huskies returned their entire defensive corps from a year ago, but Pearson would like to see them grow.
“Our defensemen need some work,” said Pearson. “I was a little concerned with our defensive zone play and our puck touches…you are going to make mistakes, but we have to limit our mistakes. For whatever reason, we made too many in a game like that.”
The inside scoop: a look at the Lakers
The Lakers have won three NCAA titles, but they are looking for their first trip back to the NCAA Tournament since 1996. That’s not to say the Lakers haven’t been successful despite not making the big dance. Since head coach Jim Roque took over the program in 2005, the Lakers have won at least ten games every season, including 18 last season.
In Kapalka, the Lakers boast arguably the best goaltender in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. The Mississauga, Ont., native has played 69 games over his first two seasons, posting 29 wins, a .920 save percentage, and a goals against average of 2.52.
In front of Kapalka, the Lakers play a very structured defense-first game, allowing him to see shots from long distances.
“They are well-coached,” said Pearson. “Jim runs a good team. They are very structured system-wise. They defend well, that’s always been the M.O. of Lake Superior State hockey, good defense.”
Offensively, the Lakers are led by a pair of seniors in Domenic Monardo and Nick McParland.
Last season, Monardo scored 29 points in 39 games for the second straight season. Where he is especially dangerous is on the power play, where he has scored nearly half of his goals over the past two seasons combined.
McParland was asked to help fill the gap left by the graduation of Rick Schofield last season, and he did a commendable job, upping his point production from 10 his sophomore season to 27 last year. His 14 goals led the Lakers a year ago.
“They are both seniors,” said Pearson. “They’ve had success. They work hard. They have good skill.”
Another skater Pearson is concerned about is junior Kellan Lain. A 6’-6”, 222 lbs. forward out of Oakville, Ont., Lain nearly doubled his offensive output from his freshman to his sophomore year, going from four goals and eight points as a freshman to nine goals and 15 points last season.