Mike Barrett, LSSULakers.com
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — Lake Superior State dropped the puck on their 53rd season Saturday, October 6th in a non-conference matchup against the Warriors of Merrimack College. The Lakers, under 5th year head coach Damon Whitten, prevailed by a 5-4 final score.
The Warriors (0-1-0, 0-0-0 Hockey East) struck first when Jackson Bales found the back of the net just 2:48 into the game. Following the goal, the Lakers (1-0-0, 0-0-0 WCHA) began generating more shots against Merrimack goaltender Drew Vogler. Junior forward Brayden Gelsinger beat Vogler on a shorthanded opportunity, putting Lake Superior on the board.
Late in the period, Laine McKay scored a power play goal, restoring the Warrior lead. On a power play of their own moments later, Lake Superior's Diego Cuglietta picked up a power play tally with just five seconds to play in the opening frame, sending the teams to the locker rooms tied after 20 minutes.
Early in the second period, Cuglietta potted his second goal of the night when he redirected a blue line shot from freshman Jacob Nordqvist, making it 3-2 Lakers. Lake Superior put another puck behind Vogler later in the period when Max Humitz, who led the Lakers in scoring last season with 13 goals, gave the road team a two goal lead — again, on the power play.
Down but not out, the Warriors netted two late goals — a power play goal by Johnathan Kovacevic and an even strength tally by Tyler Irvine (the latter coming with 14 seconds left to play) — sending the teams back to dressing room tied up again.
Starting the final period off strong, Merrimack put many shots against Lakers goaltender Nick Kossoff, who held under the mounting offensive pressure.
With 4:06 left to play, senior forward Anthony Nellis got in alone on Volger, but was pulled down, resulting in a penalty shot. The alternate captain made the most of his opportunity, beating Volger and putting Lake Superior back on top.
Despite a late rally by Merrimack, the Lakers held on for the 5-4 win, their third consecutive season opening victory.
Making his debut behind the Warriors bench was head coach Scott Borek. Borek, who coached Lake Superior from 1996 to 2001, was hired by Merrimack during the offseason. This was his first game as a Division I head coach since leaving Lake Superior State.
Before this game, the Lakers and Merrimack had not played since March 26, 1988 in the NCAA Tournament. The Lakers prevailed 5-1 in that game to claim victory in a two game, total goals series on their way to their first national title.
In net, Kossoff had 28 saves on 32 shots. Across the ice, Vogler came up with 14 saves on 19 attempts.
The two teams will conclude their series tomorrow. Puck drop is at 4 p.m.
Following the series, the Lakers will return home to the Taffy Abel Arena to play an exhibition series against Nipissing College on Friday, October 12th and Saturday, October 13th. Tickets may be purchased at the Norris Center Ticket Office or online at lssulakers.com/tickets.