Michigan's run through the gauntlet begins with a pair of games at home against the LSSU Lakers. The Lakers are having a good season by most teams' standard, but a fantastic season by their standard. Jim Roque's team hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since Jeff Jackson left after the 1995-96 season, but right now they sit in a tie for 13th in the PWR.
The Lakers are 12-8-2 on the year and a solid 6-3-2 on the road. They were 8-2-0 in the first ten but have hit a bit of a rough patch since then. Not quite Michigan November rough, but they won just two of their next nine games (not counting a shootout win). They've won two of the past three, not including an exhibition win over Western Ontario their last time out.
They swept Michigan State, they swept Miami at Miami, they split with NMU, and they split with Notre Dame. So they've had some good performances against some good hockey teams. They got swept at Ohio State, but one of the losses was 2-1.
They've been cold more often than not offensively. They average 2.68 goals per game, which is 36th in the country. They've been held to two or fewer goals in 10 of their last 14 games. They're 14th nationally in team defense, though, giving up just 2.45 goals per night.
As usual, they're very rarely penalized. They only take 9 PIMs per night, which is 57th out of 58 teams. They've only been shorthanded on 79 occasions this year, and they're very effective when they are shorthanded. They rank 5th in the country in PK at 88.6%. The power play is middle of the pack at right around 20%. So LSSU has a definite advantage on special teams, at least if the rest of the season is an indication.
They're led offensively by Domenic Manardo, who has an 8-12--20 line. Four of his eight tallies have been game-winners. Only four players in the country have more game-winners. LSSU also has a pair of 10-goal scorers in Nick McParland and Kyle Jean. Defenseman Zach Trotman has 6 goals (4 on the PP) and 14 points.
It's been Kevin Kapalka in net most of the way for the Lakers. He's 11-6-2 with a 2.45/.916. Sophomore Minnesota State transfer Kevin Murdock doesn't have the record (1-2-0) but he has a 2.02 goals against and a .927 save percentage. He was strong in the 2-1 loss to Ohio State and played in the Catamount Cup championship game against RIT in their last game that counted. I would think that we'll see Kapalka, but it wouldn't be a major shocker to see Murdock either.
In the series, the Wolverines have won the past 13 meetings. The Lakers haven't beaten Michigan since February of 2007. Let's hope that continues. Prior to this most recent winning streak, the teams were tied in the all-time series.
David Wohlberg has 3-5--8 in 8 career games against the Lakers. Luke Glendening has seven points over that span. Shawn Hunwick is 3-0-0 with a 1.33/.947 in his appearances against LSSU. Kevin Lynch had 3-1--4 in the two games last season.
Friday night's game will air on FSN Detroit+. Saturday's game will be on Comcast.