Lake Superior State Lakers will take to the ice of Taffy Abel Arena on Friday and Saturday nights for a pair of season-opening, non-conference matches with the visiting Michigan State Spartans.
The two teams are long-time rivals from their many years as opponents within the erstwhile Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
This weekend’s games are part of Great Lake State Weekend at the Michigan Soo school.
The Lakers are now part of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association while Michigan State plays out of the Big Ten Conference.
Friday’s game is slated to begin at 7:37 p.m. Saturday’s match has an earlier, 6:07 p.m. start time.
Both games will be broadcast live on radio station 99.5 YES-FM with Bill Crawford and the play-by-play.
The 2016-2017 season will mark the third for the Lakers under the watch of head coach Damon Whitten. The Lakers finished seventh in the WCHA in 2015-2016 before losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks.
Overall last season, the Lakers had a record of 14-22-5 in 41 games.
Nine newcomers, including eight freshmen and a redshirt freshman, will join 17 holdovers from the 2015-2016 Lakers to comprise the 2016-2017 unit.
Here are the Lakers, by position.
Returnees are the lone senior, captain Gus Correale (5 goals, 8 assists, 13 points in 2015-2016) and four of the other top five scorers from last season in J.T. Henke (10-12-22), Mitch Hults (9-11-20), Gage Torrel (8-11-19) and Anthony Nellis (4-13-17).
Also back are Diego Cuglietta (5-7-12), Jake Hand (3-6-9), C.J. Hayes (3-4-7) and Josh Nenadal (5-1-6).
Incoming forwards are Brendan McKay, Luke Morgan, Brayden Gelsinger, Bryan Basilico, Ian Johnston and Max Humitz.
The Lakers return four junior defenders and two sophomores.
The juniors are Kyle Chatham, Aidan Wright, James Roll and Ryan Renz.
Wright, who was born in Wawa but moved to Sault Ste. Marie as a youngster, will serve as an assistant captain for the Lakers this season.
Sophomores are Owen Headrick and Matt McArdle.
Headrick, who hails from Garden River First Nation, finished sixth on the Lakers in scoring last season with 5 goals, 7 assists, 12 points.
Freshmen on the Lakers blueline will be Kristofers Bindulis, formerly of the Soo Eagles juniors, and Colin Saccoman.
The Lakers return junior standout Gordon Defiel and sophomore Nick Kossoff.
Defiel posted an 11-14-4 record with a 2.47 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in ’15-16. Defiel’s three shutouts last season boosted him into a tie with John Grahame (a former National Hockey Leaguer) and Duffy Lewis for fourth place on the Lakers all-time whitewash list with seven.
Kossoff earned his three victories as a freshman all by the way of the shutout and finished with a .918 save percentage and 2.39 goals-against average.
Finalizing the Lakers twine trio is freshman Cooper Lukenda, a Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native.