A gang of eight is departing the Division 1 hockey program at Lake Superior State University after this season.
Goalies Kevin Murdock, Kevin Kapalka and Niels-Erik Ravn. Defencemen Andrew Perrault, Matt Bruneteau and Zach Sternberg. Forwards Dan Radke and Colin Campbell.
All will leave the Lakers at the end of this 2013-2014 season.
The Laker seniors — three goalies, three defensemen and two forwards — are a diverse group, to be sure.
“We come from kind of everything,” said Radke. “California, Florida, Ontario, Nebraska. Goalies, forwards, defensemen. Offensive defensemen, defensive forwards…”
“And different religions,” noted Sternberg in reference to his and Radke’s trip to Israel for the Maccabiah Games. “We are all different pieces to the puzzle. We’ve all had distinct roles on the team that have helped our team along the way.”
“And everyone has embraced their role, too,” added Bruneteau. “They’ve accepted it.”
The discussion of the seniors’ roles reminded Kapalka of the time Bruneteau, a heralded defensive-minded defenseman, deviated from the norm and took off on a breakaway. From the opposite end of the ice Kapalka said he couldn’t help but wonder, “Bruno, what are you doing?”
Such anomalies happened on rare occasions, but one constant is their desire to support their teammates. The grind of each college hockey season is loaded with highs and lows, and they’ve leaned on each other throughout their careers.
“This is the most family-like team I’ve ever played on,” said Murdock, who transferred to Lake State from Minnesota State-Mankato in 2011. “You can tell, on and off the ice, that your teammates care about you and want you to do well. They want you to succeed.”
Radke, Kapalka and Campbell all relied on their teammates during bouts with injuries. All three look forward to staying healthy during the Lakers’ final run of this 2013-2014 season.
“I never had to sit out a season like I did last year,” said Campbell. “I only played a month. I worked hard and put on some muscle to make sure I was healthy. It’s been great to play every weekend.”
“I think I have one ligament left in my body that stayed intact during my career,” joked Kapalka, who recently returned to the lineup after missing nine games due to injury. “Hopefully it stays in place, and we’ll see where it takes me.”
A Laker strength this season is its veteran defense — and the seniors realize consistency has been lacking in that area.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” noted Perrault. “We should be shutting down teams. We’re giving up three or four goals per game, and that’s on us. At the same time we’re creating offense, things people didn’t see coming. It balances itself out.”
The graduation of defencemen Perrault, Bruneteau, Sternberg and goalies Murdock, Kapalka and Ravn will give the Lakers a much-different defensive look in 2014-2015.
“There are always opportunities for others to step in,” Perrault said.
When Murdock was a freshman at Minnesota State, he was one of three goaltenders on the same roster who had never played a minute of college hockey. He knows what the rookie goaltenders will deal with next season.
“Work hard and be consistent,” he said. “For goalies, it’s one of those things. It doesn’t matter how many good games you have. If you have 10 bad games and one good game, no one cares about the good game. You just have to work hard on and off the ice.”
“When I came in, I was in awe of everything,” Kapalka said of his rookie season. “You have to take it in stride at first…It’s still the same game. You still have to stop the puck. I wouldn’t try to approach the game any differently. For goalies, as opposed to position players, it’s an easier transition because the game is more defensive in college hockey.”
On the offensive side of the game, Radke and Campbell are the team’s only senior forwards — and they have scored 25 percent of the Lakers’ goals this season.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played on a line that’s been together the whole year,” Radke said. “It’s been nice. I’ve played with Colin quite a bit, and Alex (Globke) complements us. He’s a skilled guy and a pretty big body out there.”
As for what’s ahead for the rest of this season?
“We have to get our game completely in order to enter the playoffs on a high note,” Sternberg said. “We want to get hot at the right time.”
“We’re right on that fringe,” Bruneteau said. “At any moment, things will start going right. It’s frustrating looking at our record. We knew we are only as good as our record, but we’ve seen those moments. We’ve seen what we can be. We know we can be a lot better than what our record is.”
With two games to play in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular season, the Lakers have a record of 12-14-0.
with files from Lake Superior State University sports information director Linda Bouvet.