It is the quintessential small-town, small-campus school.
Located in Sault Ste. Marie, a town of about 15,000 residents, Lake Superior State has a student population of just over 2,500, making it the smallest public university in the state of Michigan.
Despite its lack of size, Lake Superior State has managed to achieve and maintain status with a Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association hockey program.
Not to say that the hockey Lakers don’t have issues related to available scholarship money and the school’s northern location.
Let’s face it, Lake Superior State is not the first choice of the majority of top hockey players from Michigan and Ontario who are looking to play at the Division 1, NCAA level.
And while the Lakers do have history and while they do have a respectable hockey program, the fact of the matter is that the team has had only three winning records in the past 13 years, all of which have come under current head coach Jim Roque, who is in his ninth season on the job.
But while the Lakers may not get the pick of the hockey litter, there are a number of good players from close by who I think could fit into the Lake Superior State lineup anywhere from next season to beyond.
From older to younger, here is a list of a dozen players — more than half of which wouldn’t cost Lake State anywhere near a full-ride scholarship — with Division 1 potential and good academic standing who the Lakers could commit to for the 2014-2015, 2015-2016 or 2016-2017 seasons.
Scott Cuthrell, 1993 forward, Soo Eagles, North American Hockey League. In his last season of junior, the small-but-speedy Cuthrell probably has the most hockey smarts of any player on the Eagles. He’s averaging a goal every two games since the Eagles signed him as a free agent in December.
Ryan Urso, 1993 defenceman-forward, Soo Eagles, NAHL. His versatility and leadership as the Eagles captain make him a player who could be very useful to the Lakers.
Connor Lyons, 1993 forward, Michigan Warriors, NAHL. A hustling, shutdown forward with good speed and a good shot who doesn’t score a lot, Lyons can usually be found on the ice in key situations.
Zack Szajner, 1993 forward, Michigan Warriors, NAHL. A good skater with good hands and good size, Szajner led the Warriors in scoring last season and is doing so again thus far this season.
Dylan Knox, 1993 goalie, Blind River Beavers, Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League. Playing on the worst team — by far — in the NOJHL, Knox is a battler who has kept the Beavers in a lot of games while facing a lot of shots.
Anthony Miller, 1994 forward, Soo Thunderbirds, NOJHL. Smart, skilled and slick, Miller is a late-developer who would be a steal of a deal for Lake State. This is a kid who was playing high school hockey just two seasons ago.
Joel Horodziejczyk, 1995 goalie, Soo Thunderbirds, NOJHL. On the small side but quick and technically sound, Horodjieczyk is probably a year or two away from being a Division 1 goalie.
Michael Caruso, 1995 defenceman, Soo Eagles, NAHL. A strong skater with a cannon for a shot, Caruso is utterly fearless and plays with a nasty edge.
Mike Sabatini, 1995 forward, Soo Eagles, NAHL. The Eagles leading scorer and power forward in the making, Sabatini has been on the National Hockey League’s Central Scouting list.
Frankie Pucci, 1997 forward, Soo Indians major midgets. They don’t call him the “little pucker” for nothing. Small but with blazing speed and a gifted scorer, Pucci is an Ontario Hockey League draft pick of the Erie Otters.
Andrew Barbeau, 1997 defenceman, Soo Indians major midgets. Strong, steady and mature, Barbeau’s leadership skills are evidenced by the fact that he is the Indians captain.
Owen Headrick, 1997 defenceman, Soo Thunderbirds, NOJHL. How good is Headrick? Lake State has already offered him a full-ride scholarship and is waiting on him to decide between being a Laker or an OHLer with Erie. Smart money says this kid goes to school. We shall see.