Unkind iron: Lakers lose WCHA Round One series opener 2-0- Now What?

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Coming into this weekend, the Lakers of Lake Superior State are undoubtedly the underdogs in their quest to upset the second seeded Beavers of Bemidji State in the first round of the WCHA Men’s Hockey Playoffs. Despite being one of the best defensive teams in the second half of the season, ironically it was two bad attempts to get out of the zone that did the Lakers. Adam Brady opened the scoring ledger for the Beavers as he found a pass from Aaron Miller and deposited what turned out to be the game winner against Lakers’ netminder Mareks Mitens who finished the night with 33 saves on 35 shots faced.

The Lakers’ inability to clear the chance from the Beavers lead to the goal that barely got past Mitens. In the first period, the Lakers held the better of play with 10 shots on net. Unlike the Beavers’, the Lakers could not capitalize on their chances all night. Their best period, the first included two hit posts from Max Humitz and Pete Veillette.

After not scoring in the first, the Lakers were again victimized by an inability to clear. Alex Adams found Owen Sillinger on the back door and he deposited the insurance marker. Bemidji State netminder Zach Driscoll finished the game with a  27 save shutout on the evening. Those goals coming at 3:07 of the first and 4:21 of the second period proved decisive on this night in a game that Bemidji State controlled the pace of for about the last two frames of hockey.

Now What? 

Heading into game two, some things to watch for with the Lakers come down to a simple ask. Score first, the Lakers had the better run of play for the first few minutes of the game and throughout the first period at large. Bemidji State Head Coach Tom Serratore noted that his team “played like the road team” throughout the first period. The Lakers were moving their feet and generating chances and forcing Bemidji State to adjust to their speed, which they later did. The Lakers missed their best chance to shape the narrative of the game by not scoring first. As noted, they hit two posts in the first period alone.

Lakers’ Head Coach Damon Whitten noted the value in getting ahead of Bemidji State. If the Lakers can earn a spot at the net front with more regularity in the Saturday night affair, they may have a better chance at earning a game three. In addition, as Lake Superior State Captain Max Humitz noted, his team needs to stay out of the penalty box. The amount of penalties that Lake Superior State took sapped the Lakers of a chance to get back into the game at five on five hockey, where they looked the best. On the penalty kill, Whitten did note the positive play of speedy forward, Yuki Miura, who consistently blocked shots and used his poise to help clear pucks time after time.

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NHL Draft-First Round Thoughts

Here are some brief thoughts after day one of the draft. Day two begins today at noon eastern.

1.Where were all those magical trades we were hearing about beforehand? Seems to me like the rumors were oversold as most are yearly.

2. I am surprised the Avalanche chose Tyson Jost over Logan Brown. Both are good players,however Brown seems ready to jump to the NHL now. Jost will play at least one year at North Dakota.

3.Why on earth did the Blue Jackets not take Jesse Puljujarvi? They selected a great player in Pierre-Luc Dubois, however Jesse could have helped them win sooner than Dubois. Jesse has proven himself in a professional league against players older than him. In addition, the Finnish forward showed he did not need Sebastian Aho to play well at the U18 Worlds in Grand Forks.

4. Edmonton still wins something at the draft. It’s Edmonton of course. They pick up an outstanding two-way forward with a rocket shot and precision passing. Imagine trying to stop a line with Puljujarvi, Connor McDavid,and Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle. Good luck. Edmonton should look to bolster their defensive prospect pool on day two.

5. St. Louis got fleeced. I understand Elliot has one year left on his deal. He seemed to have a lot of cold streaks during the season. On the other hand, this guy lead the team to the playoffs multiple times and often was playing against teams like the Sharks that used physical play to wear down the Blues defense. Calgary has plenty of A- to B+ prospects the Blues should have asked for in addition to these two (3rd in 2018 is conditional) picks.

6. Props to the Washington Capitals. The team was able to pick up a draft pick from the Blues in the third round for losing a mere two spots. This trade evens out with the horrendous Mike Weber deal completed around the trade deadline. The Capitals used their pick to get a strong offensive defenseman from the WHL in Lucas Johansen.

7.The Johansen pick gives the Capitals a strong offensive defenseman that has some speed. Hopefully Caps fans see him in the AHL soon. Johansen could make the NHL in a few years if he finishes strong in the WHL and impresses at Hershey. The Capitals have a history with picking strong WHL defenders and they know what they are getting out of that league.

8.Dear Jets fans, I know Logan Stanley was not your first choice with your second first rounder. The tweets last night and today have made that quite clear. What if and stay with me, he becomes a top four defenseman? Would that justify the pick? Top two? What makes you happy here? In my mind the Jets drafted someone with the potential to provide a physical stay at home presence when paired with a guy like Jacob Trouba. Best case, in two years Stanley is pushing for NHL time and playing the stay at home yin to an offensive defenseman’s yang. There is a huge value to that. Worst case, career AHL player with a Joe Finley career path. Give Stanley time. I have no problem with the risk for the Jets because of the reward. Scoring wise it may not show, but the Jets will benefit if Stanley can improve his skating and movement. If he can’t  then all it means is you took a risk for a player and it did not turn out the way you wanted.That happens to teams every single year. The draft,regardless of sport, is an imperfect art. When drafting 18 and 19 year olds who will (minus the usual few) take at least a year and sometimes three to four to develop, this selection process becomes even more imperfect. If in four years Stanley does not play at least 20 games in the NHL feel free to let the bust label fly. Until then, enjoy watching him develop and seeing where his career goes.