SPECIAL! Click here to check out a Web gallery of Senior Hockey Night 2014, presented by Soo Blue Liner Peter Scornaiencki. **
Laker Hockey Class of 2014, in formation
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Lake Superior State's eight-member senior class made its final regular-season appearance in Taffy Abel Arena on March 1 when the Lakers hosted Minnesota State-Mankato. Fans recognized the three goaltenders, three defensemen, and two forwards during a traditional senior-recognition ceremony following the game.
The Class of 2014 forms a diverse group on the ice - and off.
"We come from kind of everything," said senior forward Dan Radke. "California, Florida, Ontario, Nebraska. Goalies, forwards, defensemen. Offensive defensemen, defensive forwards..." "And different religions," noted senior defenseman Zach Sternberg in reference to Radke's and Sternberg'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 senior captain Matt Bruneteau. "They've accepted it."
The discussion of the seniors' roles reminded goaltender Kevin Kapalka of a time when Bruneteau, a heralded defensive-minded defenseman, deviated from the norm and took off on a break-away. From the opposite end of the ice Kapalka couldn't help but wonder, "Bruno, what are you doing?" Such anomalies have happened on rare occasions, but one attribute they all have in common 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 senior goaltender Kevin Murdock, who transferred to LSSU 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 senior forward Colin Campbell relied on their teammates during bouts with injuries. All three looked forward to staying healthy during the Lakers' final run. "I never had to sit out a season like I did last year," said Campbell, who is the Lakers' No. 2 scorer with 11-14--25. "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 returned to the lineup on Feb. 22 at Alabama-Huntsville after missing nine games due to injury. "Hopefully it stays in place, and we'll see where it takes me," he mentioned prior to the series.
Kapalka is one of four seniors and a junior who are moving on to start professional hockey careers in The Show. He has signed with the Idaho Steelheads of the East Coast Hockey League. Kapalka met with the team on the road March 14 to serve as the team's backup goaltender.
Kapalka completes his career with the Lakers with a 45-44-14 record and a .921 career save percentage. He also finished his career with the third-most saves in school history with 3,163. This past season, Kapalka, who battled injuries this season, finished tied for the highest save percentage (.927) in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Kapalka finished in the top 11 in save percentage twice in his career at LSSU, while this year tying for 12th. Former Lakers Steven Olesky and Kory Scoran both spent stints with the Steelheads of the ECHL during their professional careers.
The Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League signed senior forward Colin Campbell (14-15-29). As announced by the Red Wings organization, the deal is a two-year entry level contract.
The Red Wings' press release stated, "In accordance with club policy, additional details will not be disclosed." Campbell, 22, completed his Laker career by finishing second on the team with 29 points in 36 games.
He led the Lakers with three game-winning goals and ranked second with four power-play tallies and one shorthanded goal. A native of Pickering, Ontario, Campbell was limited to just nine games in his junior season due to injury but ranked third on the team as a sophomore in 2011-12 with 25 points (9-16--25) in 37 games. The 6-foot-1, 203-pound, forward finished his collegiate career with 27-37--64 and 64 penalty minutes in 119 games.
Campbell is expected to report to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins coached by Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., native Jeff Blashill.
Defenseman and team captain Matt Bruneteau has signed a professional contract with the Fort Wayne Komets of the East Coast Hockey League.
Bruneteau, 23, has agreed to terms and has been added to the Fort Wayne roster. He completed four seasons of college play at Lake Superior State in the CCHA (NCAA). The Omaha, Nebraska native amassed three goals, 15 assists and 18 points with the Lakers in 146 games during his college career. As of early March Fort Wayne was third in the ECHL Eastern Conference North Division, trailing first-place Kalamazoo by 12 points and Cincinnati by seven. Cincinnati's roster includes former Laker Dan Eves '08. The Reading Royals own the best record in the Eastern Conference. Their No. 5 scorer is former Laker captain Domenic Monardo '13, with 21-14--35.
The Idaho Steelheads of the East Coast Hockey League (Dallas Stars affiliate) also signed senior Laker defenseman Andrew Perrault. Perrault, 24, appeared in all 36 games during his senior season and picked up one goal and seven assists to total eight points.
Perrault, a 6-2 197-pound defenseman from Grand Coulee, Sask., capped his career with three goals and 29 assists, good enough for 32 points. Perrault had his best season as a Laker during his junior campaign (2012-13) scoring one goal while picking up 14 assists.
Throughout his career Perrault was an effective shot-blocker and a great stay-at-home defender, while also not being afraid to use his physicality with puck carriers.
Perrault joins his former Laker teammate, goaltender Kevin Kapalka, who signed with the Steelheads last week.
Finally, junior defenseman Kevin Czuczman made his National Hockey League debut with the New York Islanders in Nassau Coliseum March 18's 6-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild. The Port Elgin, Ontario, native was -2 during the contest, that was 3-0 after two periods. Czuczman skated 20:06 TOI with one shot and three blocks. The 6-3, 205-pound free-agent defenseman was paired with Travis Hamonic and saw increased ice time after Brian Strait left the game in the second period with a broken hand.
"I felt more comfortable as the game went along, and all I could control is how hard I worked," Czuczman said during his post-game interview. "Guys can obviously match you a lot faster, and a lot stronger on their sticks. Sometimes you have more time than you think you do because they're so positionally sound. Everyone works. Everyone competes at this level. It's a lot different than college.
"As the game wore on I settled in a little bit. All of the 'D' and forwards, and the coaches as well were talking to me. That helped big-time."
There's still a chance to bid the Laker Class of 2014 a fond farewell and good luck during the Soo Blue Liners annual hockey banquet on Thursday, May 1, at the Superior Room, Cisler Center. The social begins at 5 p.m., and dinner follows at 5:30 p.m. The cost is $20 per person. Kids 10-and-under are free. Call 906-248-5732 to reserve a seat.
The Soo Blue Liners booster group, comprised of Laker Hockey fans and fervent supporters, has sponsored the evening for more than three decades. Run a Web search on "Soo Blue Liners" for details about other activities and membership.
CONTACTS: Sports Information Director Linda Bouvet e-mail, 906-635-2601; John Shibley, e-mail, 635-2314; Tom Pink, e-mail, 635-2315.
** Dr. Scornaiencki and his wife, Dr. Rachael McCoy, both of Bordertown Chiropractic in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., have underwritten a cash award for excellence in senior research presented for many years during LSSU's biology and chemistry spring research symposium.