SAULT STE. MARIE – Lake Superior State hockey coach Jim Roque has had great success with some of his last-minute signees and hopes the same fortune awaits the two forwards and one defenseman who recently committed to LSSU.
Roque confirmed this week that forwards Daniel Vernace (Toronto, Ont.) and Bryce Schmitt (Minot, N.D.), and defenseman Pete Spratte (Rochester, Minn.) have signed their National Letters of Intent and will join the Lakers during the 2012-13 season. LSSU added two forwards to replace Kyle Jean, who recently signed a professional
contract with the New York Rangers organization, and Nick Shkreli, who is out for an indefinite period due to injury.
“Over the summer, with the loss of Kyle, we were trying to identify some guys, and Daniel’s name kept coming up,” Roque said of Vernace. “He never really played on good teams until he was traded (to Trenton) in January. But he has a brother (Mike) in the AHL, and he’s been around hockey.”
Daniel Vernace, a 6-0, 180-pound right wing, played 2 1/2 seasons with the Mississauga Chargers and finished 2011-12 with the Trenton Golden Hawks of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. He led Mississauga in scoring prior to the trade, then helped lead the Golden Hawks to the OJHL East Division championship. Vernace tied for 15th overall in OJHL regular-season scoring with 30-31–61 in 49 games played, including 5-9–14 in power-play points.
Schmitt, a 6-0, 185-pound center/right wing, finished second on the Bismarck Bobcats’ regular-season all-time games-played list with 166. He served as team captain and totaled 14-16–30 with a plus-minus rating of +16 while helping the Bobcats (45-13) to the 2011-12 North American Hockey League Central Division title. Schmitt compiled a three-year regular-season total of 24-39–63 plus 2-5–7 in 26 playoff games. He also helped the Bobcats win the 2012 Central Division Playoff title and was part of the 2010 Robertson Cup championship team.
“Bryce applied back in the spring and we’ve been watching him,” Roque said. “I wasn’t sure what would happen with another recruit, but he hung tough to see if we had an opening. He jumped on it. He’s a leader, hard-nosed and has been on very successful teams.”
Roque compares his current signees to goaltender Jeff Jakaitis ’07, who is LSSU’s all-time leader in career save percentage and single-season saves, and senior forward Domenic Monardo, who led the Lakers in points in 2011-12. They were among the last players signed in their respective recruiting classes. Spratte, ironically, hails
from Jakaitis’ hometown of Rochester, Minn.
“He’s a product of Rob Proffitt’s Ice Dogs,” Roque said of Spratte. “He was a captain there, and they’ve had a great run the last few years. We were trying to find that seventh or eighth defenseman to replace Kyle Pobur, who did a great job for us. Pete wants a chance to play Division I. (Like Pobur), he’s played some forward too. He may have a chance to do both.”
Spratte played three seasons for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the North American Hockey League and was part of the Ice Dogs’ 2011 Robertson Cup championship. He contributed 5-15–20 in 58 regular-season games and added 1-2–3 in 10 playoff games in 2011-12 as Fairbanks finished 39-13-8 to claim its third NAHL West Division title in five years. The Ice Dogs were 8-2 in the 2012 playoffs, reaching the Robertson Cup semifinals where they lost in overtime to eventual champion Texas. Spratte played for Proffitt, a Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., native and the 2011 and 2012 NAHL General Manager of the Year.
“All three of these players are older and really mature,” Roque said. “They just needed a chance.”
Vernace, Schmitt and Spratte join a recruiting class that also includes center Austin McKay (Toronto, Ont.), and defensemen Eric Drapluk (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) and Zach Loesch (White Bear Lake, Minn.).