A program known for its national championship success under erstwhile coaches Frank Anzalone and Jeff Jackson is finally headed back to the big dance.
Led by the three goal spark of junior forward and local lad Ashton Calder, glory returned to the Lake Superior State Lakers in the form of a 6-3 win over the Northern Michigan Wildcats and the 2021 Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship.
The weekend victory by the Lakers sends them to the Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association regional tournament that begins on Friday of this week.
“This is big for our program,” relayed head coach Damon Whitten, who is in his seventh season at the helm of the good ship Laker. “My first few years (at Lake Superior State) were tough years … to believe in our vision and see that come to fruition is pretty special.”
As for Calder, who earned most valuable player honours in leading the Lakers to the WCHA title tournament triumph, Whitten had special words of praise for the homegrown hero.
“It’s fitting,” Whitten said of Calder’s performance. “Here we are with our homegrown talent scoring a hat trick to move us on and get us back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in so many years.”
The upcoming NCAA tournament appearance for Lake State will be its first since 1996 and the 11th for the program dating back to 1985.
The Lakers won their first NCAA national championship in 1988 under coach Frank Anzalone and repeated the feat again in 1992 and 1994 with Jeff Jackson as the bench boss.