Same old story at Lake State

Randy Russon
March 6, 2017

Another Western Collegiate Hockey Association season has ended in disappointment for the Lake Superior State Lakers.

The Lakers were swept by the Michigan Tech Huskies in convincing fashion in the opening round of the playoffs on the weekend, losing by 6-4 and 8-0 scores.

This marks the third straight season that the Lakers have finished with a sub-par record under third-year head coach Damon Whitten.

Whitten was brought in to replace the fired Jim Roque three years ago but the Lakers have shown little improvement in the standings or in the win-loss column.

Under Whitten, the Lakers have finished ninth, seventh and seventh in the 10-team WCHA. The Lakers overall records in the three seasons with Whitten at the helm are all below the .500 mark — 8-28-2, 14-22-5 and 11-18-7.

Thus, the Lakers three-year record under Whitten stands at 33-68-14.

This season, the Lakers started out with five straight wins only to finish with just six more victories the rest of the way.

And not only have the Lakers been unable to win a single playoff series under Whitten, they have a 1-6 record.

What you think about “Same old story at Lake State”

  1. Rebuilding takes time. It took both Mel Pearson at Michigan Tech and Chris Bergeron at Bowling Green 4 seasons to get their programs to the .500 level once they were hired as coaches. Lakers had a lot of ties and close losses this season. Next season will be a key measuring point for the team’s progress.

    Damon Whitten has brought in a lot more speed at forward, now has to do the same at D. Compared to the top teams in the WCHA, the Lakers D don’t match up well in skating speed/ability. Losing Owen Headrick to Erie didn’t help. Damon wants the team to play up-tempo but doesn’t have the necessary skating speed/ability at D to fully support that style play yet. There are some very good young D-men that have committed to the Lakers, but it will a couple of seasons yet before they are playing for LSSU.

  2. Randy: I notice they only had one Senior so that bodes well for next season. However, one of their goalies, Defiel, is said to be leaving after just finishing his Junior season. Do you know why he’s not coming back? Thanks.

  3. Not the same old Lakers. The team I saw when I was up is one that plays to win and not afraid to lose. Rebuild will take time and patience and character. Its not the 80’s-90’s where we were rolling and could just retool all decade. Damon and the staff are good people and they care about the program. Thats enough for me to support them

  4. On paper it looks like Lake Superior doesn’t have ANY depth in the scoring/talent Category. I would recruit forwards with speed and playmaking ability which would include a high level of creativity… On Defense I would recruit three 6’3 D and three 5’10 puck moving D do pair up with the Big Lugs. Obviously solid goaltending recruitment would be in order. Add all of this together and you have speed and extra offensive talent up front which translates into more puck possession and an elite upper end PP… The less time a team spends chasing the puck or just dumping , the more offensive zone time will happen.. Less time in the Laker zone equals less shots on net… Mike deCarle ’89

  5. I think personally that 3 years is enough time to make a mark on any given NCAA Program.
    Even if that is not the case it would be nice to see some sort of improvement. I am not seeing much in the way of improvement as far as Laker Hockey goes. Sorry Bill Crawford!

  6. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. This is recording, Lake State fans.
    I watched both games online of the Lakers-Tech series and the difference between the two teams was vast. Just as vast as the difference between Jamie Russell and Mel Pearson.
    From Day One, Mel’s impact on those Tech teams was evident in the way they played, even if the record didn’t initially show. You knew from the eyeball test that the program was back and no team was going to outwork Mel’s.
    That work ethic hasn’t transferred over to Lake State.
    I don’t buy that B.S. about being patient about rebuilding. It doesn’t pass the eyeball or the smell test. As in life, you may not have the talent but you control your effort.
    There wasn’t any effort last weekend, just a bunch of guys going for a skate, leaving their goalies hanging out to dry.
    And I don’t buy the youth factor. Check out Bemidji State’s roster, particularly the age of their blueline. Tom Serretore’s team finished first. That’s coaching. That’s school tradition and pride.
    Aside from the five first minutes of Game One, the Lakers had no business being there. It was a wipe-out embarrassment. The score’s 7-0 in the third with seven minutes to go and the coach calls a time-out. To get what message across?
    The Lake State administration really needs to evaluate whether it’s willing to put the resources into competing at the Division One level or whether they’re just happy to be bottom dwellers in the WCHA. Running a hockey team is expensive and there’s no shame in admitting they don’t have the stomach to make it an elite level program.
    But if they’re planning to do a “nation-wide search” for a new coach, it better be more thorough than just a three-hour drive up the shore to Houghton to snag somebody’s assistant.

    1. LSSU is not in a financial position to be able to dedicate more resources to the hockey program unless the funds come via donors.

  7. Very very dissapointing.
    I am almost speech-less how this Season winded down after we started with a 5 and 0 record.

  8. I watched the team play both nights this year at UAH and spoke with Coach Whitten. He’s a class act and battling the same recruiting difficulties that Anzalone and Jackson did during the powerhouse years. It’s tough to get players up to Soo when you can play on TV every weekend at a high profile university. They were Competitive this year and will improve next year as long as we can find a goaltender like a Lacher, Madely.

    1. I think Wright will be back. At least I haven’t heard anything to indicate otherwise. I’m not sure of all the specifics of NCAA rules, but from what I understand Defiel’s shortened eligibility issue was mainly a result of his not being enrolled in any classes at the time he turned 20 in Juniors. Evidently guys playing Junior A hockey that are interested in playing NCAA Div 1 need to be taking some level of classes at the time they turn 20 (and still in Junior A). I’m not sure what type of classes qualify. I guess the point is the NCAA wants to see some evidence that a potential player is trying to advance his education at that age. Assuming Wright met that qualification, he should be back next season.

  9. How long is LSSU Board of Trustees going to put up spending thousands of dollars ,declining attendance, losing seasons for their hockey program.Their enrollment keeps dropping with the economy, and they can not compete in Div 1 any longer. Is Div 3 the answer. It’s time to take a hard look and really evaluate the hockey program.

    1. LSSU’s enrollment decline is not due to the economy. Extremely poor decisions were made 20 years ago that resulted in a doubling of the cost of tuition and fees. This combined with the decision to build a fine arts center doomed the school.

  10. I’m sorry but I do not believe that it is appropriate to criticize Coach Damon Whitten after three years. In those years he had not been able to fully recruit to the needs of his system. If you take some time to actually listen to what he has to say then you would understand that being a young team with little experience to compete in a tough conference. Take a look at the other rosters and tell me how many of them were as young as we were? How can one justify decline in attendance. As a student I went to all of the home games and I noticed that the stands were full on most nights. I believe that improvement is needed but I do believe as we mature as a team that you will see that improvement.

    In other notes, there is no rumor on Wright leaving. Gordy D is not coming because of his time spent in juniors. He has no NCAA eligibility remaining.

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