Glory days at Lake Superior State

December 20, 2015

They are three-time, Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association champions and the plan is for the Lake Superior State Lakers to return to the glory days that have eluded them since the mid-1990s.

To be sure, the Lakers have not enjoyed much success since winning national championships in 1988 under coach Frank Anzalone and in 1992 and 1994 with Jeff Jackson at the helm.

In fact, the last national tournament appearance for Lake Superior State came in 1996, which was Jackson’s final season as the Lakers bench boss.

Since then, the Lakers have been mostly so-so under coaches Scott Borek, a second go-round with Anzalone, and a nine-season run under Jim Roque that finally ended with a firing that some close to the program say was long overdue.

The Lakers are now under the leadership of second-year head coach Damon Whitten, a 38-year old Michigander known for his life smarts and high hockey IQ.

With a Lakers team laden with freshman and sophomore talent that makes it the youngest in the 10-member Western Collegiate Hockey Association, Whitten is not shy to let it be known what the goals are for the program.

Appearing on a recent edition of the Laker Hockey Show on ESPN 1400 Radio, Whitten told host Bill Crawford that while he is “okay” with the team’s record thus far this 2015-2016 season (4-4-4 in the WCHA, 6-10-4 overall), he is far from satisfied.

“I like the effort we have been getting and we are definitely improving and doing better than expected for a team that was picked to finish last in the WCHA this season but the goal of the program remains the same and that is to return to the national tournament and win a national championship,” Whitten said evenly and without hesitation when discussing his expectations for the program with Crawford.

Tied for sixth place with Alaska Anchorage in the WCHA standings and just two points out of fifth with two games in hand on Northern Michigan at the Christmas holiday break, the Lakers have been getting a lot out of their younger players.

Of the Lakers top 10 scorers, six are freshmen, two are sophomores and two are juniors. And of the two goalies who share the workload for the Lakers, one is a freshman and the other is a sophomore.

While the Lakers may be a year or two away from national tournament contention, there is little doubt of the positive impact that Whitten has had on the program in the year-and-a-half that he has been on the job.

Attendance, while not nearly what it was during the championship and contending seasons, is starting to pick up again after hitting rock bottom during the final few seasons of Roque-away.

Fans and supporters are again talking about Laker hockey in positive tones as Whitten and the younger players give legitimate hope that the program may finally be returning to better days ahead.

Really, the championship history of the Lakers is one that remains etched in the minds and the hearts of those with even a minor association to the Lake Superior State program.

So many good Lakers from the good old days will be forever linked to the championship years of 1988, 1992 and 1994.

From head coaches Anzalone and Jackson to standout goalies Bruce Hoffort, Darrin Madeley and Blaine Lacher to high-end defensemen such as Kord Cernich, Rene Chapdelaine, Karl Johnston, Kenny Martel, Mark Astley, Keith Aldridge and Gino Pulente to forwards of note that include Mark Vermette, Mike DeCarle, Pete Stauber, Anthony Palumbo, Jim Dowd, Doug Laprade, Jeff Jablonski, Paul Constantin, Sandy Moger, Vincent Faucher, Brian Rolston, Clayton Beddoes, Sean Tallaire, Wayne Strachan, Rob Valicevic, Kurt Miller et al, the Lakers have a title tradition that has a rightful place in history.

Will history repeat itself at Lake Superior State sooner than later?

That’s a tough question with no easy answer.

PHOTO: Doug Laprade, Kenny Martel and Jeff Jablonski do the victory lap following Lake Superior State’s national championship of 1988. (Photo by John Shibley.)

What you think about “Glory days at Lake Superior State”

  1. Excallent Article RR indeed one of the best Article’s that I have red about the Lakers in many moon’s. BELIEVE IN BLUE!!!

  2. I’m very pleased that our head coach has the guts to set lofty goals. It really makes you want to pull for the Lakers even harder.

  3. It’s great to see the program getting back to what it once was. You have to play the best to beat the best. It a great honor to wear that jersey and will always be.

  4. I think the loss of a number of players over the postseason set things back a little bit, although (most) of the new players they’ve brought in has helped a lot.

    I firmly believe that, as long as players stick it out, we will have a real shot in a year or two of at least bringing our first WCHA championship here to Sault Sainte Marie.

    Once Roque’s recruits start going through the program & we start getting Whitten’s, I think we will be in a really good place. Especially if you look at what happened with Tech.

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