Release: Whitten inked to four year extention

Lakers head coach Damon Whitten (shown here during the annual Blue vs White game) was recently inked to a four year contract extension, per a press release from LSSU (Brittany Litchard/LHB).

SAULT STE. MARIE — Lake Superior State University announced today that head hockey coach Damon Whitten has been signed to a four year contract extension.

Whitten, who has been head coach of the Lakers since 2014, has compiled a 43-90-18 record in his first four years behind the bench.

Before being named head coach of the Lakers, Whitten served as an assistant coach for four seasons at Michigan Tech, where he worked under Jamie Russell at first, and later Mel Pearson.

Prior to that, Whitten had stints at Alaska Anchorage on Dave Shyiak’s staff, and at Wayne State under Bill Wilkinson.  In addition, he worked as Director of Hockey Operations from 2008-10 at his alma mater, Michigan State.

A native of Brighton, Michigan, Whitten played under one-time Lakers head coach Ron Mason at MSU from 1997-2001, where he scored 35 goals and 40 assists in four seasons, eventually serving as an assistant captain his senior season.

From the press release:

“University presidents look for qualities of character more than records when assessing coaches,” said Lake Superior State President Dr. Peter T. Mitchell. “Damon Whitten is a person of great personal integrity and genuine compassion for his players. He emphasizes sportsmanship, hard work, and a commitment to excel on the ice and in the classroom. His team’s GPA is consistently above 3.0 and the current players are great ambassadors in the community.

“Winning traditions in collegiate and professional sports have one thing in common, they trust and support a coach of integrity and they eventually become winners. I trust Damon and his assistant coaches; I believe in them and in the players. I have been particularly proud of the way they all have responded to adversity and finished the season with sweeps at Bemidji and Anchorage. With this new contract, I look forward to Coach Whitten building a hockey program at Lake State known for integrity, grit, and class, on and off the ice.”

In his four years at the helm of the program, Whitten has made it priority to rebuild the Lake State Hockey tradition, while targeting increased community involvement, connection with the student body and excellence in the classroom. 

“On behalf of our staff and our families I would like to thank Dr. Peter Mitchell and Dr. David Paitson for their support and the opportunity to continue to lead the storied hockey program at LSSU,” said Whitten.
“We are privileged to be at a University and in a community where we are able to build quality relationships.  We look forward to continuing that work with our student-athletes, within the campus community and across the twin Soo communities.”

In 2017, the LSSU hockey team was awarded Community Partner of the Year by the United Way of the Eastern Upper Peninsula for their involvement in outreach events throughout the Sault Ste. Marie community.

Narrowly missing out on a postseason berth this season, Whitten has still managed to lead the Lakers to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Tournament in his first three seasons while navigating the significant obstacle of losing top talent to professional hockey.

With an assistant coaching staff consisting of Sault Ste. Marie native, Rich Metro and NHL veteran Mike York. The Laker hockey program has continued to focus on recruiting high-level talent with an emphasis on individuals seeking a complete student-athlete experience.

“We are very excited to continue to have Damon at the helm of the Lake State hockey program,” said Director of Athletics Dr. David Paitson.  “We believe Damon’s leadership and dedication will help reestablish the Laker Hockey program as one of the elite programs in college hockey.

“As a department, we are aiming to build stability throughout our coaching staff and retaining a high-level leader with a commitment to our vision, such as Damon, goes a long way in helping us reach our goals.”

Full press release:

Reading Royals sign Chatham

Senior defenseman Kyle Chatham (seen here in a game against Alaska) signed with the Reading Royals of the ECHL, becoming the 2nd senior to sign this year (Mike Barrett/LHB).

READING, Pa. — Another Laker senior has signed a professional contract.

Defenseman Kyle Chatham has signed a deal with the Reading Royals of the ECHL.

Chatham recently concluded a remarkable career with Lake Superior State, where he was a consistent force on the blue line.

In his sophomore and junior seasons, he was voted Defensive Player of the Year by his teammates.  In addition, he was also named Most Improved Player after his sophomore year.

Over his four years donning the anchor, Chatham netted five goals and 19 assists for 24 points in 145 games.  There were only six games in which he did not play over his career. 

A well-disciplined player, he never took more than 14 penalty minutes in a season.

The native of Belleville, Illinois, is the second senior to sign a pro contract following the conclusion of the Lakers’ season.  Forward J.T. Henke recently signed with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, also of the ECHL.

Chatham’s brother Connor also plays in the ECHL, where he is a forward for the Idaho Steelheads.

The Royals are the ECHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers and the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Henke inks deal with ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits

An offensive leader for Lake Superior in his 3 seasons, J.T. Henke signed a contract with the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits (Mike Barrett/LHB).

GREENVILLE, S.C. — A Lakers senior has signed a professional contract.

Forward J.T. Henke has signed an entry-level contract with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits of the ECHL.

A native of Trenton, Michigan, Henke joined the Lakers after playing a season at the University of Maine.  With Lake Superior, Henke has scored at least 22 points in each of his three seasons.  During his sophomore and senior campaigns, he led the team in scoring with 22 and 27 points, respectively.

His best season was his junior year, when he had 30 points, second on the team behind Mitch Hults.  That season saw him named the recipient of the Soo Blue Liner Award, as voted by the Blue Liner Club.

As a nod to his scoring prowess, Henke is the most recent Laker to record a hat trick, which he did Friday, October 30, 2015 against Alabama Huntsville.

Despite his offensive prowess, he was honored by the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) only once as Offensive Player of the Week — when he had five points against Michigan Tech on October 13-14.  On that weekend, Henke factored in on all five Laker goals.

Henke will join former Lakers Austin McKay, Garret Clemment and Matt Johnson on the Swamp Rabbits roster.

An affiliate of the New York Rangers, the Swamp Rabbits have been around since 1987, when they were established in Johnstown, Pennsylvania as the Chiefs (a homage to the 1977 hockey film Slap Shot).  They came to Greenville in 2010, becoming the Road Warriors, before changing their name to the Swamp Rabbits in 2015.


Lakers season draws to close with 4-2 loss to Ferris State

BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — The Lake Superior State playoff hopes came down to the final game of the regular season.

Needing a win against Ferris State to stay alive, the Lakers could not find the equalizer late, as the Bulldogs netted two empty netters en route to a 4-2 win.

With the loss, the Lakers failed to qualify for the WCHA postseason for the second time since joining the league, and the first time under head coach Damon Whitten.

Lake Superior got the important first goal of the game when defenseman Collin Saccoman collected a pass from Bryan Basilico and beat Darren Smith.  Although the Bulldogs outshot the Lakers 14-12 through the first 20 minutes, netminder Mareks Mitens kept Ferris State off the board.

Early in the second period, Coale Norris found the back of the net for Ferris State, tying the game in the process.  Norris, who had the empty-netter the previous night, earned his 9th goal of the year.

At 7:37 of the third period, Norris put Ferris State ahead for good.  Despite numerous chances for the Lakers (including a post for Anthony Nellis,) Lake Superior could not find the crucial goal to force overtime.

With Mitens pulled for an extra skater, the Bulldogs’ Mitch Maloney put the game out of reach by hitting the empty net.  Their season in jeopardy, the Lakers pulled Mitens again, trying to surmount a two goal deficit.  Again, Maloney put the puck in the back of the empty net, making the score 4-1 Ferris State.

A fair amount of action took place shortly after the ensuing faceoff.  Lakers defenseman Tyler Anderson took a Ferris State player hard into the boards, which led to everybody on the ice pairing off.  43 penalty minutes were assessed on the play, including 15 to Anderson (5 for contact to the head, plus a 10 minute disqualification).

As the game was winding down, Gage Torrel managed to get around the Bulldog defense and beat Smith.  Torrel’s fifth goal of the season came with just 26 seconds remaining in play — not enough time for a Laker rally.

Mitens finished the night with 34 saves on 36 shots faced.  In picking up the win, Smith 30 of 32.

With the loss, the collegiate careers of Aiden Wright, Kyle Chatham, Ryan Renz and J.T. Henke came to an end.  Henke, the lone forward of the group, finished his Laker career with 79 points in three seasons.  Had he played his freshman season with the Lakers (as opposed to the University of Maine), he could have potentially become the first Laker to earn 100 career points since Dominic Monardo in 2013.

Bulldogs drop Lakers, playoff hopes dwindle

BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — Needing at least one win for any hope of qualifying for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) postseason, the Lake Superior State hockey team could not connect, as the Bulldogs of Ferris State took a 4-1 win at Ewigleben Ice Arena.

Ferris State (13-21-1, 10-16-1 WCHA) snapped the Lakers’ four game winning streak — all of which came on the road.  

Lake Superior (10-21-4, 8-16-3 WCHA) hoped to go into Ewigleben and get a quick goal to silence the crowd.  A quick goal was scored, but by the home team, as Captain Corey Mackin put the Bulldogs up 1-0 just 45 seconds into the game.

Despite surrendering the early lead, the Lakers remained determined, giving Ferris State netminder Darren Smith plenty to do, as the shots favoured Lake State 13-10 after twenty minutes.

The Bulldogs got another early goal in the second period, as Mackin again capitalized.  The captain collected a pass from Mitch Maloney behind the net and beat Lakers goaltender Nick Kossoff on the right side.  Ferris State added another goal later in the period from Zach Szajner, sending the Lakers back to the dressing room trailing 3-0 after two periods.

Lake Superior, after peppering Smith with shots all night, finally managed to get one by him, as Hampus Erikkson got a piece of an Anthony Nellis shot, cutting the Bulldogs’ lead to two goals.

Despite pulling Kossoff for an extra skater at various points throughout the period, the Lakers could not solve Smith again.  An empty netter with 5 seconds remaining from Coale Norris sealed the Lakers’ fate.

In goal, Kossoff made 27 saves on 30 shots.  Across the ice, Smith was credited with 37 saves on 38 shots.

Coupled with an Alabama Huntsville win over Bowling Green, the Lakers’ postseason hopes appeared to be all but over.  However, the series between Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage also has bearings on the WCHA playoff picture.  With the Seawolves playing spoiler by earning a 5-3 win, the Lakers are not yet eliminated from the postseason picture.  Their fate will come down to what they can do in their game against the Bulldogs tonight.

Playoff scenarios entering final series against Bulldogs

The final two games of the regular season are here and the Lakers are still in a fight for the playoffs.

Coming out of this past weekend, the standings in the 6 thru 9 slots in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) are as follows:

6 (tie) Alabama Huntsville and Alaska – 30 points
8 – Ferris State – 28 points
9 – Lake Superior State – 27 points

Last weekend, the Lakers and Chargers had byes, while Ferris State was swept by Minnesota State and Alaska claimed one point against Bemidji State.  In other words, the Lakers’ bye could hardly have gone better.

While it is entirely possible that Lake Superior could propel itself as high as 6th place after this weekend, the chance that their season ends down at Ewigleben Ice Arena is still in play.

The fact that LSSU and Ferris State play each other is huge.  A sweep by either team will ensure the winner qualifies while the loser stays home.  

Below is an analysis of what will become of Lake Superior given the seven possible point outcomes of this weekend:

0, 1 or 2 points – Lake State finishes with either 27, 28 or 29 points and fails to qualify for the postseason.  Since their opponent is the team directly ahead of them in the standings, failing to take at least half of the points guarantees they will place behind the Bulldogs and not overtake either UAH or UAF.

4, 5, or 6 points – Lake State finishes with either 31, 32 or 33 points, eliminating Ferris State from playoff contention.  4 points on the weekend ensures that the Bulldogs cannot earn more than 30, edging the Lakers past FSU.  Where exactly the Lakers sit in the standings after this is dependent on what happens with UAH and Alaska.  The Chargers host Bowling Green (who will finish either 2nd or 3rd) while the Nanooks play Alaska Anchorage (who will miss the WCHA postseason for the the fourth straight year).

3 points – Earning exactly three points is a dangerous situation.  This will give the Lakers 30 points, while Ferris State will have 31.  Whether the Lakers make the playoffs or not will depend on the results of the previously mentioned games.  Should a three-way tie exist, the WCHA tiebreakers will come into effect.

  • Tiebreaker A – This tiebreaker is only used if all teams have played 4 games against each other.  This is not the case, as LSSU, UAH and UAF all have played each other twice.
  • Tiebreaker B – This one says the teams are seeded in order of the highest number of conference wins.  Currently, UAH and UAF have 9 wins, while LSSU has 8.  In order for a tie to happen at all, UAH & UAF must lose both of their games.  If LSSU earns 3 points from a win, then there is a tie at this tiebreaker.  Should the Lakers get 2 points from a shootout win and 1 from a shootout loss, the Lakers would be eliminated.
  • Tiebreaker C – This tiebreaker seeds teams in order of fewest league losses.  If UAF and UAH both get swept, they would both have 17 losses.  Given that the only way for this tiebreaker to matter is for the Lakers to have a series split, the Lakers would have 16 losses, putting them ahead of both teams.

For those unfamiliar with the WCHA’s tiebreakers, which go all the way to G (a coin toss), they may be found here:


Series Preview: Lake Superior State @ Ferris State

Ferris State: 2016: 13-19-5 2017: 12-21-1

Lake Superior State: 2016: 11-18-7 2017: 10-20-4


“It’s the Final Countdown!” – Europe


This is it, boys and girls. We’re in the final week of the 2017-2018 WCHA regular season, and it all comes down to this. While there are other games to watch, these two teams control their own playoff destinies.

The Bulldogs had a rough weekend, facing off against #5 Minnesota State in Mankato, dropping both games – Friday 7-1, then Saturday 4-2.

This year’s Ferris State team has three 20+ point scorers in Corey Mackin (8-14-22), Mitch Maloney (13-8-21) and Ryker Kilins (8-13-21), with Kilins being the lone defenseman of the group. In net, the two goaltenders, Darren Smith (junior) and Justin Kapelmaster (sophomore) have split time in the next 20 games to 17 and they have similar stats to each other, so once again we have a team with competent goaltenders.

I, for one, believe this Bulldog team is better than what they’ve been this year, so the Laker cannot sleep on this team.

“Do-do-do do dooooo” – also Europe

If you would have told us, or any other Laker fan at the end of December through January that the Lakers would be fighting for a playoff spot, we would have laughed at you, after going through a large losing streak that involved a few shutouts and poor overall play. The last two weeks they have been in action (before the bye last week), has put their fate in their hands.

As stated in Mike’s article from last weekend, the bottom four teams are only separated by three points, with both UAH and Alaska being tied at 30 points, Ferris at 28, and the Lakers out of the picture at 27. Alaska plays in-state rivals Anchorage who has already been elimated from the playoffs, while Huntsville faces off against Bowling Green.

So, what does this mean? It means that even if the Lakers split the weekend in Big Rapids, there is a chance they make the playoffs. Getting at least 4 points on the weekend is what we really have to hope for, as that will put us past either Alaska or Huntsville, assuming one gets swept. A sweep on the weekend would guarantee at least the final playoff spot, with a potential to get a better matchup.

It’s possible that the Lakers will know their playoff fates at the end of the game Saturday, but it could come down to the Alaska series, which you can almost guarantee they will be listening to on the 5+ hour drive back to the Soo.

The Lakers have been scoring by committee these last few weeks, but of course are still led by senior J.T Henke, who has 27 points on the season, followed by Max Humitz (13-9-22) and Diego Cuglietta (7-15-22). Despite the lack of point production, coming onto the team late in the season, Alexandro Ambrosio, Yuki Miura and Steven Ruggiero have seemed to give this team more depth, speed and hope.

Statistically speaking, Nick Kossoff is still the clear-cut better goalie on this Laker team, but again over the last couple of weekends, former NAHL standout goalie Mareks Mitens has started to close that gap and assuming both goalies stay with the team come the offseason, I fully expect to see either a true goalie tandem, or a really fun fight for that starter slot.

Despite all of this, nothing is guaranteed this weekend. The Lakers have only won a single game cleanly at Ewigleben Arena since the 2009 season and recording a shootout win during this time frame too. But if there a time to rewrite that narrative, it’s this weekend.

As usual, YESFm will have the game locally at 99.5 or online at, or through the TuneIn app on your smartphone. will have a live video feed of the game if you want to watch first hand.

Scoreboard watching on a bye week

Conventional wisdom says a team cannot lose on its bye week.  Conversely, it cannot win either.

Those adages are not neccesarily true.

Lake Superior State enters their final bye week of the season scoreboard watching, as the outcomes of a number of games can make Lakers’ playoff hopes much more dire before the puck drops the following weekend against Ferris State.

The bottom of the WCHA standings is the typical logjam it has been for the past few seasons.  Alabama-Huntsville sits in 6th place with 30 points.  Alaska has 29 points in 7th place, Ferris State is in 8th with 28 points and the Lakers sit in 9th with 27.  In short, 6th and 9th are separated by just three points – or one league win.

The Bulldogs and Nanooks play Minnesota State and Bemidji State respectively this weekend; the Chargers, like the Lakers, are idle.

The following is a small breakdown of each team ahead of Lake Superior State that the Lakers can potentially pass, qualifying for the postseason in the process:

Alabama Huntsville – 30 points, 6th place

Remaining schedule – Home vs Bowling Green

The Chargers are 2-4-0 in their current homestand, being outscored by their opponents 21-16.  They were swept last weekend by the Mavericks, but took the fifth-ranked team to overtime on Friday night before falling 6-1 the next night.  

UAH and Bowling Green met back in December, with the Falcons taking 4 of 6 points in Ohio.  

Alaska – 29 points, 7th place

Remaining schedule – Away vs Bemidji State, Home vs Alaska-Anchorage

The Nanooks have been inconsistent for much of the season.  Their 5-0 win over then No. 7 Minnesota State was followed by three straight losses.  Alaska then followed a home sweep of Ferris State up with a trip to Marquette, where the 20th ranked Wildcats broke out their own brooms.

Alaska and Bemidji State split earlier in the year, with the Nanooks winning in overtime on Friday before falling 3-2 to the host Beavers the next night.  

Concerning the Seawolves, Alaska has won four games against their interstate rival (although two were played as a non-conference series).  All bets are off for a rivalry series, but the Nanooks should be favoured.

Ferris State – 28 points, 8th place

Remaining schedule – Away vs Minnesota State, Home vs Lake Superior

Ferris State has been about as streaky as they come.  Following a three game win streak in the beginning of December, the Bulldogs proceeded to go 1-9 in their next 10 games.  The lone win in that stretch was a 4-0 win over Lake Superior.  While a sweep of Michigan Tech gave the Bulldogs some life, a trip to Alaska the following weekend proved fruitless, as the Nanooks had their brooms in hand.

The Bulldogs face fifth ranked Minnesota State this weekend in Mankato before hosting the Lakers to end the season.  Ferris State has not played the Mavericks yet this year, a team that has laid waste to the rest of the conference (and much of college hockey).

Lake Superior State – 27 points, 9th place

Remaining schedule – Away vs Ferris State

The Lakers will enter their final weekend on a four game winning streak.  Making a desperate Northern Michigan-esque push to make the playoffs, Lake Superior swept Bemidji State on the road before flying to Anchorage and claiming two more wins.

Lake State’s final games of the regular season will take place at Ewigleben Arena, a place that has not been friendly to the Lakers over the years.  Then again, neither Bemidji nor Anchorage have been kind to the anchor either.

While the actions of other teams will play into the Lakers’ postseason hopes, one thing is certain — the Lakers must win one of their final games to have any hope of qualifying. 

The picture will become more clear after this weekend.  It is possible Alaska and Ferris State pull off sweeps, putting them beyond the reach of the Lakers.  Likewise, it is possible they both get swept, leaving them within striking distance.  The Lakers can catch Alabama Huntsville and, depending on how things go, may be crowded around a radio on the bus back to Sault Ste. Marie, intently listening to learn of their postseason fate. 


Nellis named WCHA Offensive Player of the Week

Anthony Nellis (seen here against Bemidji State) received his first ever weekly WCHA award for his two game winning goals against Alaska-Anchorage (Mike Barrett/LHB)

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – The Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) announced today its weekly recipients of their Player of the Week awards.  Among the recipients was Lake Superior junior forward Anthony Nellis.

Nellis, a native of Breakyville, Quebec, was named Player of the Week by scoring both game winning goals (plus an assist) against Alaska-Anchorage on February 9-10.  The goal on Friday was an overtime winner.

A junior, Nellis won his first ever weekly league award.  In winning, he was selected over senior Jordan Heller of Bemidji State, Michigan Tech senior Joel L’Esperance, Minnesota State sophomore Marc Michaelis and junior Denver Pierce of Northern Michigan.

In addition to Nellis’ win, goaltender Mareks Mitens was nominated for WCHA Rookie of the Week for his 22 save win over the Seawolves on Saturday.  Ethan Somoza, a forward from Bemidji State, won for his two points on the weekend.

Mitens outstanding in net as Lakers win fourth straight on road, sweep UAA

Mareks Mitens (seen here from an exhibition game against the USNTDP’s Under 18 squad) prevented a furious rally by Alaska-Anchorage, enabling the Lakers to hold on for a 2-1 win and series sweep (Mike Barrett/LHB)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Anthony Nellis claimed his second consecutive game winning goal and Mareks Mitens slammed the door shut as the Lake Superior State Lakers  (10-20-4, 8-15-3 WCHA) earned their fourth straight win in a 2-1 win over Alaska-Anchorage (2-24-4, 2-19-3-3 WCHA).

Entering the final month of the season needing to essentially win out in order to qualify for the WCHA Tournament, the Lakers have risen to the task.  

Perhaps even more impressive is that they have had to do this completely on the road.

Neither team found the back of the net in the first period.  Both teams made a change in net from the previous night, as Mitens got the start in place of Nick Kossoff, while Olivier Mantha was replaced in the Alaska-Anchorage net by Brody Claeys.

The Seawolves opened the scoring when Trey deGraaf capitalized on a power play opportunity.  The third goal of the year for deGraaf resulted in the first lead of the weekend for Alaska-Anchorage.

Just moments after Jake Hand was denied by Claeys on a great 5 on 3 chance, Max Humitz tied the game with just 1.7 seconds remaining in the period.  A lengthy review of a potential offsides call did not overturn the goal, resulting in a 1-1 tie after 40 minutes.

Shortly before the midway point of the third period, Anthony Nellis cashed in for his second goal of the weekend.  A turnover led to an odd man rush, which Nellis capitalized on, earning his 12th goal of the year and his third in four games.

With just over five minutes left in regulation, Bryan Basilico appeared to put Lake Superior up 3-1.  What would have been his second goal of the season, however, was waived off after a review due to goaltender interference.

Down late, the Seawolves cranked up the pressure on Mitens, peppering the Latvian netminder with everything they could.  The freshman remained steady in net, despite point blank shots and odd deflections, as the Lakers held on for a 2-1 win.

Both teams had 23 shots on net.  In picking up his third win of the season, Mitens stopped 22 of 23 (including 10 in the third period), while Claeys made 21 saves.  

In addition to being equal on the shot counter, both teams were also equal on the power play, as the Seawolves and the Lakers each went 1 for 4 with the odd man.

The Lakers are idle next weekend and will be keeping a close eye on Ferris State.  The Bulldogs have a one point lead on Lake Superior and will play Minnesota State this weekend.  The two teams will face each other in the following week in Big Rapids before the start of the WCHA Tournament.