For the third year in a row, and fifth time in head coach Damon Whitten’s tenure, Lake Superior State will partake in a holiday tournament, returning to Burlington, Vermont for the Catamount Cup.
The event is usually referred to as a tournament, but all of the matchups are preset. Host Vermont always plays the late games, likely so their fans may watch them at their regular starting time. Disadvantages of this setup include the possibility of two teams going 2-0, no true championship game and the possibility that the tourney champs will not be honoured on the ice, as is custom.
Lake Superior joins Union and Providence in Burlington, all of whom will look to dethrone the host Catamounts, who won the cup last season. The Lakers play the Friars in the early game at 4:00 p.m. EST on Saturday, and face Vermont at 7:05 p.m. EST on Sunday.
About the Lakers
It was a rough first half for Damon Whitten’s crew, as the Lakers (6-15-1, 4-9-1 WCHA) have been unable to meet the lofty expectations that came about from last seasons’ success. After an opening weekend sweep of Merrimack and playing Denver close, Lake Superior has picked up a home sweep of Ferris State (the first since joining the WCHA) and two non-consecutive wins against Bowling Green, but have struggled mightily, especially on the road.
Making his mark on the score sheet is senior Max Humitz (11-6–17), who currently sits at 93 points in his collegiate career, followed by Hampus Eriksson (4-11–15) and Pete Veillette (5-7–12). Junior Mareks Mitens has seen the lion’s share of starts, and has a 3.16 goals against average and .894 save percentage.
About the Friars
The Lakers will have their work cut out for them if they are looking to win another holiday tourney, following last season’s win in the Great Lakes Invitational. Providence enters the tourney ranked #13 in the USCHO poll, #15 in the USA Today poll and currently sits atop the Hockey East standings. The Friars (9-5-3, 6-4-2 Hockey East) look to be the favourites in this event. Sophomores Jack Dugan (6-27–33) and Thopmson (13-14–27) sit 1-2 in scoring nationally, and junior Greg Printz (11-9–20) has also put up a hat full of points. In net, senior Michael Lackey has a 2.45 GAA and a .915 SV%.
Providence and the Lakers have a couple of connections: assistant coach Ron Rolston was a member of Jeff Jackson’s staff during the championship era, while Lake State’s current Sports Info Director, Kelsey Smith, is an alumni of Providence College.
Both teams played in the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh during the 2017-18 season, but did not wind up facing each other. The Friars downed Arizona State and host Robert Morris to claim the title, while Lake Superior fell to Robert Morris, but defeated the Sun Devils for a 3rd place finish.
About the Catamounts
…And now for something completely different. The Catamounts enter their tournament with one of the worst records in the nation at 1-11-2 overall and 0-8-1 in league play. Kevin Sneddon’s bunch has not won since October 19th, when they defeated St. Lawrence in their 2nd game of the year. They are winless in their last 12 games, although ties against Boston University and Arizona State are interspersed.
In scoring, defenceman Andrew Lucas leads the ‘Cats with a paltry 7 points, followed by forwards Ace Collins (3-3–6) and Jacques Bouquot (1-5–6). Between the pipes, Stefanos Lekkas has played each game, posting a 2.86 GAA and a .908 SV%.
During the 2015-16 season, Lake Superior and Vermont played on the first day of the tourney. The Catamounts won 1-0 en route to securing the tourney crown against Colgate the following night. Lake Superior appeared to tie the game in the final minute of regulation but it was judged that goaltender Patrick Munson had been interfered with.
About the Dutchmen
Union, under bench boss Rick Bennett, can have a bearing on where the Lakers finish in this tournament due to ties being decided by total goals scored. The Dutchmen (5-12-0, 3-5-0 ECAC) come into the tournament having won 3 of their last 4, after an abysmal start to the year which saw them go 1-7 in October. Leading the team in scoring is senior Anthony Rinaldi (4-7–11), while goaltender Darion Hanson has put up a 2.79 GAA and .907 SV%.