Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Finlandia tabs new boss

Finlandia has announced that former North Dakota captain Dane Litke is the new head coach of the Lions’ men’s team.

New coach knows Lakers tradition

Over 20 years ago, Damon Whitten sat in Lake Superior State’s Taffy Abel Arena awaiting an offer from then-head coach Jeff Jackson to play for the Lakers.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Whitten to take helm of Lakers

By Michael David/LSSU Beat Writer

Over the weekend Lake Superior State University held a press conference to name Damon Whitten the new head coach of the hockey program. He is the 10th coach in the history of Laker hockey. Whitten was an assistant coach at WCHA rival Michigan Technological University in Houghton, MI, before taking the LSSU job. He has also worked as director of hockey operations at Michigan State under form Laker player and coach Rick Comley, and has also served as an assistant coach at Wayne State and Alaska-Anchorage.

"He has surrounded himself with some of the best that college hockey has to offer with who he was coached with, coached for and coached under," LSSU Athletic Director Kris Dunbar stated at the press conference. "I'm really excited for his time now to be a head coach here."

In his younger years, Whitten hoped to don the anchor and play for the Lakers, but was not made an offer by then head coach Jeff Jackson.

"Over 20 years ago, I sat up in Taffy Abel in his office waiting for an offer from Jeff Jackson to be a Laker, and had he offered me at the time, I would have been a part of this family back then," Whitten said. "It's 20 years later and I'm finally joining the Laker family and I'm very excited to do that."

I hate to point out, however, that the arena was not dubbed Taffy Abel 20 years ago, it was just the Norris Center before the renovations Jackson initiated, and his office was located in the other athletic department staff across from the gymnasium.

Anyway, the Brighton, MI, native decided to be a walk-on at Michigan State and play for another former Laker coach, Ron Mason. Whitten went on to serve as an assistant captain his senior year and become part of the most successful class in Spartan hockey history.

"That four years with Coach Mason was a huge influence on me as a player and as a coach in my development and my aspiration to get to this level. What struck me is looking up an seeing Ron Mason, the founder of this program, up on the walls," Whitten stated. "He handed this program off to Rick Comley, who was his first captain, and Rick took over as the second head coach in Laker hockey history. Jeff Jackson built this into a powerhouse program."

I think we'd have to give Frank Anzalone some credit for programs success, too. I do wish Whitten and the Lakers all the best of luck this coming season. The team failed to make the WCHA playoffs, and we're hoping Whitten can right the ship here at Lake State and be competitive.

"Our job will begin immediately to reach out to alumni, fans, recruits, and the community during our quest to restore Laker hockey. Our family is very excited to join the Sault Ste. Marie community and become part of the Laker hockey family."

Photos courtesy of LSSU Athletic Dept.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ferris State's run ends in regional final

By Tom Morelli/Ferris State Beat Writer

Ferris State's chance of completing their unfinished business from two years ago was nixed on Saturday night after losing a 2-1 double-overtime thriller to North Dakota at the Midwest Regional Championship in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Both teams mirrored each other from the beginning, with neither one able to find the back of the net in the first period.

The Bulldogs grabbed the initial lead at the 7:31 mark of the second, thanks to senior Cory Kane's 14th goal of the campaign from between the faceoff circles. Fellow classmate Andy Huff and junior netminder C.J. Motte were both credited with assists on that play.

Just over three minutes later, North Dakota was able to even-up matters while on the man-advantage. Nick Mattson fed a one-timer to Paul LaDue at the blue line, which was subsequently deflected in by Stephane Pattyn from just outside the crease.

The contest remained deadlocked at one goal apiece until Connor Gaarder of North Dakota netted the game-winner off a back-handed redirect in front with 1:28 elapsed in the second overtime session. On a play that was eerily similar to the previous goal, North Dakota's Mattson and LaDue both picked-up their second helpers of the evening.

Despite the loss, Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels was very supportive of his team after the game.

"First of all, I want congratulate North Dakota in winning tonight and playing a great game," said Daniels. "[But] I want to congratulate our players as well. They really played well, and, more importantly, it's been a great ride. I'm exceedingly proud and realize that we're going to look back and be appreciative of this year. Its a little painful right now, but I am very appreciative of the efforts of our team."

The Bulldogs outshot their opposition 45-26, increasing their shot production gradually as the game wore on.

Motte had 24 saves to finish his second season as a starter with a 28-9-3 ledger. At the other end of the ice, Zane Gothberg made 44 stops to notch his 20th win of the season.

Senior captain Scott Czarnowczan, Kane and Motte were named to the All-Midwest Regional Tournament Team, where they were joined by North Dakota's Rocco Grimaldi, Gaarder and LaDue.

Ferris State finishes the 2013-2014 season with an overall record of 29-11-3.

Ferris State 1, Colgate 0: In Friday's opening round of 16, freshman Gerald Mayhew knocked in a loose puck at 10:01 in the first period to advance the Bulldogs to the Midwest Regional Championship. Motte stopped all 35 shots to secure his fifth shutout of the season.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

FSU secures NCAA bid despite loss in finals

By Tom Morelli/Ferris State Beat Writer

There's no shame in losing, especially when you have the clout that Ferris State has amassed throughout the season.

The Bulldogs bounced past Alaska Anchorage in the WCHA semifinals with a 5-4 overtime win, before being ousted by Minnesota State 4-1 in the championship game.

But the loss comes without consequence, as Ferris State's overall record of 28-10-3 and WCHA regular season title was enough to merit a spot amongst the 16 teams vying for the NCAA Championship.

In their journey to make it to the NCAA tournament, the Bulldogs first had to cross paths with the Seawolves in Friday's semifinal, whom they previously beat twice during the regular season.

Ferris State however found out quickly that this was no walk in the park, after seeing their 2-0 lead in the first disappear with four consecutive goals by Alaska Anchorage by the midpoint of the following period.

Senior forward Garrett Thompson helped spark the Bulldogs' comeback at 12:50, scoring his team-high 16th goal of the campaign courtesy of a 2-on-1 situation. Earning helpers on that play were Justin Buzzeo and Scott Czarnowczan.

Less than three minutes later, another senior came through in the clutch for Ferris State, with Andy Huff finding the back of the net for the game-tying goal.

The Bulldogs needed just 2:38 seconds of the overtime session to finish the job, which came courtesy of a Gerald Mayhew shot from between the faceoff circles that trickled past Seawolves' netminder Chris Kamal.

Goaltender C.J. Motte finished with 34 saves for Ferris State, while Rob Gunderson surrendered four goals on 12 shots for Alaska Anchorage in the first two periods before being pulled. In his 23:38 seconds of relief duty, Kamal had 10 stops to his credit.

Saturday's tournament final was a much tougher challenge for the Bulldogs, who found themselves in a 2-0 hole against the Mavericks after just 20 minutes of action.

It wasn't until the final minute of the second frame that Ferris State responded, thanks to Mayhew's diving effort from outside the crease that cut the deficit in half. Helping to set-up the scoring play were Cory Kane and Huff.

Any chance of a Bulldog comeback was put to rest in the third period, as Brett Knowles notched an insurance goal at the 8:38 mark, followed by Teddy Blueger's empty-netter with four seconds remaining.

Motte (27-8-3) held a narrow edge over counterpart Cole Huggins in the saves department, 28-25.

Mayhew was the only Ferris State player named to the WCHA Final Five All-Tournament Team, joining the likes of Minnesota State's Bryce Gervais, Brett Stern, Blueger and Huggins (tournament MVP).

Up next for the Bulldogs is a first-round draw in the Midwest Regional against Colgate on March 28 at the US Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio. The winner of that game will face either North Dakota or Wisconsin the following night in the regional final.