LSSU Set for First NCAA Tournament Appearance Since 1996
SAULT STE. MARIE – After a 25-year postseason drought, the Lake Superior State hockey program makes its long-awaited return to the NCAA Tournament Friday.
Winners of 13 of its last 16 games, LSSU will face Massachusetts Amherst at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the East Regional in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
It marks the first meeting between the two programs.
LSSU (19-6-3) won its first-ever WCHA tournament championship last weekend with a 6-3 win over Northern Michigan.
While the Lakers have suffered through a long postseason drought, they are no strangers to success on the sport’s biggest stage.
LSSU won NCAA national championships in 1988, 1992 and 1994 and were national runners-up in 1993. The Lakers also won NAIA national championships in 1972 and 1974 and have four Frozen Four appearances to their credit. In all, LSSU has earned 17 combined bids to the NCAA and NAIA national tournaments.
Now in his seventh season leading the Lakers, coach Damon Whitten playing their best hockey in years.
“Even when you look at where we’re picked, it wasn’t real high,” Whitten said. “We knew that wasn’t what we had in that locker room. We talked all season long about our leadership group, not just our seniors but our upperclassmen. We knew we had a chance to have a pretty darn good hockey team here. We might be the hottest team in the country right now. We’ve had a good run. Now the job is to do it again these next 60 minutes.”
Massachusetts Amherst (16-5-4) is making its third NCAA Tournament appearance in program history and second since 2019. The Minutemen won their first Hockey East conference tournament championship this year with a 1-0 win over Massachusetts Lowell this past Saturday.
Friday’s winner will face either Wisconsin or Bemidji State in the regional final at 5 p.m. Saturday.