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Lakers ink hockey coach to six-year extension

Fresh off an appearance in the NCAA tournament, Laker hockey coach Damon Whitten earned a contract extension
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Damon Whitten has signed a six-year contract extension to coach the Lake Superior State hockey team.

Whitten, who has been behind the bench for Lake State since April 2014, helped guide the Lakers to its first NCAA tournament appearance in 25 years in 2020-21.

The contract extension will run through the 2027-28 season.

The Lakers went 19-7-3 last season, which included a 9-5-0 record in Western Collegiate Hockey Association conference action to finish second in the regular season.

In the playoffs, after an opening round win over Alabama Huntsville, the Lakers beat Bemidji State 4-1 in the conference semi-final before beating Northern Michigan 6-3 in the championship game to win the conference title and earn the WCHA’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

Despite falling in the East Regional semi-final to the eventual national champion, UMass, the season was a positive one for a program that hadn’t played in a national tournament in so long.

“(They’re) significant,” Whitten said of the recent successful years in an interview shortly after the completion of the season. “It takes a lot to get the headwind going. When the change happens, you get some guys excited to come in with you and play a bigger role as young guys that you might get when you’re more established. Then you have to be able to capitalize off that.”

“We took a step back (in 2019-20) somewhat because we lost some really good young players,” Whitten added. “There were some setbacks along the way. We wanted to get to the championship level much quicker than we did, but it takes time.”

The 2018-19 season saw the Lakers post a 23-12-2 overall record, which included a 16-10-2 mark in conference play.

The 23 wins were the Lakers highest win total since 1995-96.