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1992 Championship Laker Hockey Team champions

Lake Superior State’s 1992 national championship, which occurred midway through the program’s amazing 10-year dominance in college hockey, was among the most unlikely of LSSU’s success stories.

Led by hall of famers Jim Dowd and Doug Weight, LSSU was projected to win the title in 1991, but Clarkson ended the Lakers’ season during the NCAA Quarterfinals. Players who had accounted for over 100 goals and won Central Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season and playoff titles in 1990-91 had left the program. Second-year head coach Jeff Jackson expected the 1991-92 season, with 10 freshmen and 16 underclassmen, to be a rebuilding year.

Lake Superior State opened 1991-92 by winning 10 of its first 12 games and stunned Michigan in early December by winning 3-2 in overtime and 10-0. The year was not without setbacks, however, as LSSU endured a 3-5-2 stretch in February and lost the regular-season title to the Wolverines.

Lake Superior State cruised through the first two rounds of the CCHA Playoffs, then beat Michigan 2-1. The headline in the Royal Oak Daily Tribune following the playoffs read, “Lakers suffer from Superiority complex.”

Former LSSU sports information director Scott Monaghan wrote, “The Lakers roared into the NCAA Tournament with a six-game winning streak and new-found confidence, which was shaken just enough in a tough opening-round win over the University of Alaska-Anchorage.

“Playing Alaska was good for us,” Jackson said. “It got us back into reality. We realized that we had to be disciplined to survive.”

championship team with bushLSSU expected a tough test from Minnesota during the final round of the NCAA West Regional in Detroit, but the Lakers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and won, 8-3. Rolston, a freshman, dominated the regional with three goals and four assists.

The Lakers’ next opponent was Michigan State – the team they eliminated during the CCHA semifinals – during the NCAA semifinals in Albany, N.Y.

Monaghan wrote, “The teams were deadlocked at two from the 17:22 mark of the second period until senior defenseman Mark Astley slipped a shot past MSU goaltender Mike Gilmore midway through the third. Just under two minutes later, (Sandy) Moger combined with freshman defenseman Tim Hanley and (Wayne) Strachan. Lake State’s tenacious defense held the Spartans to only six shots on goal in the final period as the Lakers advanced to their second NCAA Championship Game in five years.”

hockey coverLSSU battled back from a 2-0 first-period deficit to beat Wisconsin in the title game. Paul Constantin put Lake Superior State on the board in the second period with a power-play goal, and Hanley tied it with six seconds remaining as the Badgers, who had upset No. 1 Michigan during the semifinals, took eight of 12 penalties called during the period. After LSSU’s Michael Smith and Wisconsin’s Jason Zent (who had a hat trick) traded goals, Rolston tallied the game-winner at 15:08. Jay Ness finished off the scoring with an empty-net goal, and Madeley totaled 24 saves.

“I’ve seen him (Jackson) emotional, but nothing like how happy he was at the end,” Astley told Steve Crowe of the Detroit Free Press. “He works so hard, cares so much. You know he’s the reason we’ve been so successful. We’re not a real talented team. We’re just a bunch of blue-collar guys who were led out of nowhere.”

“But the Lakers’ time had come,” Richard O’Brien wrote in the April 13, 1992, issue of Sports Illustrated. “The day before the final Jackson had said, ‘Sometimes when you’re supposed to win, you don’t.’ Then he paused, lest the listener miss the reference to the Clarkson letdown a year before. ‘And sometimes when you’re not supposed to win, you do.’”