Lake Superior State extends Whitten to stay Lakers’ coach through 2027-28 college hockey season

Damon Whitten led Lake Superior State to a season full of highlights in 2020-21, including a WCHA championship (photo: LSSU Athletics).

Lake Superior State coach Damon Whitten has agreed to terms on a six-year contract extension to stay with the Lakers through the 2027-28 season.

Whitten, who was named the tenth head coach in program history in April 2014, has led the team to six WCHA playoff appearances, including the program’s first WCHA championship in 2021. In addition, Whitten guided the team to its first NCAA tournament appearance in 25 years during the 2020-21 season as well as the first Great Lakes Invitational championship in program history.

In his seven seasons at Lake Superior State, Whitten has led the program to a 99-133-27 overall record.

“My family would like to express our sincere appreciation to President Dr. Hanley, director of athletics Dr. Paitson, and the leadership team at LSSU for their trust and belief in our staff,” said Whitten in a statement. “I would also like to acknowledge our alumni, donors, students, and fans, and our Laker hockey team, both past and present, who have supported me and my family during the past seven years. As a family, we are excited to continue growing our lives in the Sault while competing for championships with Laker hockey. Above all, we cannot wait to see and hear you all back at Taffy. Go Lakers.”

“I am excited to have Damon Whitten continue as the head coach of our Laker hockey program,” added LSSU president Dr. Rodney S. Hanley. “This is a well-deserved extension as Damon has led us back to national prominence, and I am confident that he will remain committed to Lake Superior State’s proud hockey tradition, not to mention our student-athletes’ academic achievements. I’d like to congratulate Damon and his family for this accomplishment, and look forward to the upcoming seasons of Laker hockey.”

The 2018-19 season marked Whitten’s highest single-season win total behind the bench as the team compiled a 23-13-2 overall record and a 16-10-2 mark in WCHA competition. The 23 wins were the highest single season win total for the program since the 1995-96 season and the first time the team surpassed 20 wins in a season since the 2006-07 season.

On an individual level, Whitten coached forward Diego Cuglietta, who finished the season as the national leader in goals scored with 25. The Lakers hosted a WCHA playoff series for the first time in team history and captured the program’s WCHA playoff series win for the first time as the Lakers defeated Bemidji State in the quarterfinals.

During the 2020-21 season, Whitten guided the Lakers to an historic season as the team finished the regular season second in the WCHA standings, won the program’s first WCHA championship, advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 25 years, posted the program’s 1,000th all-time win, and ended the season with the program’s highest win percentage in 25 years. The Lakers’ season came to a close in the NCAA tournament as the team fell to the eventual national champion UMass in the opening round of the East Regional.

“I am thrilled to have Damon continue his role as head coach of the Lakers,” said Paitson. “Damon has blossomed into a leader and evolved as a coach, becoming better with each passing season. His vision for Laker hockey has come to life as a result of his dedication to the program’s culture and his ability to find innovative ways to advance our program, including through international recruiting and surrounding himself with a skilled staff. I congratulate Damon and his family and look forward to his guidance of Lake Superior State hockey in the years to come.”

In addition to his coaching accomplishments, Whitten has established himself as a dedicated and involved member of the LSSU campus community as well as the greater Sault Ste. Marie region. Whitten has been committed to creating relationships with alumni, fans, and current Lake State students in order to continue the proud tradition of Laker hockey.

One of Whitten’s biggest initiatives has been the implementation of Laker Legion, a student-fan organization that aims to spread Laker pride from the stands of the Taffy Abel Arena to the campus and community. Whitten was heavily involved in advocating, planning, and promoting the Lakers regular season game that took place in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., at GFL Memorial Gardens in Feb. 2020.