Redefining the Classroom

Hockey Lakers celebrate days gone by, with eye to the future

Posted: July 20th, 2012

A gallery of downloadable photos from 1991-92 hockey team reunion's alumni game and Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony can be found by by clicking here.

A video of the alumni hockey game is here.

A video of the induction ceremony is here.

TAFFY ABEL REUNION– Members of 1991-92 LSSU Laker NCAA I national championship hockey team forms up for a group photo after an alumni game shorty before the team's induction into the LSSU Athletic Hall of Fame on July 13. In front, standing left to right are John Hendry, Danny Angelelli, Jay Ness, Rob Valicevic, Paul Constantin, Mark Astley, and Darrin Wetherill. Middle row, left to right, Mike Bachusz, Anthony Palumbo, Kurt Miller, Sandy Moger, Mike Smith, Jim Peters, Jason Trzcinski. In back, left to right are Paul Pooley, Dave Gilbert, Jeff Jackson, Paul Boyer, Gil Somes, Darrin Madeley, Brad Willner, Doug Laprade. Not pictured is Tim Hanley. (LSSU/John Shibley)

A print-resolution photo that runs with the caption above can be found by clicking here.

Courtesy of The Sault (Ont.) Star

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Amid all of the wide smiles, spirited handshakes and emotional pats on the back Friday, this much was obvious: Members of the 1991-1992 Lake Superior State Lakers won't soon forget their involvement on one of the school's three National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship hockey teams.

“There was a lot of talent on that team. Top to bottom, we were very strong,” said Anthony Palumbo, a volunteer assistant coach and one of two Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., natives who were part of the '91-'92 club. “Every night, someone different was the hero.”

“I remember how tight everyone was,” added Paul Boyer of the Ontario Sault, a student manager with the club. “From freshmen to seniors, everyone was tight-knit. And everyone knew their roles.”

And, pulling the strings, was head coach Jeff Jackson.

“They were very special to me,” Jackson said of the members of the '91-'92 squad. “That was my first championship team.”

Many of the players and staff members who made up that club returned to LSSU for weekend festivities, highlighted by both a 20th anniversary celebration and their induction into the Lake Superior State Athletics Hall of Fame.

Induction ceremonies were held Friday in the Norris Center Gymnasium, following an alumni hockey game played in Taffy Abel Arena.

The 57-year-old Jackson, soon to begin his eighth season as head hockey coach at the University of Notre Dame, spoke of how the previous season (1990-91) played a major role in motivating the second of three Lakers NCAA championship teams in a seven-year span.

“That was the most-talented team we had,” Jackson said of the '90-91 squad, which lost to Clarkson University in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

It was a club that featured the likes of future NHLers Doug Weight and Jim Dowd.

“The disappointment from the year before gave us motivation (in '91-92),” added Jackson, who was an assistant under head coach Frank Anzalone on the Lakers 1987-88 championship squad.

Jackson also led LSSU to the 1993-94 national championship.

“We had a young team in '91-92 and expectations were extremely low.”

But, Jackson quickly pointed out, a club with 10 freshmen and 16 underclassmen, was also well-populated with hardworking players who exuded character.

“A lot of the morals and ideals came down from the top, and from the guys who'd graduated,” remembers the 43-year-old Boyer, who's completed 19 seasons as the head equipment manager of the NHL's Detroit Red Wings. “And that's what makes championship teams.”

Palumbo was one of those players who'd graduated from the Lakers program.

A co-captain on the 1987-88 championship team, Palumbo was cutting his teeth as an assistant coach, allowing him an up-close view of the inner workings on that '92 team.

“You could go into the dressing room and know those guys were close,” Palumbo, now 44, remembered. “At that time, when we were on a roll, it was a typical, successful, Lakers hockey team. I know when I played, we did everything together. We spent our days, and nights, together.”

The '91-92 Lakers won 10 of their first 12 games and stunned the University of Michigan in early December by winning a weekend series 3-2 in overtime and 10-0.

Eventually, however, the Wolverines would capture Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) regular-season honours.

But led by senior netminder Darrin Madeley, forward Brian Rolston and defenceman Tim Hanley, the Lakers made their way through the first two rounds of the CCHA playoffs.

They then beat Michigan 2-1 to win the CCHA championship.

LSSU defeated Alaska-Anchorage in the NCAA West Regional in Detroit, before stopping Minnesota in the finals.

Future NHLer Rolston, just a freshman that season, was outstanding in the regionals with three goals and four assists.

The NCAA tournament was played in Albany, N.Y., and the Lakers opened with a 4-2, semifinal victory over Michigan State.

In the tournament finale, Lake State rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat Wisconsin 5-3 when Rolston broke a 3-3 tie with 4:52 left in regulation.

Jay Ness added an empty net goal and Hanley, Paul Constantin and Michael Smith also scored for the winners.

Madeley finished with 24 saves as the Lakers capped an impressive 30-9-4 campaign.

“The guys understood their roles on that team and Jeff Jackson did a great job of helping guys do that,” Palumbo recalled. “He had a way of putting the parts together. And Madeley was great for us. He was a hell of a goaltender.”

“Everyone was on the same page,” added Boyer. “Madeley was outstanding and you start building with a great goalie. I have great memories of those days. That was a very special team.”

Jackson says he keeps in contact with a lot of his former players, but called it “awesome” to meet up with those he hasn't seen in many years.

“That season was a very special time for me. I have great memories from this city and most of them have to do with the people here,” he said. “This is a community-based team and we got great support. And when you win a championship together, that stays with you for a lifetime.”


CONTACTS: John Shibley, e-mail, 906-635-2314; Tom Pink, e-mail, 635-2315; Susan Fitzpatrick, Alumni Relations, e-mail, 635-2831; Linda Bouvet, Sports Information, e-mail, 635-2601.