Club Sports at Lake Superior State University


The mission of the Club Sports Program is to attract and retain students to Lake Superior State University while providing an organized, safe, competitive arena for students to participate in sport. Club sports are designed to foster skills such as discipline, commitment, critical thinking, confidence, passion, trust, resiliency, team-work, social and personal growth.  A gateway of pride is recognized for Lake Superior State University on campus, in the greater Sault Ste. Marie community, and in the cities of which the sports teams travel.

LSSU Making History

This Fall 2020 marks the inaugural season of Men’s and Women’s DII Hockey! This season we have hired a Sports Director, Full-time experienced coaches, and LSSU has joined the ACHA. LSSU gives students a chance to still compete at a competitive level and be a part of an amazing college experience. Who do you know that would benefit from playing at LSSU? If you or someone you know wants the opportunity to play DII hockey at a quality institution please contact Ruthann Cantile 507-304-1093

The American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) is the national governing body for non-NCAA college hockey. It is the only non-NCAA college hockey partner recognized by USA Hockey. This allows member teams and athletes to be covered by USA Hockey insurance and other USA Hockey benefits. The ACHA teams compete against one another for season standings and the top teams in each division participate at the ACHA Nationals in Massachusetts in 2021. For more info on the ACHA see:


Anyone that is interested in helping with an in-kind gift or a monetary donation to the club sports program should contact Andrew Rubinstein at the Foundation Office: 248-765-4527


Eligibility and Cost to Participate

By registering for full-time coursework (minimum of 12 credits) and maintaining a 2.0 GPA you are eligible to play hockey and virtually all of your competition costs are covered including:

  • USA hockey registration and insurance
  • Ice fees
  • Referee fees
  • Transportation to and from games
  • Team Hotel Stay
  • Team Meals
  • Equipment
  • Locker room

There is a modest LSSU Club Sports Participation fee, required by all club athletes.

Coaching Staff: 

Steven Kaunisto, born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, played his youth hockey in the Soo AND played NCAA DI hockey for the Lakers. Steve earned his BA degree from Lake Superior State University in Finance and Economics with a minor in Marketing. Steve went on to play 10 years of professional hockey in the ECHL, CHL, and SPHL.

Steve’n’s wife, Abby, is the Clinic Coordinator at Bay Mills Health Center. When Steven isn’t playing or coaching hockey he enjoys being with his family and two dogs.

“Coach Kaunisto’s biggest strength is his wealth of knowledge of the game and the ability to teach hockey skills and systems to his players. He also has an honest, compassionate, direct communication style that players respect and appreciate. Along with being the Head Coach of the men’s program he will also assist the women’s hockey program with scouting, recruiting, campus visits, and practice planning execution.” Ruthann Cantile, LSSU Director of Club Sports

“I am very excited to be able to stay in the game of hockey and to help the student-athletes continue to grow both on and off the ice. I am also looking forward to be able to grow the sport of hockey in my hometown that helped make me the person I am today. I am looking for student-athletes that strive to push themselves to be better in the classroom as well as on the ice.” Steve Kaunisto, LSSU Men’s ACHA Head Hockey Coach

Matthew Parker, born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, played his youth hockey in the Soo as well AND has been a proud supporter of the LSSU NCAA DI team since birth.  As a USA Hockey Certified Level 4 Coach he has over 15 years of coaching experience with the Soo Firehawks, JR A Hockey, St. Ignace Firehawks, midget hockey, and the LSSU ACHA DII men’s hockey club. His wife Abby is an ER Nurse at War-Memorial Hospital and supervises Nursing Clinicals at LSSU. Matt and Abby have two daughters that enjoy skating, being outdoors, and working on projects with their parents.

“Coach Parker’s enthusiasm, dedication, and loyalty to Laker Hockey shines through and through. We look forward to him sharing that passion in the recruiting process with our current and future student-athletes. He is a student and a teacher of the game.  His ability to connect with people and maintain solid relationships are a huge asset to our program. He will do well serving the LSSU community with his time and talents.  Along with being the Head Women’s Hockey Coach he will also assist our Men’s program with scouting, recruiting, campus visits, and practice planning execution.” Ruthann Cantile, LSSU Director of Club Sports

“I am beyond ecstatic to be offered this opportunity to be a part of this ground-up program at LSSU. I look forward to the challenge of creating a competitive team but more importantly helping young people develop on and off the ice. This is going to help draw more positive nation-wide attention to the University and give the students a great college experience.” Matt Parker, LSSU Women’s ACHA Head Hockey Coach

Director of Club Sports

Ruthann Cantile, Director of Club Sports, grew up in Cheboygan, MI.  Ms. Cantile played hockey in Cheboygan and the Ice Arena is named after her father, Ralph G. Cantile, who coached and managed the arena for many years. Along with hockey she played boys soccer, volleyball, and softball at Cheboygan Area High School.  Ruthann continued playing and coaching club hockey in college at Western Michigan University, where they won a National title in 1998 in Lake Placid, NY. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education.  Ms. Cantile coached/managed at many levels and has been in on the ground floor of most of these programs.

Historically, she was the youngest NCAA DI Head Women’s Hockey Coach in the country at Bemidji State University. After coaching at BSU she went on to coach at Minnesota State University, where their staff earned Western Collegiate Hockey Association WCHA Coach of Year honors in 2004.  Ms. Cantile coached both of her kids, Mariah (25) and JD (18) in their various youth sports. She earned a Master Degree in Sport Administration in 2006, and in 2010 she began her own financial consulting business. Ruthann is a passionate, self-driven, competitive spirit that aspires to bring students with the same qualities to Lake Superior State University and provide them with the opportunity to play the sport they love.

As Director of Club Sports her goal is to bring exposure to the University and comb the region looking for the most qualified coaches and student-athletes that fit the culture of LSSU. By cultivating strong relationships and creating a bond with these folks awareness, participation, pride, and funding become present and strengthen the community. For the 2020-2021 season the first two sports we are offering are Men’s and Women’s Hockey and plan to add two new teams every year for the next 5 years.  Soon we will announce the sports teams LSSU will endorse in 2021-2022.

Upcoming Schedule Information

Practice Schedule (Coming Soon)

Our rink is owned and operated by the University and we are fortunate enough to get prime time practice hours. *You do not need a car while you are here, because the rink is on campus, and you are not driving yourself to away games.

Home Games are played ON CAMPUS at the:

Clarence “Taffy” Abel Arena is a 4,000-seat hockey arena in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan on the campus of Lake Superior State University. The arena is part of the Norris Center student athletic complex, which was built in 1976 and includes the 2,500-seat Cooper Gymnasium and other sports facilities for the school. The arena itself dates back to 1976; it was renovated and remodeled to its current larger form in the summer of 1995 following the Lakers’ run of three national championships and eight straight NCAA tournament appearances, which continued into the first year of the arena. It was named after American ice hockey player Clarence “Taffy” Abel, who was born in Sault Ste. Marie. It is the only on-campus hockey arena in the United States which has a seating capacity greater than the enrollment of the school for which it’s used. Our team has a designated locker room space in the arena.


Frequently Asked Questions About Club Sports

Admission to LSSU

It is FREE to apply at and within a week of application our admissions representatives will have a determination for you.  Once you are accepted you will then be directed to the Financial Aid office where they can determine your family contribution towards the educational costs, and notify you of any academic or need based scholarships available to help keep your cost to a minimum.

On-campus living community

Our club sport athletes are housed together in the same dormitories.  This creates a comfortable environment providing common interest relationships and helps develop a sense of belonging. Once you are committed to a team, our housing director assigns the roommate pairings and connects you with another club sport athlete.

Academic Programs

Academic Support

Our coaching staff holds you accountable to get your academic responsibilities done first and they hold weekly study hall, monitor your progress, assign you an accountability partner, and give you the tools to communicate effectively with your professors if you need to miss class for an athletic event. We also have academic support services on campus, which is open to everyone. The Academic Success Center (ASC) provides free academic support to all registered Lake State students- from their first year to graduation. Our goal is to assist students in finding academic success while building their confidence, independence, and self-esteem.


LSSU will provide you a helmet, home and away jerseys & socks, practice jerseys, hockey pant shell, gloves, and tape.  We have an equipment manager that washes, dries, and delivers laundry throughout the week and after competition. Our equipment manager will also sharpen your skates and will repair any equipment needs.

 Want to Get Involved?

Alumni, current students, faculty/staff, and LSSU supporters have the opportunity to get involved as advocates for our club teams!  We are creating a group that would like to be actively involved with the club sport initiative. This group works together to bring ideas to the table for fun social events, fundraising efforts, support awareness, and donate their time and talents to LSSU club sports. Anyone who has a passion for this project should contact Ruthann Cantile at 507-304-1093.

What is the ACHA?

The American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) is the national governing body for non-NCAA college hockey. It is the only non-NCAA college hockey partner recognized by USA Hockey. This allows member teams and athletes to be covered by USA Hockey insurance and other USA Hockey benefits. The ACHA hosts two divisions for women’s collegiate club teams – D1 and D2.  There are currently 25 women’s teams in the D1 division and 53 women’s teams in three geographical divisions in D2. These teams compete against one another for season standings and the top teams in each division participate at the ACHA National Tournament held in April. 2020’s Nationals will be in Texas. 2021’s will be in Massachusetts. For more info see:

What’s the difference between ACHA & NCAA?

Teams in the NCAA are recognized by their school as having varsity standing – indicating that the institution is responsible for the program. NCAA schools are also divided into divisions determined by school size and budget. So large, state schools (aka UM, MSU, etc.) are considered “D1” schools and smaller private schools are “D3” (aka Adrian, Hope, Finlandia, etc.) NCAA D1 (and D2) programs can offer athletic scholarships. NCAA D3 schools can offer financial aid packages that may recognize a student’s athletic interests, but they don’t dedicate a direct sport-specific scholarship to their students. It is unusual to find an NCAA D1 student participating in multiple sports since attending an NCAA D1 school for sport is usually a full-time job in that sport – the athlete should expect to be focusing on the highest possible development with the school’s resources available to ensure success. NCAA D3 schools often recruit equally talented student athletes but they recognize that the student may be looking for multi-sport or multi-activity opportunities. NCAA D3 schools also provide resources to ensure the student is successful athletically, academically or in other areas of interest. There are ~36 NCAA D1 Women’s teams and ~67 NCAA D3 teams. In Michigan, there are no NCAA D1 programs. There are two NCAA D3 teams – Adrian and Finlandia. If you are interested in being an NCAA athlete, be sure to visit:

So ACHA is a “CLUB” organization?

The ACHA developed as increasing numbers of college club programs matured across the country. The rules that govern the play of ACHA teams is very well established. However, the administration of programs, and their institution’s engagement, vary WIDELY across the ACHA. The ACHA D1 women’s teams are often more established programs, there are D2 teams that have deep histories as teams. Generally, D1 teams are recognized by their schools and receive some institutional support. Generally, D2 teams are organized by the students and may/may not have institutional support. LSSU Hockey teams are treated as “varsity” programs, the sports resources are provided by the school, and coaches/staff are paid for as school employees.

What is CCWHA?

The CCWHA is a league for collegiate women’s’ club hockey teams. Benefits to being in the CCWHA include automatic scheduling opportunities with other CCWHA teams, membership in the ACHA, and an automatic bid to Nationals for the winning D1 and D2 teams in our league playoffs. Teams in our league offer a wide variety of options for playing hockey – from large public campuses to small private schools. All of our teams call themselves “club” but many teams are supported by their institution and offer resources to make it easier to be both a student and an athlete at their school. For more info see:

Key points

  • The NCAA and the ACHA are not the same.
  • Schools may use the term “varsity” and you should investigate what they mean by that.
  • NCAA D1 school can give athletic scholarships.
  • Some schools in the ACHA may offer financial aid packages influenced by your athletic ability.
  • Be sure you like the school you are applying to – not just the hockey team! Do you like the campus, the class size, the academic programs, the people you meet on site (not just the smiling cool faces online!)?
  • Ask a lot of questions. The better informed you are, the more confident you can be that you’re making a good choice for you.