DETROIT Entering the CCHA Tournament final in 1994, Lake Superior goalie Blaine Lacher had put together a Herculean streak of 375 minutes without allowing a goal.
But, the Lakers were matched up with an incredibly powerful Michigan team that had not been shut out all season and had rolled to a 32-6-1 record and a CCHA regular season title. In addition to that, the Wolverines had defeated Lake Superior in all three of the teams” battles during the regular season.
In the title game, it was Michigan goalie Steve Shields who stole the show. The Wolverines finally broke Lacher”s scoreless stretch, and Shields pitched a shutout of his own for a 3-0 Michigan win and a CCHA title as the Wolverines continued their domination of Lake Superior on the season.
But just one week later, Lake Superior turned around and stunned the top-seeded Wolverines in the NCAA Tournament. The Lakers scored 2:31 into overtime for a 5-4 win in the second round of the tournament, preventing Michigan from capturing its fifth and most important win over the Lakers.
It was simply another benchmark in a rivalry that had become one of the country”s best during the early 1990″s.
“(Lake Superior was) the front-runner in the league for a while,” said former Michigan captain and current Michigan administrative assistant Brian Wiseman, whose career ended in the overtime loss to Lake Superior. “They had been a nemesis of ours, especially back then, for quite a while. They had a lot of local guys that always wanted to play well against Michigan and they seemed to get the best of us more times than not.”
From 1984 to 1992, Lake Superior lost to Michigan just eight times in 42 games.
Even when the Wolverines finally broke through in 1993-94, dominating the Lakers with those four regular season wins, Lake Superior again came out on top. After stunning Michigan in the tournament, Lake Superior went on to capture the national championship.
The frustration that the Lakers dealt Michigan made them one of the Wolverines” most hated opponents.
“It was a lot like what we saw with Michigan State a couple of weeks ago,” Wiseman said. “The crowd was really involved and into it, and that”s how the crowd was when Lake Superior came into Yost.”
But in 1996-97, Michigan took every contest from Lake Superior and thus signaled the end of what had been an exhilarating rivalry. Since that season, Michigan has recorded a 14-5 record against its former rival from the north.
The second win by the Wolverines this weekend served as a microcosm for how much luster the rivalry between the two schools has been lost in the past few years.
Saturday”s game at Joe Louis Arena drew an announced attendance of just 7,928. In addition to being small, the crowd was quiet and disinterested.
“It saddens us that we don”t have a big crowd, but I don”t think we are the draw that we used to be,” Lake Superior coach Frank Anzalone said. “Joe Louis helped us an awful lot years ago, so as long as they want us to do this for the next couple years, we are pleased to do it.”