After eight seasons at the helm of the program, head coach Jim Roque will not have his contract renewed by Lake Superior State for this upcoming year the school announced on Tuesday evening.
Roque compiled a 136-165-46 record over his nine seasons. This past season, Lake Superior got off to a fantastic start this season, going 5-0-1 in their first six games, including a sweep over Union and a tie at Wisconsin. But the Lakers could not maintain that level of success throughout the season. They Lakers struggled to put together back-to-back wins in WCHA league play, and ended their season with four straight losses, eventually losing a tiebreaker to Bemidji State for the final playoff spot.
Though Roque only had three winning seasons at Lake Superior, he developed some outstanding players during his tenure. This season, Lake Superior alums Steve Oleksy, Kellan Lain, Zach Trotman, Derek Smith, and Will Acton all played in the NHL, with Kevin Czuczman likely to follow by the end of the season. Of that group, only Trotman was drafted into the NHL, and that was only in his final year of eligibility after playing a season for Roque in the Soo.
Winning at Lake Superior has been a difficult proposition since the program's glory days of the early-90s. The financial realities of competing in Division I hockey have caught up to the tiny school with an enrollment of just over 3000, in a town of just over 14,000. It's tough to blame any coach for not succeeding under the circumstances Lake Superior has faced in recent years, and looking at the success Roque has had in finding and developing under-the-radar talent, it seems he may have done a better job than most.
That said, as difficult as it is to blame Roque for Lake Superior's struggles, it was likely time for a change. Attendance was dismal at Lake Superior State this season, and with the increased financial costs of the new WCHA, their situation likely needs to improve for the program to have hopes of staying afloat. After seeing the quick turnarounds at places like Michigan Tech, Minnesota State, and Alaska-Anchorage in recent years thanks to coaching switches, it certainly seems worth a try at Lake Superior.