Tech of a Turnaround
When the first
significant snowfall of the winter hit Minneapolis/St. Paul last
Friday afternoon, traffic in the city came to a virtual standstill.
Nowhere was this point more evident at around 5:30 p.m. than on
the Washington Avenue bridge between downtown Minneapolis and
the University of Minnesota campus, where the bus carrying the
Michigan Tech Huskies was all but parked in gridlock for more
than an hour.
would put some coaches into a panic, second-year Tech skipper
Jamie Russell was amazingly calm, worried only that a late arrival
by his team might mess up the evening’s TV broadcast. The
thought of playing one of the top teams in the nation on the road
was made somewhat easier by the sight of flakes drifting from
the Midwestern sky.
felt like a home game with all the snow,” said Russell afterwards,
apparently yearning for the home of the Huskies, where 100 inches
or more of the white stuff in a winter is routine.
The team had
less than half an hour between the time they finally arrived at
Mariucci Arena and the drop of the puck. Minnesota officials were
kind enough to start the game five minutes late to give the Huskies
a little extra time, but Russell said the late arrival may have
worked to his team’s advantage.
only had about 23 minutes to get our gear on and get out there,”
he said. “It was a little like old time hockey – throw
your gear on and get after it.”
Over the next
27 hours or so, the formerly lowly Huskies (winners of just one
of their first 18 games) got after it to the tune of nine goals,
two wins and the school’s first sweep at Minnesota in 34
years. Michigan Tech is now 4-1-0 since the start of 2005 heading
into this weekend's home series against Colorado College.
nine freshmen on his roster this season, and said that the recent
turnaround may be due to his young players getting some education
in the ways of college hockey.
is a learning experience, and with a young team, you can’t
just say ‘Go win,’ you’ve got to learn to win,”
said the coach.
But in contrast
to the Huskies’ wealth of young talent, it was two of the
team’s prominent seniors who paved the way for the sweep
at Minnesota. Senior forward Colin Murphy had a two goals and
four assists over the weekend, while senior goaltender Cam Ellsworth
had 76 saves in the series, including 11 crucial stops early in
the Friday game when the Gophers came out of the chute like a
team that hadn’t spent hours stuck in traffic.
was good to get through that storm,” said Murphy, recalling
that the Huskies were being out-shot 11-2 at one point of the
first period on Friday. “Our goalie made some big saves
to keep us in the game. The start to our success was defense,
and then we started to generate some offense on the rush.”
The 14 conference
losses the team piled up early in the season are likely too big
a hole to dig out of if the Huskies want home ice in the WCHA
playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. But Russell
has his freshmen learning, his seniors leading and a team gaining
confidence by the day. With Colorado College, Minnesota State
and Minnesota visiting Houghton late in the season, continued
success by Tech could quickly anoint the Huskies as the team nobody
wants to host in the playoffs.
AND HEARD IN THE WCHA
The New Man-nino at DU: A rookie playing for the defending
national champions might be encouraged to keep his eyes open and
mouth shut. Denver freshman goalie Peter Mannino, who has emerged
as the Pioneers regular Saturday night netminder, is finding record-setting
success by taking a bit different approach. He’s keeping
his eyes open, and the goalmouth shut.
Post reporter Mike Chambers noted this week, Mannino was
less than six minutes away from his third consecutive shutout
(which would have been a school record) last Saturday at St. Cloud
State when the Huskies Brock Hooton spoiled the party. The Pioneers
won 6-1 anyway, and Mannino posted another school record in the
rout, setting the Pioneers mark for consecutive shutout minutes
with 178 minutes and 16 seconds without a goal allowed. That was
nearly a full 20-minute period better than the old mark of 158:26
set by Wade Dubielewicz in 2002, when the Pioneers won their last
Great Weekend Getaway
Duluth at Minnesota (Fri.-Sat.)
Two months ago this looked like a great series.
Two weeks ago it looked meaningless. Then the Bulldogs soared
(unbeaten in their last three, including a win and a tie
at then-top-ranked Colorado College last weekend) and the
Gophers swooned (losing twice at home to long-suffering
Michigan Tech for the first time since 1971). Now, a sweep
by the Bulldogs and the Duluthians would overtake Minnesota
in the WCHA standings. The Gophers have much to prove, having
lost their last four home games, and having fallen hard
out of the top spot in the league and in the nation. The
Bulldogs, who went 5-1 versus their archrivals last season,
long ago put away hopes of winning the league title, but
maintain a legitimate shot at home ice if their recent play
is for real.
You’re There: Last season, before the Bulldogs invaded
Mariucci Arena in October (and won twice for just the second
time in school history, signaling the start of what would
be an exciting year), their most die-hard fans invaded Sally’s.
The hard-charging members of the UMD Penalty Box didn’t
leave this noisy Washington Avenue watering hole for the
three-block walk to the rink until the bar bill had topped
$400. One would think that the more superstitious members
of the UMD fan base will be back at Sally’s on Friday
afternoon, hoping to re-create the Mariucci magic.
the folks who buy Badger hockey tickets.
Wisconsin athletic officials this week announced two more
full sellouts of the 15,237-seat Kohl Center for games later
this season, making it all but certain that Badger fans
will break the NCAA record for average season attendance
(they hold the current mark of 12,183, set in the 1998-99
season). There’s no question that the program lost
a fair amount of atmosphere when the Badgers moved from
the always-packed and raucous Dane County Coliseum to the
Kohl Center, but full houses in one of the nation’s
biggest college hockey buildings are going a long way toward
making Madison an intimidating place to play once again.
Edison is an inner-city hockey program run by a dedicated
group of volunteers who are determined that former 1990 Mr.
Hockey winner Joe Dziedzic (a standout at Minnesota for four
years) will not be the last D-I player to come out of northeast
Minneapolis. Their efforts have been hampered in the last
month when some punk (or punks) twice robbed
the program’s charity pull-tab operation in December,
making off with more than $10,000 that would gone to fund
youth hockey. We wish the Minneapolis police well in their
efforts to apprehend the culprit, and hope that, once arrested,
the thief’s sentence includes about a year of playing
goalie with no pads, or helmet.
played very well, and you can see his confidence,” DU coach
George Gwozdecky told the Post. “He’s developed
into a real good second-game goaltender for us.”
9-2 this season and takes a six-game winning streak into this
weekend’s home series with Alaska Anchorage. Gwozdecky said
that Mannino’s fast development as a successful college
goalie has been helped by watching sophomore Glenn Fisher play
on Fridays, and observing how Fisher handles the other team’s
it’s Peter's first season, he’s been able to sit on
Friday and scout the opponent," Gwozdecky said.
TO PICK UP AFTER PRACTICE
• In what has to be a rare occurrence in league
history, road teams went 8-0-2 in WCHA play last weekend. Only
Alaska Anchorage and Colorado College
could do as much as muster a tie at home.
when Denver and Alaska Anchorage get
together, they don’t want it to end. Heading into this weekend’s
series at Magness Arena, the Seawolves have played the Pioneers
42 times previously and nearly one-fourth of those games have
gone to overtime.
St. Cloud State hosts Sacred Heart this weekend,
it will be a first on a few fronts. Not only have the Huskies
and Pioneers never met on ice, it will be the first games St.
Cloud State has ever played versus an Atlantic Hockey club and
the first times that Sacred Heart has faced a WCHA team. OK, it’s
not quite the 1972 Summit Series, but a first is a first, right?
Dakota captain Matt Greene issued an apology to Sioux
fans and will sit out this weekend’s home series with Bemidji
State after running afoul of the law in a small northern Minnesota
town. Greene was arrested in Warroad, Minn., early last Sunday
morning after reportedly failing a breathalyzer test. Apparently,
Greene and some Sioux teammates spent their weekend off doing
some ice fishing on Lake of the Woods.
was a rough weekend for Colorado College last
Friday and Saturday, as a tie and a loss to Minnesota
Duluth knocked the Tigers out of the top spot in the
national polls. But leading scorer Marty Sertich maintained his
torrid offensive pace in the one-point weekend, recording a goal
and four assists to maintain his hold atop the national scoring
chart. Sertich has 45 points in 26 games, and leads the nation
in average points per game with 1.73. Teammate Brett Sterling
is second on the list with 40 points.
Minnesota State, Mankato, Mavericks have this
weekend off, which means it’s a rare time that you won’t
see leading scorer David Backes on the rink. Backes, who hasn't
missed a game in his career at MSU, has skated through some notable
bumps and bruises this season en route to a team-best 21 points
in 20 games.