Unlike Notre Dame's football team, the hockey
squad at Michigan Tech doesn't bother to touch the sign
they see before hitting the ice for each game. But before
every game they see three words that remind the Huskies
of their mission, for the game ahead, and for their hockey
Defenseman Lars Helminen and the Michigan Tech Huskies
are off to a nice start this season following two
wins at Vermont.
"Raise The Bar," reads the sign
above the door that leads to the ice surface. With their
best start in a decade in progress, the Huskies seem to
be in the process of raising the bar for a fan base that's
stayed loyal through a few rough seasons.
The Huskies may have sent a message to the
college hockey world last weekend, traveling to Gutterson
Fieldhouse at Vermont (a place Huskies coach Jamie Russell
knows well from his time as an assistant at Cornell) and
sweeping the nationally-ranked Catamounts. After having
dismal starts to the past two seasons (Tech was 1-16-1 on
New Years' Day 2005, and 4-17-1 on New Years' Day 2006),
the Huskies 3-1-0 mark thus far is a nice change of pace.
"It's a real contrast to the previous
two seasons when we were so young and really struggled before
Christmas," said Russell, now in his fourth season
as the head coach for his alma mater. "This year's
team has been getting the win on Friday night, and then
challenging themselves not to be satisfied with a split
on Saturday night."
An example of the "raise the bar"
attitude came in the Huskies physical play versus Vermont.
In Friday's 4-3 overtime win, the visitors had 53 hits recorded.
Russell challenged them to do even more hitting on Saturday,
and the team responded with 59 hits in the first 40 minutes
of a 2-1 win.
In contrast to the freshman-laden teams predicted
to contend for the WCHA title, the Huskies are a more veteran
club that is getting strong play from upperclassmen like
senior defenseman Lars Helminen, whose goal last Friday
was the game-winner. Russell says that in addition to solid
goaltending from the tandem of Michael-Lee Teslak and Rob
Nolan, the team's interchangeable offensive units have kept
opponents off their game thus far.
"Honestly, I can't tell the difference
between our first line and our fourth line most shifts,"
Russell said. "We don't really care about matchups
with the other team because we're so balanced."
While coach and players can hear talk of a
resurgence on campus and around town, and feel excitement
building among the Huskies fan base, Russell is quick to
caution anyone about prepping for home playoff games before
"We've had a good start, but that's all
it is – a start," Russell said, "We're totally
focused on Alaska Anchorage right now and can't look any
further down the road."
But the Huskies can look down the tunnel that
leads to the ice sheet at MacInnes Student Ice Arena, and
see three words that remind them, there's a bar to be raised
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE WCHA
Next Stop ... De-icer: The
first big Rocky Mountain snowstorm of the season made for
tricky travel on Thursday. With both Colorado College and
Denver playing series in Minnesota (the Tigers in Minneapolis
and the Pioneers in Duluth) and the white stuff heading
for the Front Range, travel plans changed on the fly.
Wednesday night, with dire snow warnings all
over the news in Colorado Springs, Tigers coach Scott Owens
and his team boarded a bus for Denver and spent the night
there. As predicted, heavy snow started pelting the area
in the middle of the night, and folks in Denver woke up
to bad travel conditions on Thursday morning.
The Pioneers made a slow trek to the airport
and got out of town relatively unscathed, having dealt only
with a flight delay. By mid-afternoon, they'd landed in
the Twin Cities and were on board a Duluth-bound bus for
their date with the Bulldogs.
"We barely made our flight, because traffic
was really bad getting to the airport," said Denver
coach George Gwozdecky. "What's normally a 35-minute
drive took an hour and 20 minutes. We pushed away from the
gate on time, but then with de-icing and other things, we
were on the tarmac for more than an hour and a half before
It wasn't as smooth for the Tigers, who slogged
their way to Denver's airport unsure of their flight status.
Forward Chad Rau, a Twin Cities native, had his journey
to his hometown spread out over more than an hour as the
Tigers crawled through traffic. The team spent the lunch
hour awaiting word from Northwest Airlines as to if and
when they could fly, and watching the snow fly outside the
windows as their scheduled departure time came and went.
Then a fortuitous break in the weather, with
the storm sliding to the south, opened up a window of opportunity,
and the Tigers' eastbound plane was able to take off (after
another hour of de-icing on the tarmac). Although significantly
behind schedule, the team got to Minnesota without further
Great Weekend Getaway
College at Wisconsin
Having seen Boston College and Wisconsin play in Milwaukee
for the NCAA title last April, it's easy to view this
as the marquee matchup in all of college hockey, at
least for this weekend. But the Badgers are a very
different club than the one you saw hoisting a trophy
at the Bradley Center. Gone are four of the best players
from last season (Joe Pavelski, Robbie Earl, Adam
Burish and Tom Gilbert) and Mike Eaves' crew is still
a long way from being perfectly healthy. On the other
bench BC may be reeling just a bit after tumbling
from the top spot in the polls via an unexpected home
loss to Notre Dame last weekend. It's strange to see
two clubs with this much talent searching for identity
and even redemption in Madison this weekend.
While You're There: The renovated
Camp Randall Stadium is always packed for football
as the Badgers usually contend for the Big Ten title.
If you can get a ticket to the game against Illinois
on Saturday, grab it, and be prepared for hours of
fun in a noisy sea of red. And definitely stick around
for the Fifth Quarter, when the Badger Band takes
over the field. A few hours later, they're expecting
another 100,000 or so to converge on State Street
for the town's infamous Halloween bash (new addition
this year – a $5 admission charge). Locals say
it's a combination of Mardi Gras and New Years' Eve,
where the annual riot starts at bar time, and the
usual blaming of out-of-towners for the trouble begins
the following Monday.
only October, but Minnesota's power play is
already putting up some scary numbers. In
last weekend's "not really ever close" sweep
at Ohio State, the Gophers' man-advantage unit scored
eight goals (in 16 opportunities). If the WCHA officials
ever start calling games "new NHL" style,
that could be a very bad thing for Gopher opponents.
we've wanted to see more games at Alaska Anchorage
televised back to the Lower 48, but this season the
Seawolf schedulers seem to have taken a step in the
wrong direction. Friday night games in Anchorage
now start at 7:37 p.m. Alaska time, meaning fans at
Michigan Tech will have to stay up to 11:37 p.m. just
to hear the first faceoff of their game on Jan. 19.
Instead of going later, why not start some Saturday
games at 4 p.m. Alaska time, so they'd be more attractive
to TV folks in Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc., and perhaps
give the UAA program some much needed exposure?
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• In this election season, we took notice
of the political ads running during Golden Gopher radio
broadcasts. Former Minnesota coach Doug Woog has cut a number
of spots plugging current Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's
reelection bid. It makes hockey sense when you note that
Pawlenty, a Republican, is a Minnesota grad, while his Democrat
opponent, Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch, is a native
Duluthian who graduated from UMD. Pawlenty, who trails in
the polls, tried out for the varsity hockey team at South
St. Paul High School when Woog was the head coach there,
but the future chief executive was relegated to J.V.
• If history is any guide, St. Cloud
State rookie forward Andreas Nodl may have a NHL career
in his future, and not just because he's an Austria forward
recruited by Bob Motzko (see also: Vanek, Thomas). In his
first four collegiate games, Nodl leads the Huskies with
three goals and five assists, marking the best start by
a SCSU rookie since current Pittsburgh Penguin Ryan Malone
had seven points in his first three games in 1999.
• North Dakota's trip to Minnesota State
this weekend will be the team's first visit to Mankato in
more than two years. The teams played five times last year
(with the Siuox going 4-1) and all of the games were in
• Denver redshirt freshman Brock Trotter's
torrid scoring pace continues. You'll remember he had five
points in his first five collegiate games last season before
being lost for the year with a severed tendon. Through six
games this season, Trotter leads the Pioneers with eight
points, signaling that a point-per-game average is aiming
too low for him.
• Special teams have been feast or famine
for Minnesota Duluth in the season's first three weeks.
The Bulldogs, despite allowing three shorthanded goals,
have the league's top overall power play, and the league's
worst penalty kill percentage. Knowing Bulldog goalie Alex
Stalock's habit of straying from the crease and feeding
the puck up ice, it sounds like a good power play, and the
occasional shortie against, are going to be facts of life
when he gets the nod in goal.
• It wouldn't be historic, but a win
by Alaska Anchorage on Friday night at Michigan Tech would
be a real rarity. In the Seawolves' 13 previous WCHA openers
since they joined the league in 1993, they've gone 1-12-0.
On Oct. 21, 1994, the Seawolves beat St. Cloud State 5-3
in Anchorage to begin WCHA play 1-0-0 for the only time
in school history.
• It's no surprise that Travis Morin
is leading Minnesota State offensively heading into the
Mavericks home series with North Dakota this weekend. Morin,
who takes a four-game point streak into the meetings with
the Sioux, has 98 career points and is poised to become
the 37th member of the Mavericks' Century Club.
of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report