February 9, 2007
Huskies Bringing Positive Attitude to Stretch Run

By Jess Myers

Last week was a trying one for at least one member of the Michigan Tech Huskies, on and off the ice. But a positive attitude led to an on-ice point where there otherwise might have been none to be had.

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Michigan Tech's Lars Helminen dealt with a death in his family, and then returned to the lineup to help the Huskies to a tie at Minnesota State.

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Huskies senior defenseman Lars Helminen had barely come down from his team getting a win and tie versus Colorado College when a call from suburban Detroit that nobody wants to field came from his parents.

"I got a call Monday morning from my mother telling me that my grandpa was really ill, and it could be two hours or two days," Helminen said. "I was up (in Houghton) and got the call and took a trip downstate for the wake and the funeral."

His 77-year-old paternal grandfather was laid to rest on Friday morning, and just a few hours later Helminen was on a plane bound for Minnesota. He got to Mankato a few hours before the Huskies game with Minnesota State, and wasted no time getting into the action. Helminen had one assist and hit the pipe at least once as Tech rallied from an early 2-0 hole for a 2-2 tie.

"He logs a ton of ice time for us," said Huskies coach Jamie Russell after the game. "He's skating so well and he's done that his whole career. He's bringing the puck up ice with so much confidence and is great at leading by example."

Russell said the defenseman's play, and mindset, is a perfect example of the attitude he tries to instill in players.

"We're a team that plays on emotion and it's got to be positive emotion. Kicking the boards and banging your stick on the ice isn't going to help anybody," Russell said. "With what he's gone through with a death in the family and a busy couple days, as the game wore on he was stronger and stronger."

The Huskies suffered a tough overtime loss the next night, but head into the final month of the season still fighting for their first home ice position in more than a decade. And a chance of wearing white sweaters in the playoffs seems to inspire all of the positive emotion that this team needs.


Shorties are the specialty in Mankato: Minnesota State coach Troy Jutting gives his penalty killers permission to stay up high instead of sucking in toward the net. The result so far has been a league-high seven short-handed goals for the Mavericks this year.

Last Friday versus Michigan Tech, with the Mavs already leading 1-0 and killing a penalty, Jon Kalinski waited until a pass was en route from Huskies defenseman Drew Dobson to Lars Helminen, then pounced on the play.

"I caught (the puck) at the same time the guy came through," Helminen said. "I didn't even see him coming and as soon as I got the puck, the guy was already past me."

Kalinski came in all alone on Huskies goalie Michael-Lee Teslak from the far blue line, and thwarted the poke-check attempt to score his 13 goal of the season, and fourth short-hander, which ties him for the NCAA lead and tied a school single-season record. In his normal understated way, the Mavs coach likes what he sees.

"Our penalty kill has been really good," said Troy Jutting. "We've been creating opportunities for ourselves."

Bulldogs feeling better: Minnesota Duluth pulled off an impressive road win in Denver last Saturday, grabbing an early lead and holding off several attempts to rally by the Pioneers. The Bulldogs coach says a full lineup is the key to his team playing better in the last few weeks.

"We're healthy for the first time all year," said Scott Sandelin, as his team prepared for a weekend off. "We've shown that we're not deep enough to have three or four guys out of the lineup."

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Denver at Michigan Tech

With league-leading Minnesota off this weekend, the Pioneers are hungry to make up some ground on the Golden Gophers after a surprising home loss to Minnesota Duluth last weekend. After getting just one point out of Mankato in their last series, the Huskies are sensing time might be running out if they're to make a run at home ice.

While You're There: It's Winter Carnival weekend in Houghton, which means a full slate of fun events and snow sculpture viewing surrounding a pair of hockey games. The Saturday hockey game is an early start (5 p.m. EST) and is followed immediately by a torchlight parade (across Portage Lake at the school-owned Mont Ripley ski area) and a fireworks show.

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Well-deserved recognition was bestowed upon a good friend and INCH contributor Jeff Sauer recently when he was elected to the athletic hall of fame at his alma mater, Colorado College. Sauer playerd for the Tigers in the 1960s, later coached CC and Wisconsin to 655 wins and two NCAA titles over the course of more than 30 seasons behind a college hockey bench.

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Minnesota Duluth has the league's best power play, and the league's worst penalty kill. Conversely, Michigan Tech has the league's worst power play and the best penalty kill. So how does it makes sense that the Bulldogs lead the league in combined special teams, while Tech is ranked 10th in the same category?

Much like other coaches in the league, Sandelin said the bye weekend might be as important as any league points at this point of the season, as the Bulldogs battle to escape the league cellar.

"We get guys a chance to rest up and heal up," he said. "After this, we shouldn't hear any excuses about guys being tired down the stretch."


• Their January slump notwithstanding, Minnesota apparently hasn't forgotten how to crank up the offense when needed. The Gophers' 8-2 win in Anchorage last Friday was their second eight-goal outburst of the season. They beat Michigan 8-2 on Thanksgiving weekend.

• If Andreas Nodl felt jealous at all when fellow St. Cloud State rookie Ryan Lasch got a national honor this season, it didn't last long. Lasch was named the national rookie of the month in November, and Nodl, who had 11 points in eight games in the month, got the same national nod for January.

• Mike Eaves enters this weekend's series with Alaska Anchorage with a 99-75-21 all-time record coaching his alma mater. One more win and Eaves will become the third Badgers coach (after Bob Johnson with 367 and Jeff Sauer with 489) to win 100 games.

• With him leading the WCHA in goals (with 21) and ranking third in the nation in the same category, it's not surprising to hear Ryan Duncan's name being kicked about in Hobey talk. Solid offensively all season, Duncan really opened eyes during North Dakota's sweep at Minnesota, notching four goals and three assists in the two games, and earning WCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors.

• It's a common fact of college hockey that one can have a good time in Madison, even if you have to travel across four time zones to get there – which is the case for Alaska Anchorage this weekend. While some teams tout a home ice advantage, Alaska Anchorage seems to thrive on road trips to Wisconsin. Of the Seawolves 10 all-time wins over the Badgers, seven of them have been in Madison.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report. Jess Myers can be reached at jess@insidecollegehockey.com.