December 6, 2007
Michigan Tech Does It With Defense

By Jess Myers

The classic rock anthem "Feels Like The First Time" by Foreigner wasn't playing in the Michigan Tech locker room last Friday, but it would've been an appropriate soundtrack.

WCHA Notebook

Michigan Tech defenseman Geoff Kinrade (12) and goalie Michael-Lee Teslak, pictured in a game last season against Minnesota, are among the leaders of one of the WCHA's stingiest defenses.

National TV Schedule

In Tech's come-from-behind overtime win over Minnesota, all three of the Huskies goals were season firsts. The 3-2 victory featured the first career goal by junior defenseman John Schwarz (in his 75th collegiate game) and the first career goal by rookie defenseman Deron Cousens. The overtime winner, a long-range shot that changed directions on its path past Gopher goaltender Alex Kangas, was the first goal of the season by Alex Gagne.

Afterward, a reporter noted to Huskies coach Jamie Russell that the win came because of some unusual sources of offense. Then, after a beat, the reporter asked, "Do you have usual sources of offense?"

The Huskies' 2.36 goals-per-game offensive average isn't the worst in the league (Minnesota State is averaging 2.25) but the message is clear that defense, and scoring by the defenders, is going to be the key if Tech is going to make a return trip to the WCHA Final Five.

In the win over Minnesota (which gave Russell a 4-1-0 record in five games at Mariucci) the defenders scored to erase a 2-0 Minnesota lead, and the goaltender forced overtime when Michael-Lee Teslak stopped Evan Kaufmann on a breakaway in the final minutes of the third. Some goalies would tremble with an opponent coming in all alone and close to 10,000 enemy fans roaring. For Teslak, it was a moment he lives for.

"That's a lot of fun," said the goalie, who's among the WCHA's top four in both key statistical categories. "A guy gets that opportunity, it's up to you to make the save for your team. That's how you win games."

Teslak also noted with a smile that on the play, hebenefited from having a lot of time to prepare, as Kaufmann was in unobstructed from the far blue line.

"He made a number of big, big saves, and obviously the game-changer on the breakaway," said Russell. "He's a kid that has played great for us all year. Really gives us a chance to win by making the saves he's supposed to make, and then making the game-changing save as well. Unfortunately, I don't think we're going to have him as a senior."

That early departure would probably sit just fine with opposing coaches. Minnesota came back for a 3-1 in the Saturday game, but Gopher coach Don Lucia said it's no secret who keys the Huskies successes and the opponents' frustrations.

"Tech's a good team, and when your goalie's playing like he's playing it gives you a lot of confidence," Lucia said. "You know going in that you're going to be in the game. He's going to give you a chance every night."

After improving to 5-2-0 on Nov. 2 with a win at Wisconsin, the Huskies went nearly a month without a victory, as fatigue and injuries mounted. With weekends off before and after the Minnesota series, the Huskies have gotten some much needed downtime to prepare for their arch-rival home-and-home series with Northern Michigan, then a date with defending NCAA champ Michigan State at the Great Lakes Invitational.

"We were pretty banged up when we went into Duluth," said Russell of a loss and tie by the Huskies in late November. "Our first game was on the national start date on Oct. 6, and we'd played every weekend since then. Going into Duluth, I think the count was two knees, two shoulders, a back, an ankle and two groins, so the week off really came at a good time for us."

They started December on a one-game winning streak and with another much needed chance to rest upon retuning from Minneapolis. And with Teslak in goal for their top-notch defense, it sounds like Huskies fans are resting easy too, at least for the remainder of this season.


This View Not Obstructed By Protective Netting: Arena netting is further proof that we're in an era of over-protection in the hockey world. In fact, we might already be there. Currently, Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis is the only WCHA rink without nets on the ends to protect fans from errant pucks, and I've learned that the arena folks there have the nets on hand already, and will install them at the end of the current season.

This piece of protective equipment became standard a few years ago when a young girl tragically lost her life at a Columbus Blue Jackets home game. Since then, every NHL rink and most college hockey rinks have put up the nets. And if looking through a fishnet at hockey games bothers you, life might get much worse in a few years. The folks at Serving the American Rinks (STAR) in Colorado Springs recently told me that we're not far away from netting all the way around the rink becoming standard.

It seems that a woman sitting somewhere between the blue lines at a New York Rangers game last winter at Madison Square Garden was struck by a puck. The accident led to a lawsuit in which the plaintiff is asking why fans on the sides of the rink don't receive the same level of protection as those sitting on the ends.

Here's my take: During the game there is one puck on the ice. If you are not willing to pay attention to that one puck, and prepared to protect yourself (and any children who are with you) in the event that puck flies out of play, the arena and the teams should not be responsible for your protection. Now, warm-ups, when there are dozens of pucks on the ice, are another matter. It's impossible to keep your eye on every puck on the rink before the game, and certainly a risky situation for fans sitting above the glass.

So how about this solution: removable nets that are in place during warm-ups, but lowered to the floor, or raised into the rafters, during the game, giving fans an unobstructed view of the ice. Works for me.

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Minnesota at North Dakota

You never forget your first time. For me, that was December 1984, when I went to Grand Forks on a cold, snowy night to see Minnesota play North Dakota, and was instantly hooked on college hockey. Having witnessed hundreds more college games since then, there's still a special feeling when these border rivals meet. For Minnesota, there may be an extra feeling of dread as the Gophers return to the scene of the crime (their loss to Holy Cross in the 2006 NCAA playoffs) for the first time.

While You're There: Forget the overpriced waterpark on-site and the long hallway that leads to North Dakota's football stadium and the strange fact that there's a hotel named the Canad Inns located in the United States. Focus instead on the hotel's on-site bar, Tavern United, which has the look and feel of an old English pub, complete with great food, huge imported beers on tap and some impressive talent taking beverage orders. Just walk in the hotel's main lobby and hang a left. You'll thank me later.

Stick Salute

Food shelves on Minnesota's Iron Range are hurting, and Minnesota Duluth and the DECC are helping out. Fans who bring a food item to one of the Bulldogs games with Alaska Anchorage will receive a ticket discount for UMD's upcoming game with the US Under-18 Team.

Bench Minor

Referee Max Battimo took quick action last Saturday and tossed MTU's Malcolm Gwilliam from the game for checking from behind, and put the Gophers on the power play for five minutes. Gwilliam's hit wasn't from behind. It was clearly from the side. Call the game tough, but call it right.


• Alaska Anchorage visits the DECC this weekend and has to contend with Minnesota Duluth's renowned defense and goaltending there. That's a familiar story for the Seawolves, who have scored two goals or fewer in eight of their last 10 games in Duluth.

• Colorado College allowed just one goal last weekend, while getting a sweep at Alaska Anchorage, but had a defensive streak snapped in the process. Until Tommy Grant scored a man-advantage goal for the Seawolves last Saturday, the Tigers had killed 31 consecutive penalties and had gone eight games without allowing a PPG.

• With Tyler Ruegsegger and Rhett Rakhshani heading to the World Junior Championships later this month, the Denver Cup might be the premiere of Tyler Bozak's one-man show. The Pioneers rookie is coming on strong, notching his first career game-winner last weekend in a split with North Dakota and scoring seven goals in Denver's last eight games.

• Minnesota's trip to Ralph Engelstad Arena this weekend won't be the only trip where a team will have to face bad memories of an opponent in purple. Wisconsin's trip to Minnesota State this weekend is the first visit to Mankato since the Badgers hit what they called "rock bottom" at the end of the 2005-06 regular season, losing 6-4 and 7-3 to the Mavericks. Of course, that season had a happy ending, some five weeks later, for Badger fans.

• St. Cloud State is not doing any holiday baking this December. At least there are no cupcakes on the horizon for the Huskies. The schedule in the next few weeks features two at home with Denver (currently No. 5 in the INCH Power Rankings), then two at home with fourth-ranked Colorado College. And right after Christmas, the Huskies travel to Columbus to battle top-ranked Miami in the opener of the Ohio Hockey Classic.

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