Adversity Nothing New for Michigan Tech
When harsh winter weather forced Michigan
Tech to cancel classes on Wednesday, for what is believed
to be only the third time in school history, there was concern
that the hockey team would have trouble getting to Alaska
Anchorage for this weekend's series. Thankfully, by the
time the cancellation order came down, the Huskies were
Goaltender Michael-Lee Teslak and senior forward Peter
Rouleau (14), pictured in a game last season, played
a big role in last weekend's win and tie against Colorado
Seeing the freezing rain, and hearing reports
of snow, wind, plunging temperatures and dangerous wind
chills that were to come, Huskies coach Jamie Russell loaded
up his team late Tuesday night, and shortly after Midnight
in the opening minutes of Wednesday morning, their bus was
headed through the dark and cold toward the Minneapolis/St.
Paul airport and a flight to the Last Frontier.
If, like many of their conference rivals,
the Huskies had been raided by the NHL in recent years and
their roster was dominated by freshmen and sophomores, Russell
admits he might have been concerned about changing plans
on the fly. But on this veteran-laden team, where most players
are spending their third or fourth winter in Houghton, the
quick change due to the weather, and packing to leave for
a Friday road game on Tuesday night, was just more of the
"On a younger team, I'd be more concerned
about it," Russell said by phone from MSP while the
Huskies waited to board their Anchorage-bound plane. "But
these are a lot of the same guys who swept Minnesota in
Minneapolis two years ago when we showed up at the rink
20 minutes before warm-ups due to snow. So for many of these
players it's like, 'been there, done that.'"
Of course, being on the road is nothing new
for these Huskies either. Between Dec. 26 and Jan. 13, they
spent a total of three days in Houghton, and their win and
tie versus league-leading Colorado College last weekend
at MacInnes Student Ice Arena was their first WCHA series
at home since a Nov. 9-10 affair with St. Cloud State. For
Russell, the three-point weekend versus the Tigers was a
nice start on what he hopes is a push for home ice in the
final six weekends of the season, but even more encouraging
was the quintet of goals his team scored in Saturday's 5-2
win – a rare offensive breakout for a defense-first
Earlier in the season, in a home-and-home
series with Northern Michigan, the Huskies out-shot their
rivals 65-24 for the weekend, but managed just one goal,
tying 1-1 and losing 2-0. By contrast, leadership by upperclassmen
was the key in taking three points from the Tigers, as the
team's three top scorers – Peter Rouleau, Tyler Shelast
and Jimmy Kerr (all of them seniors) – scored in the
"They really stir the drink for our offense,"
said Russell, who got some good news in goal last weekend
too. After missing more than a month due to injury, top
goaltender Michael-Lee Teslak made his return to the Huskies
crease and backstopped the 2-2 tie on Friday. Not that Rob
Nolan truly struggled as Tech's goaltender of record in
Teslak's absence. Nolan had gone 3-4-0 in seven consecutive
starts, which included a sweep at Mercyhurst, a 29-save
win over defending national champ Michigan State, and 45
saves in the Huskies 1-0 two-overtime loss to Michigan (then
ranked no. 1 in the nation) in the Great Lakes Invitational
title game. Russell notes that the net took a beating that
night, as his team hit "two pipes and two crossbars"
at Joe Louis Arena.
All of those trials, Husky fans hope, are
giving the team the experience they need to secure a top-five
finish in the WCHA, which would mean home playoff games
in Houghton for the first time in more than a decade. The
coach knows that unlike some other league rivals, he has
the luxury of letting upperclassmen lead the way down the
"We have a pretty good senior class,
and a big junior class, so there are a lot of guys who have
been through the wars in the WCHA," Russell said. And
after making their first-ever appearance at the Xcel Energy
Center last season, a sought-after return trip to the WCHA
Final Five would give those Tech upperclassmen a familiar
Been there, done that.
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE WCHA
Bye-Week Blues: It's another
bye weekend for those other Huskies – the St. Cloud
State variety. A win and a tie versus Minnesota on Jan.
11-12 was followed by a weekend off. Then last weekend's
pair of losses versus Minnesota State is being followed
by another bye week, which some would see as a little too
much idle time in the worst part of a Minnesota winter.
For Huskies coach Bob Motzko, it's not the
two free weekends that have him concerned, it's one particularly
brief stretch last Friday that's raised the most red flags.
"Versus the bye weeks or anything else,
I just wish we'd played better for eight minutes,"
Motzko said, referring to his team's 3-0 lead that became
a 5-3 loss in the final eight minutes of their game at Minnesota
State last Friday. "We play better for eight minutes,
you and I aren't talking right now."
Perhaps of biggest concern to Motzko and the
noisy army of Huskies fans out there is the fact that after
letting several leads slip away in the third period early
this season, the trend seemed to have reserved itself in
the month leading up to the Minnesota State series. Tied
1-1 with Harvard at the Ohio Hockey Classic on Dec. 30,
the Huskies won 4-1 via a trio of late goals. A week later
they trailed North Dakota 2-0 at home in the third before
scoring the final three goals to win. And trailing Minnesota
4-1 with 21 minutes left in regulation, the Huskies rallied
for a 4-4 tie.
Motzko said the collapse in Mankato was a
result of "everyone running around trying to do someone
else's job," and there were lingering effects the next
night in St. Cloud, when the Minnesota State again rallied,
turning a 2-0 Huskies lead into a 5-3 Mavericks win.
"I'm sure it had an effect on what we
did on Saturday, because we weren't very good," Motzko
So they Huskies sit for another weekend, pondering
what happened, what lies ahead and where they fit in the
increasingly muddled middle of the WCHA pack. One benefit
of the idle hours is a chance to get healthy, after two
of St. Cloud State's biggest offensive impact players –
Ryan Lasch and Nate Dey – were forced to leave last
weekend's games due to injury. Motzko said Lasch will be
back next weekend when the Huskies travel to Colorado College.
For Dey the situation is less clear, after he had knee surgery
this week, but the coach said there are hopes for a quick
Still, even with all of this time to crunch
numbers, analyze tape and concentrate on self-discovery,
the Huskies' return to late-game trouble is a puzzlement
to the coach.
"It'd be an easy out to blame youth,
but that's not it," Motzko said. "What's been
hard with our team is that we're all over the map, and it's
harder to put your finger on things."
It sounds like a little more time off might
be beneficial for a team that wants to be at home, as opposed
to all over the map, come playoff time.
Great Weekend Getaway
at Minnesota State
(Fri.-Sat.) There's plenty to prove on both benches this
weekend when Denver visits Minnesota State for a pair
at the Alltel Center. The Pioneers want to show that
the recent two-game losing streak was nothing that
a weekend's worth of rest can't cure. The Mavericks
are out to build on last weekend's sweep of St. Cloud
State and re-insert themselves into the race for the
upper half of the WCHA standings.
While You're There: Just a short
drive west of Mankato is the charming riverside town
of New Ulm, Minn. Down the bluff from the imposing
statue of Herman the German sits August Schell Brewing
Company, where they've been making liquid magic (including
regional favorite Grain Belt Premium) for nearly 150
years. This weekend is the brewery's
annual Bock Fest which features fun ways for all
ages to chase away the winter blahs.
if you've heard this story line before, but there's
a guy named Johnson helping Wisconsin win some games.
Admirably filling the big, big skates of his grandfather
Badger Bob, and his father Mark, was rookie forward
Patrick Johnson, who had a goal and an assist in Bucky's
2-2 tie with Minnesota last Saturday, and was named
WCHA Rookie of the Week.
building filled to capacity on a cold, snowy winter
night, the history, tradition, band and fans at Michigan
Tech's MacInnes Student Ice Arena can combine to make
for a magical college hockey atmosphere. So why were
there nearly 2,000 unsold tickets last Friday when
the top team in the WCHA came to visit?
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• It's more than just a big non-conference
series, and a possible NCAA playoff preview, when eastern
power Clarkson visits Colorado College this weekend. The
series will also serve as the background for a celebration
of the 70th Anniversary of Tigers hockey. The program famously
got its start as an after-dinner entertainment option for
guests at the posh Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs,
and the Tigers' original home, Broadmoor World Arena, was
the site of the Frozen Four for the tournament's first decade.
• Letting leads slip away is a problem
in St. Cloud, and just down I-94 in Minneapolis as well.
Last Saturday's 2-2 tie at Wisconsin was Minnesota's fifth
tie of the season, and in all five they have led the game
only to see their opponent knot the score. The Gophers have
been out-scored by WCHA foes to the tune of 26-7 in the
third period this season, but have out-shot their opponents
in the final stanza. Go figure.
• With two wins at UMass Lowell last
weekend, Minnesota Duluth won both ends of a road series
for the first time in their last 26 tries. Their last sweep
while wearing the dark sweaters came at Michigan Tech in
October of 2004 when the Bulldogs were (briefly) ranked
No. 1 in the nation.
• If you have tickets for this weekend's
series between North Dakota and Minnesota in Minneapolis,
consider yourself fortunate. The last 26 times the Fighting
Sioux have visited Mariucci Arena have been sellouts. The
current seven-game winning streak by the Sioux, which has
moved them into second place in the WCHA, is the longest
since Dave Hakstol took over the head coaching reins in
• Fans in Alaska hoping to see a shutout
should get to Sullivan Arena this weekend for the series
with Michigan Tech. No promises, but the numbers say the
odds are good, as Alaska Anchorage has recorded three shutout
wins over the Huskies since joining the WCHA in 1993, which
is the most versus any conference opponent.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. Jess Myers can be reached