February 13, 2003
Tech's Turnaround
Second half surge has Huskies' hopes high

By Mike Eidelbes

Michigan Tech junior forward Brett Engelhardt (photo courtesy WCHA.com)

West Notebook

This week's schedule

This week's East Notebook

Send feedback to west@insidecollegehockey.com

Story Archives

Michigan Tech’s hockey program is rich in tradition – three NCAA championship banners hang from the rafters of the team’s arena and legendary names such as Macinnes, Esposito and Zuke made their marks in Copper Country.

In recent seasons, however, the Huskies have been synonymous with losing…and losing badly. Tech has won 10 or more games once during the six previous seasons, and the team has finished no higher than seventh in the WCHA standings during that span.

The Huskies are likely headed for another second-division finish in the conference this season; that being said, there’s reason for optimism on the Keewenaw Peninsula. Coach Mike Sertich’s squad is 6-5-1 since the holiday break and, following a convincing 5-2 win at North Dakota last Saturday, Tech is 4-2-0 in its last six outings.

“When I was younger, the wins and losses were really important,” Sertich says, “but I think in the last 10 or so years, it’s the fight that has become intriguing to me. I’m happy for the program and I’m really happy for the (recruiting) efforts of our two assistant coaches…it’s beginning to pay some dividends for Michigan Tech hockey.”

Sertich says the team that once played a pro style – read: slow and physical – has morphed into a club that can compete on both standard rinks and the Olympic-sized sheets common in the WCHA.

“It dictates that you get a little bit more hand skill and more foot speed because of where you play over half your schedule,” Sertich explains. “By the same token, when you play on the smaller sheet, you like to have that ability to go up and down the rail if that is the type of game you’re playing on that type of rink.”

Tech still has a few prototypical bangers – guys like junior wing Brett Engelhardt (6-foot-2, 206 pounds, 22 points), sophomore forward Bryan Perez (6-1, 209, 24 points) and the college game’s version of Zdeno Chara in rearguard John Scott (6-7, 235). However, spitfire forwards such as freshman Chris Conner (5-8, 175, 27 points, third among WCHA freshmen in scoring) and sophomore Jon Pittis (5-5, 155, 20 points) add an element that has been missing in the lineup for some time. Throw in Cam Ellsworth (9-15-3, .900 sv%) – the most reliable netminder to don the black and gold since Jamie Ram – and there’s no need to explain the team’s marked improvement.

“Our kids realize when (Cam) is on his A-game, there’s not that tendency to look over their shoulders and hope the puck doesn’t go in,” Sertich says. “They can play with a little more freedom, and I think that increases the opportunity to be creative. We tell kids, ‘The reason you’re here is because you’re creative.’ We have some rules, but not a lot.

“The number one thing is the belief in one another. I think that, more than any systems or tactics, has a great deal to do with it.”

Odd are long, but with a 9-15-4 overall record and a 6-11-3 mark in league play, the Huskies could still finish at .500 this season. MTU hasn’t been above .500 overall since the 1995-96 campaign, and not since 1992-93 in the WCHA. Still, with just two seniors on this year’s roster, don’t be surprised to see that Copper Country confidence carry over into next season.


Coach Bill Wilkinson could probably compute exactly how many minutes it takes to get from the Wayne State campus to Detroit-Wayne County Airport. Most of the skycaps probably know the school’s hockey players on a first-name basis. They could probably tell you how often a charter coach needs to stop to re-fuel.

The Warriors have spent more time on the road this season than Charles Kuralt, and the path hasn’t always been smooth for a team picked to run away with the College Hockey America regular-season title. That was especially true during the first part of the year, when Wayne State criss-crossed the country en route to a 6-11-0 start.

Things People Say

"I gave them a piece of my mind, my arm and my leg.” – Minnesota coach Don Lucia, referring to a team meeting one day after the Gophers committed 40 turnovers in a 6-2 loss to Colorado College. The Gophers downed the Tigers, 3-2, the following night.

"He came in before the game, shook our hands and wished us luck ... it didn't do us a lot of good out on the ice, though.” – Northern Michigan freshman defenseman Jamie Milam, on a meeting with NMU alum and new Detroit Lions head coach Steve Mariucci prior to the Wildcats’ 5-1 loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor Saturday.

“It isn’t.” – former Michigan goalie and two-time NCAA champion Marty Turco in the latest edition of ESPN Magazine, responding to Dan Patrick’s question about ways the Frozen Four is superior to the men’s basketball Final Four.

“We traveled to Vermont, we traveled to Ferris State, we traveled to Michigan Tech, we traveled to Alaska-Fairbanks,” said Wilkinson, whose team played five of its first 17 games in the Detroit area. “We were pretty much a traveling road show during the first half of the season.”

Thankfully for the Warriors, their travels have minimized – that being said, the team still plays games at three Detroit-area rinks – and their record has improved. Wayne State is 8-1-2 since New Year’s Day and sits just four points behind Alabama-Huntsville in the CHA standings heading into this weekend’s critical series at the Von Braun Center.

A key to the Warriors’ resurgence has been the team’s balance. No player has more than 28 points, but 11 have reached double digits in scoring.

“It’s more difficult for teams to defend you when you can play four lines and six defensemen,” Wilkinson says. “When you get contributions from all your guys – not necessarily scoring contributions, but good back-checking and good defense – that’s critical in winning hockey games. Whether they’re bright stars or the guys in the pits, they’ve all contributed.”

The Warriors’ recent run has also coincided with sizzling play from goaltender David Guerrera. The two-time CHA Player of the Year, Guerrera has allowed seven goals in his last five starts.

“When David starts to heat up like he’s doing right now, that makes our team that much better,” Wilkinson explains. ”It’s the snowball effect.”

While the Warriors are a senior-laden bunch – 11 players in their last year of eligibility – they face an Alabama-Huntsville team with 11 seniors of their own. That cornucopia of experienced, coupled with the CHA’s first NCAA Tournament auto-bid up for grabs at the league’s post-season tournament, lends a sense of immediacy to getting the top seed in the playoffs.

“This is their last chance, and only chance,” Wilkinson says of his seniors. “This is a big, big year. Between Alabama-Huntsville and us, we might have 20 seniors (on the ice), so the urgency is there.”


You’re forgiven if you haven’t heard of Miami defenseman Andy Greene. After all, Oxford, Ohio, isn’t exactly nestled in the heart of hockey country – the campus is almost as close to the Music City (260 miles to Nashville) as it is to the Motor City (220 miles to Detroit).

The freshman from Trenton, Mich., has become a known commodity to opponents, however, and is arguably the best young two-way rearguard in the CCHA. Greene has been playing nearly 30 minutes a game for the RedHawks, shares the team lead in plus-minus rating at +11 and is tied for second among NCAA rookie defensemen in scoring with four goals and 13 assists in 30 games.

The Book on Greene

A CCHA coach breaks down Andy Greene's game:

“I always knew he had very good puck skills, could pass and shoot and was going to be a very positive player on the power play. Where he surprised me was that he’s adjusted to the speed of the college game so quickly. I think he’s got a very bright future.”

“I try to strike that balance,” Greene says. “I am a defenseman, so my first job is to take care of the stuff in my own zone, but I really like to jump into the play and get up into the offensive zone, too.”

While freshmen defensemen are rarely afforded ice time in key situations, Miami coach Enrico Blasi entered the season fully expecting Greene to log quality minutes.

”He’s had every opportunity to prove us wrong and he hasn’t,” Blasi says. “He kills penalties, he blocks shots, he’s on the power play, he’s delivered some of the hardest checks I’ve seen in a long time in our league and he’s on the ice in the last minute of the game. He’s one of those guys that you go to in different situations.”

Also in Greene’s favor are his leadership experience (he served as captain of the North American Hockey League’s Compuware Ambassadors last season) and previous success (he helped Compuware to a U.S. junior title last season). It’s helped him with the mental aspects stressed by the Miami staff, namely keeping his composure and keeping his game simple.

“It feels great when (the coaches) put you out there in different situations,” Green states. “They have the confidence to put me out there, and I want to do everything I can to prove that I should be out there.”

Clearly, Greene has proven he deserves to be included in the list of the nation’s best freshman defensemen despite the lack of buzz.

“It’s rare that you find a guy that is willing to put his body on the line night after night and still has that offensive flair like Andy does,” Blasi says. ”He’s one of those players that can do everything and usually does. He’s one of those guys you don’t want to play against.”


Who gets the puck?: We’re used to Colorado College players reaching milestones this season, but three on the same goal? It happened in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Minnesota. The details: Senior defenseman Tom Preissing scored his 19th goal of the year in the first period, setting the school record for markers in a season by a blueliner previously shared by Jerry Seinfeld look-alike Doug Lidster (1979-80) and Rob Doyle (1985-86). Assisting on the goal was senior forward Noah Clarke; it was his 100th career helper. Also earning an assist was junior forward Peter Sejna, who extended his school-record point streak to 32 games.

Three Great Weekend Getaways
120x60 - Brand Red

1. Michigan vs. Michigan State (home-and-home): Having these two teams play four times in a 15-day span is like having Britney Spears sit between Fred Durst and Justin Timberlake on a cross-country flight. The Spartans come into the weekend with an 8-1-1 record in their last 10 outings, but Wolverine supporters are quick to point out that only one of the wins has come against a team with a record above the .500 mark. The Maize and Blue, meanwhile, are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games, all but four of which have been against foes with more wins than losses.

While you’re there: Comparing Ann Arbor and East Lansing is like comparing “The Hours” to “Dude, Where’s My Car?” While Ann Arbor is more sophisticated than its neighbor to the northwest, a good time can be had in the burg. If you like pizza, it doesn’t get much better than the original Cottage Inn located on 512 East William. Order the deep dish. If live music is your thing, check out the Blind Pig on the corner of 1st and Washington.


2. Minnesota-Duluth at Michigan Tech: Let the record show this should really be the top weekend getaway, but the task of responding to 3,000 e-mails from Michigan and Michigan State fans doesn’t sound all that appealing. It’s Winter Carnival week in Houghton, and this year’s theme is “Fairy Tales in Northern Gales”. I’m not sure what the Beard Competition is, but I do know the Huskies are a tough out (that’s a baseball term) during Carnival – witness their 56-24-6 mark during the celebration since 1960.

3) Wayne State at Alabama-Huntsville (Saturday-Sunday): This series may not be for all the marbles in College Hockey America, but it’ll count a significant portion of them. The streaking Warriors are four points behind the first-place Chargers in the conference standings. Huntsville all but clinches the CHA regular-season title with a sweep.

Non-stop Nielsen: Notre Dame senior defenseman Evan Nielsen enters this weekend’s series at Bowling Green having played in 102 consecutive games, one short of matching the school’s ironman record currently held by Ryan Dolder, who made 103 straight appearances from 1997-2001. While Nielsen should pass Dolder’s mark Saturday, teammate John Wroblewski will most likely move into a tie for second on Notre Dame’s consecutive games played list that same night. The senior forward has played in 101 straight contests.

BG brothers: Bowling Green scored a recruiting coup when coach Scott Paluch received a verbal commitment from defenseman Jonathan Sigalet. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Sigalet is the brother of current Falcon goalie Jordan, and is one of the top players with a 1986 birth date according to Red Line Report. The younger Sigalet, who plays for Salmon Arm in the British Columbia Hockey League, has 13 goals and 39 assists in 50 games with the Silverbacks.

I got your room, babe: Count Michigan Tech’s Sertich among Cher’s biggest fans. The Huskies’ bench boss spent last weekend in the “Cher Suite” at the Holiday Inn in Grand Forks. The pop diva performed at the city’s Alerus Center last year and demanded the hotel remodel three of its rooms to her specifications.

“It was awesome, no doubt about it,” Sertich said. “I was more shocked than she was when I walked in there. They rolled out the whole nine yards there. I’ve been in a lot of suites, but the way it was done with the big-screen TV and all the other amenities, it was nicer than the house I’m in.”

Sertich has since purchased a Cher CD as a way of thanking her for the renovations. Certainly, the “Cher Suite” is a marked improvement over the Westword Ho in Grand Forks, where guests stuff towels underneath their doors – there are no interior hallways at the Ho – in order to keep the frigid prairie winds at bay.

News of the weird: Michigan alum Marty Turco was a member of the West squad at the NHL All-Star Game earlier this month. The last Wolverine to appear in the mid-season classic? One Gordon “Red” Berenson, who represented the St. Louis Blues in 1970…Western Michigan has four regular series remaining – all home-and-home sets…Minnesota extended its streak to 73 games without suffering back-to-back losses thanks to Saturday’s win at Colorado College…With a 13-11-4 overall mark, Minnesota-Duluth hasn’t been above .500 this late in the season since the 1996-97 campaign…Michigan Tech’s win at North Dakota ended the Fighting Sioux’s home unbeaten streak at 18 games (15-0-3), one shy of the school record set in 1979-80 and equaled the following season… Alaska Fairbanks ran its unbeaten streak against Nebraska-Omaha to 11 (7-0-4) with a win and a tie at the Carlson Center last weekend. Each of the last four meetings between the two teams in Fairbanks has resulted in three points for the home team…February hasn’t been the month of love for Miami. The RedHawks have lost eight in a row in the month dating back to Feb. 27, 2000, when they downed Ohio State, their opponent this weekend…Like college hockey and a burgeoning new music scene? You can find both in Ann Arbor, Columbus and Madison, rated among the nation’s top 10 college towns according to the most recent issue of Rolling Stone.


Brett Sterling: Colorado College freshman scores four goals in 6-2 win vs. Minnesota Friday. Peter who?

Ohio State: We keep waiting for the Buckeyes to take the gas pipe, but it’s just not happening. OSU earns sweep with pair of thrilling victories against Western Michigan. Is John Markell’s club a team of destiny? No, we don’t think so, either.


The Pioneers, who were swept by Minnesota-Duluth last weekend and are in the midst of a 5-7-2 skein, are becoming to me what Jobu became to Pedro Cerrano in “Major League”. I go to you, I stick up for you, you no help me now.

Craig Kowalski: Northern Michigan goaltender allows seven goals in a little more than four periods of action against Michigan last weekend. In three previous starts at Yost, he had as many shutouts (two) as goals allowed.


Atlanta Thrashers: Assigned defenseman Mike Weaver (Michigan State) to Chicago of the American Hockey League.

Carolina Hurricanes: Recalled forward Ryan Bayda (North Dakota) from Lowell of the American Hockey League.

Dallas Stars: Placed goaltender Marty Turco (Michigan) on injured reserve.

Los Angeles Kings:
Placed defenseman Chris McAlpine (Minnesota) on injured reserve, retroactive to Jan. 28.

Montreal Canadiens: Recalled defenseman Mike Komisarek (Michigan) from Hamilton of the American Hockey League.

New York Rangers: Recalled defenseman Dave Karpa (Ferris State) from Hartford of the American Hockey League.


Rochester Americans (AHL): Recalled right wing Joe Ritson (Denver) and center Riley Nelson (Michigan Tech) from Missouri of the United Hockey League.

A variety of sources were used in the compilation of this report.

About Us | Advertiser Info | Site Map | Privacy Policy
© 2003 Inside College Hockey, Inc., All Rights Reserved