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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
one thing is the belief in one another. I think that, more
than any systems or tactics, has a great deal to do with
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
starts to heat up like he’s doing right now, that
makes our team that much better,” Wilkinson explains.
”It’s the snowball effect.”
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
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.”
GREENE WITH ENVY
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).
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.
Book on Greene
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
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.”
defensemen are rarely afforded ice time in key situations,
Miami coach Enrico Blasi entered the season fully expecting
Greene to log quality minutes.
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.
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.”
has proven he deserves to be included in the list of the
nation’s best freshman defensemen despite the lack
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.”
FROM TODAY'S HEADLINES
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.
Great Weekend Getaways
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Sterling: Colorado College freshman scores
four goals in 6-2 win vs. Minnesota Friday. Peter who?
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.
Denver: 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
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.
WEEK'S NHL TRANSACTIONS
Thrashers: Assigned defenseman Mike Weaver
(Michigan State) to Chicago of the American Hockey League.
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
Canadiens: Recalled defenseman Mike Komisarek
(Michigan) from Hamilton of the American Hockey League.
York Rangers: Recalled defenseman Dave Karpa
(Ferris State) from Hartford of the American Hockey League.
LEAGUE TRANSACTION OF THE WEEK
Americans (AHL): Recalled right wing Joe Ritson
(Denver) and center Riley Nelson (Michigan Tech) from Missouri
of the United Hockey League.