Coach Jamie Russell guided Michigan Technological University to its first winning season in nearly 15 years last season, making it to St. Paul, Minn., and the WCHA Red Baron Final Five for the first time in a little over a decade — all in all, a breakout season.
As a result, the team will enter the 2007-08 season with higher expectations, especially since they will be one of the veteran teams in the WCHA. While some teams are composed of upwards of 15 underclassmen, the Huskies are just the opposite — Tech will start the season with 17 upperclassmen and just eight freshmen and sophomores.
“You’re going to see us have a bit of an older, veteran team compared to some of the other teams in the WCHA,” said Russell. “We’ll have great leadership.”
Russell’s squad also stayed relatively intact over the offseason, losing just three players to graduation as well as freshman Phil Axtell (transfer).
More importantly, the team returns its goalie tandem of juniors Rob Nolan and Michael-Lee Teslak, who will help the team in its quest of ultimately making the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 1980-81 campaign.
“For us to jump up the WCHA ladder, I think you’re going to have to see Michigan Tech score more goals than we did last year,” said Russell.
“We want to be a tough team to play against and a team that has a great work ethic,” he elaborated. “We need to establish that early and I think a lot of that will carry over from some of the success we had last year.”
If the Huskies have any holes this year, they’re all of an offensive nature. While the top five scoring forwards are returning this year, only two hit over 20 points (seniors Peter Rouleau, 30 pts., and Tyler Shelast, 24 pts.).
Russell expects Rouleau and Shelast to once again carry the bulk of what scoring there is for the Huskies, along with fellow senior Jimmy Kerr.
Other forwards with potential to add some scoring punch are senior Malcolm Gwilliam, juniors Alex Gagne and Ryan Angelow and sophomore Ryan Bunger. Incoming freshmen Jordan Baker and Bennett Royer also have potential to crack the lineup depending on how they take advantage of their chances.
On the Blue Line
Losing senior Lars Helminen will hurt the Huskies on the back line, but as the only defensive departure, Michigan Tech will still be all right.
Junior Geoff Kinrade, second-highest scoring defenseman last year, will be Russell’s go-to blueliner.
Stud freshman Deron Cousens will get to learn from senior veterans Mark Malekoff and Jake Wilkens as well as juniors Kinrade and John Schwarz.
In the Crease
No matter which goaltender Russell decides to go with, his team will be in capable hands in Teslak and Nolan, who split playing time admirably last year. While Teslak notched a few more wins and shutouts, both ‘tenders had goals against averages in the low twos and around .910 save percentages.