Last year was supposed to be a continuation of an upward swing for the Michigan Tech Huskies.
The Huskies were set in net and defensively. The only knock against them was that they needed a bit more offense. The coaches thought this would see them finish seventh in the league; I thought perhaps higher.
Instead, we were both wrong as the team regressed back near the bottom of the WCHA basement, finishing in ninth place.
Sadly, it appears that this season will be more of the same for the fans in Houghton. The team has nine freshmen, in part due to losing seven players due to graduation or, in the case of Michael-Lee Teslak, early departure.
Every team loses players, but Tech’s losses may hurt worse than most as they lost their arguably better goaltender as well as half their offense.
All signs point to this team making it a longer winter than usual in Houghton, but Huskies fans, take solace in the fact that this team has surprised before.
If you feel lucky, they may do so again.
Tech got hit hard offensively, losing four of its top six scorers to graduation, and 97 of 210 total points.
Yes, you read that correctly — the Huskies lost almost half their offense to graduation.
Head coach Jamie Russell may be understating things when he says he needs the freshmen to contribute.
“Up front we’re going to be a little bit younger. I think you’re going to see some of our freshmen on our top couple of lines,” he said. “We’d like to see our offense score a little bit more.”
That may end up being a monumental request, as the top two returning scorers are defensemen. Still, Russell thinks that senior Alex Gagne will have a breakout year offensively.
Look to sophomore Eric Kattelus and freshman Mikael Likteig and, if he doesn’t turn into another Casey-Pierre Zabotel situation, Peter Rohn when he’s eligible to play 17 games into the season.
On the Blue Line
If the Huskies have a returning strength, it’s their back line.
“Our team needs to remain strong defensively,” said Russell. “We’ve got an older D corps so we should be good on the back end.”
Tech returns high-scoring defensemen Geoff Kinrade and Drew Dobson, who will be counted on early for some points. Defensively, the team will continue to rely on senior John Schwarz.
In the Crease
With the early departure of Teslak, the Huskies may have to rely on Rob Nolan. Nolan has never been a starter in his career and, from the sound of things, might not be this year, either, thanks to a native of Frankenmuth, Mich.
“A big key I touched on is Robby Nolan — he’s going to be our number-one guy,” said Russell before adding, “I think he’ll be pushed in net by a freshman I think that’s talented, Josh Robinson.”