If there was any team last year that stuck to its preseason expectations last year, it was Michigan Tech.
The Huskies were picked to finish in the bottom of the WCHA basement and finish there they did, mustering 11 league points and only two conference wins all season. The bright spots seen from their basement view included a home-and-home mid-December sweep of their Upper Michigan rivals, Northern Michigan, as well as a regular season victory over Minnesota and a Great Lakes Invitational win over eventual league champion North Dakota.
Still, there is a perk about being at the bottom — there’s nowhere to go but up, and the Huskies do have potential for some upward mobility. The Huskies had seven ties last season as well as six one-goal losses. Turn a couple of those around and, well, you see what that did to Anchorage last season.
This year is probably going to be more of the same for the Huskies, as coach Jamie Russell knows his team has a lot of areas to improve on.
“Certainly we need to score more goals than we did last year, we need to be a strong team defensively [and] we certainly want to improve our special teams,” he said.
Still, there should be a few more bright spots this season with the new freshmen, the return of Malcolm Gwilliam from injury and what should be a solid season from goaltender Josh Robinson.
“We’re going to have a very young team, we welcomed eight freshmen onto our roster,” said Russell. “From what we’ve seen from our limited exposure to the young kids, we like what we’ve seen; we like what they’re bringing to the table.”
The good news offensively is that the Huskies are returning their top two scorers in junior Jordan Baker and sophomore Brett Olson. More good news is that they’ve kept four of their five leading scorers from last season.
The bad news? The other two guys are defensemen.
If Michigan Tech can get more forwards into the play and scoring some goals, the team’s fortunes should similarly improve. One added help will be the aforementioned return of senior Gwilliam. Although he only played nine games last season, his seven points remained good enough for a tie for eighth place in team scoring. If he and the rest of his teammates can remain healthy, Tech will already have a major step up from last year.
On the Blue Line
Though Russell wants his team to be stronger defensively, his defensemen do do a decent job of helping out in other aspects such as the score sheet. True, the Huskies lost Geoff Kinrade to graduation, but they keep senior Drew Dobson and junior Deron Cousens, both of whom had double-digit point totals last season.
The team will also be breaking in three new freshmen on the back line.
In the Crease
Unlike some other teams in the WCHA, the Huskies are returning a known factor in nets in sophomore Josh Robinson. Robinson shared duties with departed senior Rob Nolan and performed pretty well, even earning the team’s only shutout.
Though the job between the pipes should belong mostly to Robinson, there is a possibility of either fellow sophomore Corson Cramer (who played 60 minutes in two games last year) or freshman Kevin Genoe snagging some playing time throughout the season.