It’s been one setback after another for Michigan Tech this season. Jamie Russell talks of a timeline started in October, stained with injury and adversity. There’s been “no continuity” in the Huskies’ lines, the power play “changes daily” and the penalty kill has been “a revolving door.”
“A couple weeks ago, we get one guy back from injury and lose three more,” said Russell, MTU’s eighth-year coach. “It elevates our younger players so high on the depth charts. The guys who have been hurt are our leaders, older guys with experience.”
And each setback or injury the Huskies suffer has turned into one loss after another. MTU has lost 18 games in a row to WCHA opponents, tying Colorado College’s league-record skid of 1961-62.
“It’s been frustrating for everybody,” Russell said. “We’ve had to deal with so much adversity with so many key guys out of the lineup and injured all year. We’re starting to get guys back now, which is a positive.”
MTU has recorded just three points in the WCHA standings and all of them came when the Huskies opened WCHA play against Minnesota State, Oct. 15-16.
The Huskies were 3-0-2 after the MSU series and continued their march to Madison, where the Huskies grabbed a lead 1:43 into the first period at Wisconsin and held it until late in the second period. Then the Badgers scored three goals in the third period and the 23-game winless skid was on.
MTU scored first again but ended up losing to Wisconsin the following night. The Huskies jumped out to a two-goal lead at Minnesota-Duluth, only to see it evaporate in the third period. It was the last lead MTU held for 30 straight periods until it scored first in a Jan. 8 game at St. Cloud State. In the past 23 games, the Huskies have been shut out five times and outshot in every game but one.
It’s not to say the Huskies have been blown out of every game, either. MTU was knotted with both Michigan and Michigan State in the third period of each game at the Great Lakes Invitational. More recently, with the Huskies trying to avoid tying the most consecutive losses record Saturday at Alaska-Anchorage, the Seawolves broke a 2-2 tie midway through the third period.
“We need to get over the hump,” Russell said. “There have been many games where it’s tied or a one-goal game. We get up to the hump and we slide back. Part of it is youth and lack of experience in those critical points in the game.”
MTU’s youth has had to step up a lot this season, with a handful of seniors sidelined with injuries.
The Huskies lost senior captains Brett Olson — MTU’s leading scorer in 2009-10 and best overall player according to Russell — and Bennett Royer. Both were out from mid-November to mid-January. Carl Nielsen is one of Russell’s “shutdown defensemen” and hasn’t played in three weeks. Jordan Baker scored 27 points to lead the Huskies in scoring two seasons ago but hasn’t played a shift all season.
Sophomore Milos Gordic’s 12 goals and six assists lead the offense. Freshmen Ryan Furne and Jacob Johnstone are fourth and fifth on the team in scoring with 16 and 13 points, respectively.
“I give credit to our guys,” Russell said. “They show up every day. They compete. We give teams everything they can handle.”
When the Huskies take to the MacInnes Arena ice Friday against Bemidji State, it’s safe to say most fans outside Bemidji will be on MTU’s side for this one. Nobody wants to see history made with such an unfortunate record.
A look around
Here’s a look at this weekend’s series:
Bemidji State at Michigan Tech
Records: BSU — 10-14-2 (6-12-2 WCHA). MTU — 3-23-3 (1-18-1 WCHA).
Last meeting: BSU swept MTU in January 2009.
Special teams: BSU — 19.8 percent PP (19th in nation), 82.1 percent PK (29th in nation). MTU — 19.3 percent PP (22nd in nation). 75 percent PK (55th in nation).
Streaks: BSU one-game winning. MTU 23-game winless.
Goaltending: BSU — Dan Bakala (19 GP, 9-9-1, 2.83 GAA, .925 save percentage). MTU — Kevin Genoe (16 GP, 2-12-1, 3.90 GAA, .855 save percentage).
Leading scorer: BSU — Jordan George (12-15–27). MTU — Milos Gordic (12-6–18).
Wisconsin at Nebraska-Omaha
Records: UW — 19-8-3 (11-7-2 WCHA). UNO — 16-10-2 (12-6-2 WCHA).
Last meeting: UW beat UNO at the Maverick Stampede in October 2003.
Special teams: UW — 24.3 percent PP (4th in nation), 81.7 percent PK (33nd in nation). UNO — 19.8 percent PP (18th in nation). 84.2 percent PK (16th in nation).
Streaks: UW five-game winning. UNO two-game winning.
Goaltending: UW– Scott Gudmandson (22 GP, 14-6-1, 1.78 GAA, .935 save percentage). UNO — John Faulkner (28 GP, 15-9-2, 2.47 GAA, .911 save percentage).
Leading scorer: UW — Justin Schultz (15-24–39). UNO — Joey Martin (8-21–29).
Denver at Minnesota
Records: DU — 17-6-5 (13-4-3 WCHA). MINN — 11-11-4 (8-9-3 WCHA).
Last meeting: DU swept MINN in February 2010 in Denver.
Special teams: DU — 18.8 percent PP (25th in nation), 85.8 percent PK (9th in nation). MINN — 19.3 percent PP (23rd in nation). 76.3 percent PK (53rd in nation).
Streaks: DU 1-game winning. MINN 3-game winless.
Goaltending: DU — Sam Brittain (21 GP, 12-4-5, 2.14 GAA, .925 save percentage). MINN — Kent Patterson (20 GP, 9-6-4, 2.55 GAA, .918 save percentage).
Leading scorer: DU — Drew Shore (16-15–31). MINN — Jay Barriball (12-11–23).
Minnesota State at Colorado College
Records: MSU — 12-12-6 (6-12-4 WCHA). CC — 16-13-1 (10-10-0 WCHA).
Last meeting: The teams split in October in Mankato.
Special teams: MSU — 13.4 percent PP (48th in nation), 82 percent PK (30th in nation). CC — 21.6 percent PP (12th in nation). 84.5 percent PK (15th in nation).
Streaks: MSU 1-game losing. CC 1-game losing.
Goaltending: MSU — Phil Cook (24 GP, 10-10-4, 2.91 GAA, .907 save percentage). CC — Joe Howe (25 GP, 13-11-1, 2.91 GAA, .904 save percentage).
Leading scorer: MSU — Mike Dorr (11-12–23). CC — Tyler Johnson (16-16–32).
St. Cloud State at Minnesota-Duluth
Records: SCSU — 11-14-3 (7-11-2 WCHA). UMD — 18-5-4 (13-4-3 WCHA).
Last meeting: SCSU took three points from UMD in October 2009 in St. Cloud.
Special teams: SCSU — 15.3 percent PP (43rd in nation), 83.5 percent PK (22nd in nation). UMD — 20.8 percent PP (14th in nation). 84.8 percent PK (13th in nation).
Streaks: SCSU 3-game losing. UMD 4-game unbeaten.
Goaltending: SCSU — Mike Lee (23 GP, 9-10-2, 2.88 GAA, .904 save percentage). UMD — Kenny Reiter (17 GP, 9-3-3, 2.19 GAA, .916 save percentage).
Leading scorer: SCSU — Drew LeBlanc (11-23–34). UMD — Jack Connolly (12-28–40).
Alaska-Anchorage at North Dakota
Records: UAA — 10-13-3 (9-11-2 WCHA). UND — 19-8-2 (14-6-0 WCHA).
Last meeting: The teams tied at the Kendall Hockey Classic in the season opener for both teams in Anchorage.
Special teams: UAA — 15.9 percent PP (41st in nation), 81 percent PK (38th in nation). UND — 20.3 percent PP (15th in nation). 84.2 percent PK (16th in nation).
Streaks: UAA 3-game winning. UND 1-game winning.
Goaltending: UAA — Rob Gunderson (18 GP, 6-10-12, 2.72 GAA, .896 save percentage). UND — Aaron Dell (26 GP, 18-6-1, 2.07 GAA, .918 save percentage).
Leading scorer: UAA — Tommy Grant (10-13–23). UND — Matt Frattin (21-10–31).