Picked to finish last, Michigan Tech clearly never got the memo

It was a weekend chalk full of upsets, comebacks, shutouts, ejections, and redemptions in the WCHA. Here’s just a hat trick’s worth of “knowledge” we gleaned from Friday and Saturday’s tilts.

1. Huskies go from pretender to contender.

Michigan Tech stunned No. 2 Denver, Friday, and most people who looked at Friday’s WCHA scores.

The Huskies are 5-2-1 overall and 4-2-0 in the WCHA after their best October in years. Tech has a good chance to add more wins and points when it hosts banged-up and last-place Minnesota State this weekend, then goes out west to Alaska-Anchorage (losers of four straight) and out east to winless St. Lawrence.

The power play is a big reason for Tech’s success so far, scoring at a 24.2-percent success rate, 11th-best in the nation. Much of how long the Huskies can keep it up relies on the continued success of the PP.

2. When you put pucks on the net, good things happen . . . in theory that is.

Despite jumping out to a 2-0 lead over Minnesota-Duluth just 7:26 into the first period on Friday night, the Bemidji State Beavers were held scoreless by the Bulldogs for the remaining 112:34 of the series. UMD goaltender Kenny Reiter shut down the Beavers both nights including Saturday’s 1-0 thriller when Jack Connolly scored midway through the third to provide the difference.

Alaska-Anchorage got off to a hot start scoring 17 goals in four games to begin 3-0-1. But the Seawolves have lost four in a row to Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota to open the conference schedule having scored a total of three goals in the process.  Not surprisingly, UAA’s 0.75 per WCHA game ranks last in the conference and its 20 goals through eight games overall leads only idle Minnesota State (nine goals in six games).

But the Seawolves are the only team with less goals through four conference games than North Dakota. While it’s true the Sioux has managed a slightly more respectable 10 goal total, the significance lies in the remarkable degree of difficulty in achieving that mark. What’s concerning is that it has taken UND 139 shots on goal just to reach double digits. Which leads us to . . .

3. St Cloud State’s goaltending deeper than originally thought.

St. Cloud State goaltender Mike Lee was injured last Monday in practice and didn’t make the trip to Grand Forks this weekend. North Dakota, likely sensing blood, put 44 shots on freshman backup goalie Ryan Faragher on Friday.

Not one got past him.

Huskies coach Bob Motzko told the St. Cloud Times Lee will be “for sure, out a couple weeks” so Faragher is thrown in the spotlight. Joe Philipi and Nate Hardy each sat one game on the bench as the No. 3 goalie Oct. 14-15 in home games against New Hampshire but Philipi backed up Faragher against the Sioux.

Faragher made his debut Oct. 15 at Northern Michigan, a loss in which he allowed three goals on 23 shots. He allowed three goals on 26 shots Saturday against UND. Not the best numbers in those losses, but Friday’s 44-save shutout was enough for Faragher to prove he is ready.

72 COMMENTS

  1. Despite its apparent ability to continue to recruit players of apparent high quality, including numerous NHL draftees, Harvard has been lackluster at best for something like 15 years, and positively wretched for the last few. Its humiliation at the hands of Northeastern on Monday last is only one of many these past seasons. Whatever it says in their resumes, the team is perennially at a complete loss out there on the ice. It seems beyond question that a large part of the fault has to be the coach, but I do not see his manifest deficiencies mentioned in anything I read. He may have an outstanding record as a player, both in college and the pros, but he has no previous coaching experience that I know of, and he certainly is not learning on the job. Why the athletic department has not axed him long ago is beyond me. One would hope that a string of losing seasons capped by the current disaster (4-18, last I looked; they couldn’t even skate with the Swedish under 18’s, let alone Dartmouth [8-2] or, twice now, Northeastern) would surely finish him, but it seems he has tenure. i suppose it is time to give up my season tickets and go watch the Arlington Mites, or some other well-coached team.

  2. New Coach – new attitude and the confidence that we can maintain the level of play to stay in every game.  Mel Pearson has brought a much needed breath of fresh air into Mich Tech Hockey. 

  3. Mel always refers to when he played for Jonny MaC.

    I believe the legend lives on as Mel only knows how to win. Just ask UM.

    How about another game at the Dee for old time sake.

  4. While Tech’s power play stat is important to be sure, I don’t think it’s contributed any more to their success than other factors, such as better goal-tending, stronger defense and a style of play that emphasizes skating the puck and spending time in the other team’s zone.  It should be noted that Tech simply has a LOT more firepower this year.  Take a look at the shots on goal and how many players are shooting in double digits.  Tech is likely to pick up more wins in the next three weeks and will likely crack the top ten, but their schedule is heavily end-loaded.  This team is the real deal and I predict that they’ll stay tough throughout the season, but they’ll settle in to top third as they lose a few to equally skilled teams. 

  5. Please ….lets see how Tech does after X-mas. They have had ok starts before but always implode the 2nd half of the year. I predict a 9th place finish for Tech. They should be counting the days until WCHA turns into the league of leftovers…Tech may have a legit chance then.

    •  not even the same team as last year,,new coach the kids wanna play the game.  this weekends games showed their spunk,,had DU skating in circles..enjoy

      • I see the MTU Huskies out playing every team they play this season.

        They have confidence, a coach(es), and a new system.

        The Huskies will outplay most teams on any given night.

        It will be nice to see when the Huskies host a playoff game again.

        The NCHC wish they invited the Huskies to play.

    • I can guess from your statement that you have not seen Tech play this season.  If you had, I don’t think you would drop the old standard “well they’ve always been bad…” line.  Yes, they will likely lose some games the rest of the way that they should have won, as will every team.  But as someone from WI, I can tell you first hand that the Denver games only confirmed what the WI series suggested. 
      Coach Peason seems to have put a spark in this team because I don’t really agree that the team is much more talented than past years (only 3 seniors lost from last year’s dreadful showing) so it is nearly the same team from a roster stand point.  A new system and attitude on the ice I think is the bigger factor. 
      The next three weekends will speak volumes.  If Tech is a top-half team in the WCHA, they should have 4 or 5 more wins (minimum) a month from now.  Not to mention that in the WCHA even traditional bottom-half teams can win on any given weekend, it is just that more often than not, they find a way to lose, rather than a way to win.  The top teams find ways to get those extra points.  So far Tech snatched two OT wins from WI and came back late in the second game against Denver to grab a tie.  In just two weekends they added three points to their total that in past years would have gone to the other team.

      • I do think the team is also more talented for a couple of reasons:

        1. Olson, Baker and a few others simply weren’t there much of the year.
        2. Frosh Pietila, Johnstone and Sweeney have added needed depth
        3. Many players have matured and look completely different this year…Licktieg, Sova, Rix

        While I agree that Pearson’s system and attitude changes have played to the team’s strengths and made a huge impact, I do think there’s significantly more raw talent present on the ice this year.

        I also must say that Spanky is naive to think that the future NCHC schools have some sort of consistent structural advantage that will cause them to always finish above the future WCHA schools.  Right now, I think Tech, Ferris or Lake State could beat any team in the country on any given night.  These kids were drawn from the same recruiting pool with the same selling points that these teams will have in three or even five years. 

        Once the NCHC develops consistent cellar dwellers, I think you’ll see a lot of top talent go to the strong WCHA programs instead of the weaker NCHC programs.  Winning is more important than TV contracts for NHL visibility.

  6. From a Gopher fan
    Looks like Hakstol is really doing up the drama thing this year. Everybody knows the  Sioux will finish the year in the top three Too much talent on the ice and the bench. I can only hope the Gophs are as real as the first few weeks.

  7. Growing up in Houghton/Hancock area I really wish they had made the coaching change half a decade ago. Half of the high school coaches in the area were better than Russell, it was obvious for so long that Russell was a bad coach that local players wouldn’t even waste their time trying to play for tech, I know that was my experience. Even when tech had several talented players who went on to play professionally like Chris Conner, Colin Murphy and Pete Rouleau they couldn’t hardly break a .500 record under previous coach. The team always had no powerplay and no discipline(remember Erik Kattelus getting kicked off last year)/accountability/enthusiasm. When they had such a bad coach it was so obvious why other good players (like Jake Hauswirth, Ross Rouleau, etc) chose to play elsewhere or go straight to semi-pro from juniors.

    Living in NY now I hope I get a chance to see them play this year under their new coach.

    • You’d better double check why RRouleau played at Finlandia instead of Tech. If he were a legit D-I talent, why didn’t NMU, LSSU or any other D-I program offer a full ride? Why did Jake commit to Tech, then head for the ECHL? Casey Pierro-Zabotel didn’t end up at Tech because of academics.

  8. I spend 5 years at tech and NOW they start to play hockey?!?! Get rid of a bad coach and this happens…coincidence? I think not! I’ll have to make it back to the peninsula for a couple of games. Go Huskies!

  9. Glad to see my Huskies winning again.  It’s been a long time so it’d be crazy to assume they’re suddenly a top 10 team, but I’m enjoying the ride for now.

  10. Mel Pearson is going to lead Tech to a top 3 finish in his first year as Head Coach.  Mel will be the Coach of the year in the WCHA and if their was a National Coach of the year in College Hockey, he would be leading contender by end of the year.l 

  11. New coach Mel and assistants have created a synergetic winning attitude, discipline, and defenseman seem to have the ability to handle and move the play from their own defensive zone to offense, instead of chipping the puck up the boards to the neutral zone. Olson and Baker provide senior leadership, and freshman are strong, especially Sweeney and Blake Pietila. Tech hockey is back! I expect them to continue fighting for rest of season. Wouldn’t it be great if they won the GLI! 

  12. After attending Tech in the late seventies it is GREAT to see “old time hockey” :-)) again!!  Mel was always a class act on and off the ice when he played at Tech.  Mel was known as a very good ‘recruiting guy’ at Michigan.  It’s obvious from the way the team is playing that he is also a very good coach behind the bench.  The biggist differences:  he always stressed tough practices as a player, I’m sure that is part of it.  He also does a great job of getting good line matchups and working his talent pool onto the ice when the opposition is tired or their weaker players are on the ice.  Great job Mel !!  We are all routing for you and the team.  For the players . . Work your a$$ off at practice, it has great benifits.

  13. RIT could be in first place in terms of total points, thanks to two extra games played, but Air Force will be in first in terms of win percentage. But, that’s hard to see through the orange-and-black goggles.

  14. Watching Lamposso for OSU makes me feel like I’m watching some NFL dirtball. That disgusting greasy bush hanging out from his helmet should be cut off by his coach.

  15. Omaha needs a split (or at least a tie) with DU. If they don’t, they’ll need a quarterfinal win to stay above the line in the PWR. Tough position for a team once considered a lock. UMD-Miami will determine if either has a chance to get in… Very Intriguing!

    • This has become a pattern for UNO late in the season. They were lucky enough to get into the NCAA’s last season (and make the FF), but for years, they have faltered at the end of the season, failing to even make the conference tournament. Rough way to end the season, vs St Cloud, vs UND, at DU.

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