If you’re a really Old Dog, you were old enough to watch the drama of the Watergate affair as it unfolded. One of the big events in that period occurred when President Richard Nixon, on a Saturday, ordered his Attorney General to fire the Special Prosecutor who was investigating the Watergate break-in of the Democratic national headquarters during the 1972 presidential campaign. The Attorney General refused and resigned. Nixon then ordered the Assistant Attorney General to carry out the firing, and he refused and resigned, too.
Finally, Nixon turned to the Solicitor General to do the deed—he reluctantly agreed and the whole sequence came to be known as the Saturday Night Massacre. Later, the Solicitor General, Robert Bork, a superb legal scholar, was denied confirmation to the Supreme Court due to Democratic opposition to his nomination based on less-than-accurate statements—an event that led to coining of the verb “to bork,” meaning to engage in systematic defamation and vilification—proving that both parties had less-than-stellar conduct during the whole chain of events…
Well, what we saw the last two weeks wasn’t the same at all, but the term Saturday Night Massacre fits what the Huskies did first to Alaska and then to Bemidji State on back-to-back weekends at home. Two consecutive Saturday Night seven goal explosions kept the Huskies undefeated in the WCHA, and two points ahead of Minnesota State. There’s still a long way to go, as Tech still hasn’t played the top WCHA teams. But they’ve done what they needed to do and have taken 23 of 24 possible points in conference play.
Them Dogs have now completed almost 40% of the schedule (seems hard to believe) and are following Joe Shawhan’s mantra of “better every day” to a “T.” When the season started, there were huge question marks around this year’s team, particularly the large freshman class. To be blunt, the freshmen have been far better than I suspect than anyone, including the coaching staff, thought they might be at this time.
Before the season started, The Old Dog had checked out their backgrounds, and most of the junior statistics for this year’s group of freshmen were quite good. They weren’t at the NHL draft level, but they had demonstrated the potential to be solid and even very good Division I players. However, the history of college hockey is littered with players who had the stats in juniors but didn’t shine in NCAA play.
What we’ve seen, though, is just something else. They’re making big plays, scoring, and scoring important goals. The defensive core, with only one senior and no juniors on the roster, has been strong in the Huskies’ end, and, as Shawhan pointed out on in his radio show this week, “They’re the ones that spring everything for us.” And they’ve done this without Mitch Meek and Jake Jackson in the lineup—two players who were expected to be major contributors on both ends of the ice.
The Old Dog is going to go out on a bit of a limb and predict that, before they are done, this year’s freshman class might be the best we’ve seen since the Old Dog was a senior in 1971-72. In that year, John MacInnes’ team, and the first team to play in what became the JMac, went 16-17-1 and finished seventh in the WCHA. It was kind of a letdown for student fans like me and the future Mrs. Dog. We’d gotten used to success.
In 68-69, our first year in Houghton, Tech won both the MacNaughton Cup and was also league playoff champs. (The Broadmoor Trophy didn’t exist at that time.) They then lost in the Frozen Four to Hall of Famer Ken Dryden and Cornell. The following year they finished second in the WCHA but again won the playoff championship, followed by another loss in the NCAA semi-finals. In our junior year, Tech brought another MacNaughton Cup home to Dee Stadium. Needless to say, the results in our senior year, with the hoopla and high expectations that a new arena brought, were quite disappointing. Something we had taken for granted did not pan out.
What we didn’t realize at the time was how good the freshmen were that year. They included the core of the 1975 NCAA Championship team. Bob D’Alvise, Jim Warden, Bob Lorimer, Billy Steele, and Bruce Abbey were all first year players on that team. My only clear memory of a standout freshman was Steele, and then primarily because of his manic penalty killing. When MacInnes added Mike Zuke, George Lyle, and Steve Jensen the next year, the stage was set for MacInnes’ three year duel in the NCAA finals with Herb Brooks and his great Golden Gopher teams.
Can this year’s group be that good? There’s a long way to go even this year, but it’s hard not to get very excited about the future of the Shawhan’s program. And we all need to recognize that this is Shawhan’s first full class of freshman that he’s selected. Sure, he was a key recruiter when Mel Pearson was at the helm in the JMac, but Pearson had the final say. These freshmen are the start of Shawhan’s legacy, and if he keeps this up, Huskie Nation is in for some exciting times.
On Tech Hockey Guide’s Discord chat site, every game has become an event within the game experience. If you’re watching on the internet, listening to Dirk Hembroff on radio, or in the arena, Discord is the place to be. And we’ve taken to putting in a “woof” every time Tech scores. (What gets typed when the other team scores can’t be repeated…) So, when the score climbs to seven, I could be posting “woof woof woof woof woof woof woof” but the Old Dog is too lazy (or inept to type on his phone) and just posts “woof X7.”
The key to the future is the “better every game” theme. This year’s team still has some serious question marks. The penalty killing, while better against Bemidji, has been flat out lousy. There hasn’t been all-league goaltending in a single contest. We’ve seen a handful of freshman follies on the defensive end in almost every game. Ill-advised penalties keep popping up. And the non-league record, albeit against top-notch competition, is not good at all, a factor that weighs heavily in the all-important Pairwise Rankings. And, as I noted before, Them Dogs need to show their stuff against the top WCHA teams.
No better place to start than this weekend against Northern Michigan and the hated Wildcats. I’m hoping for a lot of woofs and not many obscenities on Discord. Another Saturday Night Massacre at the JMac would be just fine. The Old Dog would rather just beat NMU than have to bork them.
If you’d like to join the Discord Dogs this weekend, just click on “Connect” on the THG home page below the Discord logo. The more the merrier!