There were plenty of thought-provoking things that happened last week in college sports in general and for Husky Nation in particular. Here’s a look at several of these fascinating stories.
Item: The meek largely (for at least one night) inherited the WCHA on Saturday. There were plenty of unexpected results in the WCHA this week as every team in the league is now pushing for playoff spots and seeding. There was a full slate of league games over the weekend, and Friday night, teams with an edge in league points prevailed. The only exception was the Alaska at Alabama-Huntsville game, where both teams started the night tied with 20 points. The Nanooks took care of the Chargers in Alabama with a 3-1 victory.
On Saturday, the tables were turned. As most Husky fans know, last-place Alaska-Anchorage took two of three points from Tech with a shootout win after a scoreless three periods and two scoreless overtime periods. Ferris State, with only 10 league points going into the game, blanked second place Bowling Green (with 40 points). Bemidji State bounced back to beat Lake Superior State at the Soo to gain a split. Alaska completed their road sweep of UAH in what had seemed likely to be a split.
The big exception was Minnesota State bombing Northern Michigan 8-2 to complete their sweep, and they did it in Marquette to boot. Naturally, there were few if any tears in Houghton, as Tech’s four points brought Them Dogs within one point of the Wildcats in the league standings. Besides, Wildcat angst is always agreeable to the Old Dog. It’s a dog and cat thing, you know?
However, NMU has two games in hand, and they’ll make that up this coming weekend as Bowling Green invades the Berry Events Center. The Old Dog wishes they could both lose both games. Tech has their traditional end of year series with NMU remaining on the schedule, so the Huskies will need to take care of business if they hope to earn home ice for the playoffs. A split this coming weekend will keep Northern from getting too far ahead of Them Dogs. If BGSU takes six points, the Old Dog won’t mind since the Huskies are less likely to catch the Falcons.
Right now, it’s clear that Minnesota State is all but certain to take yet another McNaughton Cup back to Mankato. The Mavericks are 8 points ahead of Bowling Green, and 14 or 15 points ahead of NMU, LSSU, and the Huskies. Since Mankato hosts lowly Huntsville next week, they will be heavily favored to effectively wrap up the regular season championship before they come to the Keweenaw for Winter Carnival in a couple of weeks. Anything less than a sweep for MSU against the Chargers would be a huge shock. Odder things have happened, but any UAH points against Mankato would rank with a Super Blood Wolf Moon on the astronomically rare scale.
Item: Mel Pearson and his Michigan Wolverines continue to struggle. The Maize & Blue are mostly blue this season, with league and overall records below .500. There was supposed to be a high level of talent in Ann Arbor this year, but, even with two potential first round NHL draft picks (and possibly the #1 pick overall), the Wolverines can’t put anything together. They did win big at Yost Arena on Thursday against Penn State, but then, in a media-made game at Madison Square Garden in The Big Apple, Penn State jumped ahead 4-0 and cruised to a 5-2 win.
Pearson’s team is only one point out of the cellar in the B1G (what the heck is that all about anyhow—with 14 football and basketball teams and 7 hockey teams?), and the way that conference is going this year, it’s not impossible that U-M could finish last. Coming one year after a Frozen Four appearance, it’s got to be a huge letdown for Pearson. Since the Old Dog is also an A-Squared grad, I don’t quite feel the same pleasure that most Husky fans feel about all of this. But I can’t help but enjoy just a bit of what most Husky die-hard fans (including Mrs. Dog) absolutely love to see.
Item: Big Ten basketball coaches must have been listening to Joe Shawhan lately. Have Joe’s recent tough-love comments about culture and commitment started a trend among college coaches?
After Purdue solidly beat #6 Michigan State Sunday afternoon, Tom Izzo (a Yooper like Shawhan) had several choice quotes about his Spartans in a post-game press conference.
“My freshmen needed diapers today.” And then he added “All in all, our bigs got their butts kicked.” He followed that up with “I ain’t resting those bigs. They’re in for one hell of a week.” We’re left to guess about the details, but I’m predicting some Spartan roundballers will be dreading practice for the next few days.
In the same vein, first year Indiana hoops coach Archie Miller was also less-than-positive in a post-game press conference after Michigan trounced the Hoosiers Friday night, which included U-M jumping ahead 17-0 on Indiana’s famous home court, Assembly Hall. It was Michigan’s largest victory margin ever in the Hoosier Barn.
“Right now we’re an entire group that does not have the confidence. It’s not one guy. It’s our team. Our team doesn’t have confidence right now…our team in general right now is soft, and we’re also for whatever reason right now scared, and you can just tell by the way that we played.”
Diapers and butt kicked? Soft and scared? This isn’t the way they teach it in Media Management 101 at Big-Time Head Coach University, that’s for sure.
Item: The Old Dog is scratching his head (behind the ear, of course) about the way the WCHA refs handled the Huskies-Seawolves shootout Saturday night. WCHA rules say that shootouts are sudden death, period. Instead, the refs set it up as a three round affair. UAA scored in the first round and Tech didn’t. Then Tech and UAA both scored in the second round. Tech then failed to score in the third round, and it was over. But it should have been over after the first round.
I hope the powers-that-be in the WCHA get this straightened out. It’s not quite the disaster that’s been dogging the NFL after the blown interference call in the Rams-Saints game, but it was a mess. Combined with a ton of strange ticky-tack calls on both teams in the games in Anchorage, the officials deserve at least a conference call with league supervisor of officials Greg Shepherd.
Item: And last but not least, how about Them Dogs—Them REAL Dogs? There was a great story this week on Tech’s website about the new MTU Mushing Club, possibly the only college dog sled team in the country. The article is well worth reading, and you can find it here.