Two goals in two games—that’s all the Huskies could muster this past weekend. After knocking in ten goals in two nights the previous weekend, that’s a bit of a difficult pill to swallow for Michigan Tech’s devoted fan base.
Granted, Tech didn’t play all that badly and faced two quality opponents (we’ll get to that in a moment) but it’s a legitimate letdown when the season started with a genuine bang in Wisconsin. Then, to come home to Houghton, to the friendly and often frenzied John MacInnes Student Ice Arena, and not be able to do much offensively is both difficult to understand and, as a fan, difficult to sit through.
Moreover, it makes all of us fanatics wonder if this is just the start of a repeat of last season’s goal drought, which was one of the more frustrating experiences the Old Dog has had in 50 plus years of following the Huskies.
So, to be totally honest, it also created a challenging task for the Old Dog. What can you say about that kind of performance? As I often do when I’m stumped on what to write about, I asked Mrs. Dog for a bit of advice. Mind you, we were out celebrating Mrs. Dog’s birthday at a really nice restaurant in Addison, Texas, our winter hometown. Since Addison is one of the great restaurant towns in the USA, with more eateries per capita than almost any other city in the country, that can be very nice indeed.
After the second glass of wine—a wonderful New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc—I told her that I might not feel like writing about the Huskies after that additional glass.
With her usual sharp intellect, she told me that “The way the Huskies played doesn’t deserve much more than that.” Boom! All of a sudden, I was energized to try and explain what happened. Because, in the end, Mrs. Dog was right. That performance doesn’t merit much comment—but let’s give it a go.
Friday Night: Notre Dame
The Irish dominated this game. For 57 minutes of play, Jeff Jackson’s squad pretty well shut down the Michigan Tech offense. During the first period in particular, Them Dogs just weren’t awake. If not for Blake Pietila in goal, Notre Dame could have been ahead 3-0 with an 11-6 shot advantage. But it ended without any goals for either team.
In the second period, the defense for both teams was smothering. Five shots for each team, but at the 10:43 mark, the Irish fired the puck from a bad angle toward Pietila. It hit him high on the shoulder, bounced in the air and plopped behind him. Cam Burke knocked it in, and the Irish took a 1-0 lead into the third period on what has to be characterized as a fluky goal.
In the final stanza, both teams continued the “no offense meant, none taken” play seen in the second period. But with about 3 minutes to go, the Huskies were energized and started storming the Notre Dame end. Then, at the 19:05 mark, Ryland Mosley, who had been one of coach Joe Shawhan’s best forwards all night, banged in a loose puck to tie the game.
Mosley’s goal came at the end of a sequence in which the Irish had interfered with Brian Halonen but never got control of the puck. That also meant the Huskies gained a power play for the last minute of regulation and the first minute of a 4 on 3 advantage in overtime.
Tech had the better of it and had good chances, but when the teams returned to the 3 on 3 overtime the NCAA has adopted, Notre Dame regained the momentum. Tech made two defensive errors in about 20 seconds and the Irish scored (Burke again) with just five seconds remaining. Such is the difference in some games.
Saturday: The US National Team Development Program (NTDP) Exhibition Game
It was clear from the drop of the puck that the young pups on NTDP weren’t going to be intimidated. They’d already beaten both Notre Dame in South Bend and Michigan State in East Lansing and had every intention of doing the same to Tech.
The Huskies, though, managed to score first when Halonen made one of his signature power moves from the right wing and buried a shot for the early lead. A few minutes later, with MTU on the powerplay, the Huskies gave up a two-on-one short handed chance and the game was tied.
Late in the second period, Tech gave up another on a breakaway by Logan Cooley. Despite another third period flurry, the Huskies were again on the short end of a 2-1 total when time expired.
Does It Matter?
In the big picture, this “lost weekend” is just about the way Mrs. Dog framed it: much ado about almost nothing. The way the Pairwise Rankings work this year, an overtime loss to Notre Dame isn’t much worse than a tie, and, in fact, the Huskies were #7 in the national PWR after the weekend. After all, Notre Dame holds the #2 spot in the Pairwise.
And the NDTP loss doesn’t matter at all. Finally, despite some rather ugly mistakes, the Huskies still haven’t given up more than two goals in any game.
Giving up two goals or less is a prescription for success—at least as long as you can score more than one goal per game!
What happens next is much more important. Tech will have an off weekend, and then travel to New York to face Clarkson University, the preseason favorite to win the ECAC title.
Clarkson is very tough to beat at home, and it’s a long bus ride for Them Dogs. Will Tech be able to score? Will the solid defense continue?
We’ll see in a couple of weeks.