6-4, 6-1. Game, set and match. Sounds like a tennis score. But it’s not — it’s the Huskies sweep results against Ferris State last weekend, and those wins have landed Michigan Tech in the hunt for the lead in the CCHA and a solid 10th spot in the national Ratings Percentage Index rankings.
With almost 40% of the schedule complete, this is a good indication that the Huskies can legitimately be part of the discussion for the NCAA tournament. But the road ahead isn’t for the faint-hearted, and nothing is guaranteed.
The Series With Ferris State
While things started badly for Them Dogs on Friday, they overcame a terrible first period to win going away. In that opening stanza of the series, Tech almost looked like they weren’t interested in playing hockey, giving up three goals on seven FSU shots. They came out in the second period and tied the Bulldogs—and then scored three goals in the third before giving up a very late goal for the 6-4 win.
On Saturday, the game was never really in doubt as MTU scored the first four goals and coasted to a victory. There were plenty of offensive stars for Tech over the weekend, including Tristin Ashbrook (4 goals), Brian Halonen (two goals and three assists) and Trenton Bliss (two goals and an assist). On the blueline, both Colin Swoyer and Brett Thorne had a goal and two assists.
It was the kind of series that, as the Old Dog suggested last week, the Huskies had to sweep. And, after shaking up their fans with a terrible start, they did just what they needed to do.
The CCHA Standings
The conference schedule in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association is still a bit out of balance, something that happens as the teams try to even out their league games with early season non-conference contests. Here are the totals after last weekend:
With each team scheduled to play 26 CCHA games when the regular season wraps up the last weekend in February, there’s a lot of hockey yet to be played. With games in hand on most teams, the Huskies are in a strong position to challenge for the MacNaughton Cup, the prize for the regular season CCHA champion and the oldest trophy in college hockey. However, things are about to get tougher this coming weekend.
Next Up: Minnesota State
Tech heads to Mankato next weekend to face the Mavericks, or Purple Cows as Husky fans sometimes refer to the CCHA’s top team. While the Mavs, as expected, are in first place, and are currently #5 in the RPI, they’ve shown an unexpected vulnerability already this season. That’s in contrast to the pre-season assessment many had of the Mavs, who would not have shocked anyone if they’d gone 26-0 and utterly dominated the CCHA.
MSU has lost close, low scoring games to both Ferris State (2-1) and Lake Superior State (1-0). In those games, Mankato played their normal exceptional defense: LSSU had only ten shots in the entire game last Friday in that 1-0 Laker victory. And, then just to show how good their defense can be, they held the Lakers to just five shots — yes, just five shots — in the entire game in their 3-0 win at the Soo on Saturday.
That’s what awaits the Huskies in Mankato next Friday and Saturday. However, with their on-again, off-again scoring, Tech may just be able to give Mankato a challenge they haven’t had since the Mavs opened their season against several national contenders (including Michigan, St. Cloud State, and Providence). Since that time, they’ve played weaker teams and might be a bit more susceptible to a strong offense than we’ve seen in the past few seasons.
Whether Tech can give them that jolt remains to be seen.
The Remaining Schedule
After the Mankato series, the Huskies return home for what should be an easy set with St. Thomas before the holiday break. They’ll play at Michigan and at Michigan State in the now-revamped (hopefully temporarily) Great Lakes Invitational (now a ”Showcase”) before returning to league play after New Year’s Day.
In January, they’ll play the Yooper Loop again, starting out at Lake State, then home-and-home with Northern Michigan before hosting Bemidji State. In February, they’ll travel to St. Thomas, host Bowling Green, head to Ferris State, and then wind up the season at home against — you guessed it — Minnesota State.
There are plenty of potential sweeps in that schedule, and mostly home dates against the better teams, but also some serious challenges. Before the season started, The Old Dog posed three questions for this year’s edition of Husky Hockey:
- Can the Huskies match up with Minnesota State?
- Can Them Dogs separate themselves from Northern and Bemidji?
- Can Tech avoid letdowns against teams with less talent and dominate those games?
Nothing has changed, really. So far, they’ve drawn their games with Bemidji and Northern. They still have to face Darth Vader in Minnesota, and they’ve had only one minor letdown against the lower tier teams (an overtime loss to LSSU).
The first real test starts Friday in Minnesota. As Husky coach Joe Shawhan has said several times, if you want to be the best you have to beat the best.
Mike Anleitner is a 1972 Michigan Tech grad, and he was in the first class of what has become the Scientific & Technical Communications program. He also has an engineering degree from Wayne State and an MBA from Michigan-Ross. He spent forty seven years in various manufacturing and engineering positions, and is currently a semi-retired freelance engineer. He lives during the fall and winter with his wife of 49 years Carol–also a ’72 Tech grad–in Addison, TX, a Dallas suburb with more restaurants per capita than any other municipality in the US. During the summer, Mike and Carol reside in Elmira, MI and avoid the Texas heat.