In the big Winter Carnival series this past weekend, Michigan Tech fell just short of their target, splitting their series with Bowling Green. The loss in the second game on Saturday night was a big blow to the Huskies’ hope for winning the MacNaughton Cup as the regular season champions of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, but it was also Tech’s eighth game in just 16 days, a tough schedule for any team at any level of hockey.
Friday Night: Big Win for the Huskies
On Friday night, in front of a standing-room only crowd of 3,017, Tech came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, staking out a 3-0 first period lead. Bowling Green was reeling but in the second period the Falcons recovered and the play was a tossup. Them Dogs added a fourth marker in the third period and the Huskies claimed a 4-0 shutout win when time expired. For goaltender Blake Pietila, it was his seventh shutout of this season, setting an all-time MTU record and besting his current goalie coach Jamie Phillips, who held the previous record of six shutouts in one season.
Despite the final score, it was obvious that BG came to play and put tons of pressure on the Huskies during the last two periods. Tech took as many penalties as they have all season, but also notched two powerplay goals when the Falcons were short-handed — which they were frequently.
Tech’s powerplay goals were scored by Brian Halonen and Colin Swoyer, while Logan Pietila and Trenton Bliss added even strength tallies.
A Fairy Tale For Winter Carnival
During the intermission between the second and third periods, there’s usually a competition involving selected contestants from the fans at the game. For Winter Carnival, Tech alum and former NHL All-Star MVP John Scott was on the ice as the voice of the contest, and it was the “tricycle game.”
Two selected fans don helmets, mount tricycles and try to get enough traction to scoot from one end of the rink to the far blue line. Then they dismount, pick up a stick, and try to shoot a puck into the net from the blue line. The first one to get the puck in wins.
After a dark haired young woman wearing a gold Huskies jersey was the first to score, another fan entered the rink wearing a Tech road jersey and approached the winner. With Scott narrating, the gentleman kneeled down and proposed to the lady. Only then did the Old Dog notice that both of these Husky fans were faithful Discord Dogs Brandon Benedict (known to his fellow Discord Dogs as Code Monkey) and Britta Anderson.
Britta accepted, and then they posed with Scott and Blizzard.
After the game, Brandon and Britta celebrated with a Tech classic: beer and pickled eggs at the B&B Bar. The Old Dog hopes they live happily ever after, just like the Old Dog and Mrs. Dog. Was there a “fix” to get Britta into the competition to set this up? The Old Dog doesn’t know and isn’t going to ask.
Saturday’s Stars Didn’t Quite Align
On the final night of Carnival, the Huskies started up where they left off, as Eric Gotz opened the scoring at the 5:20 mark of the first period. Bowling Green answered, and then Matt Quercia, who hadn’t played lately, retaliated just 27 seconds later on a great tip in to put MTU back up 2-1. Despite Them Dogs getting plenty of quality scoring chances, they couldn’t add to their lead.
In the second period, it slowly became apparent that the Huskies, after being pressed hard on Friday and playing so many games in a short time, may have hit the wall. The passes weren’t quite as sharp, the shots weren’t released quite as quickly, and the decisions they made were off just a bit. The Falcons, who had never quit working, started to dominate the play.
BG again tied the score halfway through the second period. In the third stanza, the Falcons added two more and Tech just couldn’t pull any rabbits of the hat and the Falcons had the split 4-2. Tech hung on, though, and took the MacInnes Cup for Winter Carnival with a total goal 6-4 edge.
The CCHA and Pairwise Outcome
However, losing three points in the series made Tech’s quest for a CCHA championship a quite a bit more difficult. League-leading Minnesota State is seven points ahead of the Huskies, but there’s still a chance for Tech to catch the Mavericks.
The split did clinch second place in the CCHA for the Huskies, though. They now have 49 points, and third place Bemidji State has 37. Both Tech and the Beavers have four games left, and even if Tech loses all four and Bemidji wins all four, they’d be tied — but MTU has the tie breaker by virtue of their 3-1 edge over the Beavers in the season series.
In the remaining games, the Huskies play two in Big Rapids against Ferris State and then host the Mavs in Houghton. Before coming to the UP for the season finale, the Mavs will face-off against Bemidji State in Mankato.
For Tech to win the MacNaughton Cup, they need help from the Beavers — and they almost certainly need to sweep the #1-in-the-national polls Mavericks. That’s a tall order but not impossible. The Old Dog must admit that it’s not likely to happen, as the Mavericks haven’t been swept by anyone this season. Nor was Bemidji able to get a single point against the Mavs when the two teams played earlier this season in Bemidji.
If Tech and MNSU both sweep next weekend, that’s the end of the race. The Mavs will be champions. But if Bemidji State pulls off a split while MTU sweeps in Big Rapids, then the Huskies could still win it all by taking two in regulation from the Mavs.
It’s not something the Old Dog would bet next week’s groceries on.
At the same time, the Winter Carnival split caused Tech to fall in the national pairwise rankings to the 10th spot and the Huskies now sit uncomfortably close to the NCAA tournament bubble. There are so many ways that can play out, particularly because the final Pairwise totals include all conference tournament games, and the schedule for the CCHA post-season won’t even be determined until all games wrap up in two weeks.
With all of the possibilities for the national tournament on the table, the Old Dog has just one mantra: Just win, baby. All of those pesky possibilities will take care of themselves. And it all starts next week at Ferris State.
The Old Dog invites any readers who haven’t yet joined us on Discord to click on the link on this page and then log on to follow the Huskies. There are posts every day, not just about Tech hockey but about other sports at Tech, sports in general, and the-dog-house server where plenty of other topics are discussed. On game nights, having Discord open and joining the game night server is like being at a party with Tech fans. Hey, we’ve even got one Bemidji State loyalist and Harrison Watt, the voice of Ferris State, joining us at times. It’s a great place to hang out on-line and we welcome anyone who wants to have fun with us.
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.