With the latest edition of Michigan Tech Hockey now in the record books, most of the Husky seniors have either signed a pro contract or entered the transfer portal. And so it’s once again time for the annual Old Dog Awards. This year, there are many candidates for these awards, and it’s been much harder than normal to settle on winners in a couple of these categories.

The James Brown Hardest Working Man in Hockey Award

There are quite a few worthy candidates for this award. Some have won it before, like Justin Misiak and Brian Halonen, but this year the Old Dog wants to recognize a new force who demonstrated his willingness to skate hard every second of every shift: Ryland Mosley. While still battling to transfer his high scoring in juniors to the NCAA, he was never content to coast anywhere on the ice — and still managed to score 13 points on 5 goals and 8 assists, a nice total for a sophomore playing on the third and fourth lines. The Old Dog will be looking to see if he can develop further next year and become a top-line forward.

The Bob D’Alvise Scoring Award

D’Alvise was the leading scorer on Tech’s last national championship team in 1975. This year, it was easy to select a winner for this award, as Hobey Baker finalist Brian Halonen had 44 points on 21 goals and 23 assists. That total also earns Halonen The Mike Zuke Goal Scorer’s Award for the most goals tallied.

The Chris Connor Pound-For-Pound Award

Connor, who was a bright light in Houghton when the Huskies struggled to win games, also played 15 years in the NHL and the AHL and was only 5 foot 7 and — at most — weighed 170 pounds (probably with all his gear and skates on and maybe with two water bottles, too). Overall, Them Dogs have been getting bigger each year, and it’s becoming more difficult to single out one player for this honor. This year, the Old Dog will honor Tommy Parrottino for his great career and particularly his senior season at Tech. Although he’s listed at 6 foot tall, he’s not a husky Husky and is listed at 170 pounds. Despite that he was the third leading scorer on the team this past season, notching a career-high 28 points on 11 goals and 17 assists.

The Bob Lorimer Gibraltar Award

As Tech’s best defenseman on the 1975 National Champions, Lorimer went on to play ten years in the NHL and won two Stanley Cups with the great New York Islanders teams of the 1980s. For the second year in a row, I’m selecting Colin Swoyer for this award. Swoyer was +13, scored 23 points (5 goals and 18 assists) and was a joy to watch as his smooth skating and great passing out of his own end started many, many rushes for Tech.

The How Did I End Up In Houghton Rookie of the Year Award

This is always a fun pick for the Old Dog, as college hockey is now a truly international game and players can come from anywhere, while Houghton often seems like nowhere. However, there’s almost no one who came from farther away and has followed a more convoluted journey to get to Houghton than Tyrone Bronte. Bronte hails from Melbourne, a great city in Australia, but to further his hockey career, left for Quebec when he was 12, ended up in Pennsylvania for juniors and started his NCAA career in Huntsville, AL. When the Chargers program was suspended after last season, Bronte jumped at the chance to play for the Huskies. And Husky fans have been happy to have him, as he played in 27 games and was a blazing bug — but he just couldn’t find the back of the net despite many Grade-A chances. No matter — he still has at least two more years of eligibility and it’s not hard to think that he’ll become one of Tech’s leaders in the coming years.

The John Scott I Actually Studied Award

NHL All-Star MVP John Scott, who majored in mechanical engineering and got his degree despite numerous long bus rides in the original Western Collegiate Hockey Association, has publicly talked about studying thermodynamics on those trips while everyone else was watching movies. Under coach Joe Shawhan, scholarship has once again become important and the Old Dog is very pleased to highlight both senior Tyrell Buckley and grad transfer Michael Karow for this award. Both posted close to perfect 4.0 averages, something that bodes well for their futures after hockey.

The Al Karlander Senior Leadership Award

Karlander, the only player in college or the NHL to score a hat-trick on Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden (during the 1969 Frozen Four), was the Old Dog’s favorite player back when he was a freshman and watching at Dee Stadium and also led Tech to a WCHA championship in that year. This season, with ten seniors on the team—and most of them star contributors—this was a very difficult pick. Trenton Bliss and Alec Broetzman were terrific as captains, Swoyer and Parrottino were standouts most nights, but Brian Halonen, whose exploits have already been recounted, is the Old Dog’s selection for this accolade.

The Billy Steele Penalty Killer Extraordinaire Award

Steele was a tireless and nearly bonkers force on the ice when killing penalties while playing for John MacInnes from 1971-72 through the NCAA Championship 1974-75 season. This past year, Them Dogs were third in the nation in PK percentage, and also tallied 3 short-handed goals. As a result, there were plenty of worthy candidates for this spot. I’m picking Michael Karow, even though he wasn’t the flashiest player on the kill — he was just the most dependable. After transferring from Boston College, Karow was positionally sound, blocking shots again and again and being utterly reliable when killing penalties.

The Tony Esposito Goaltending Award

There’s no contest for this award. Blake Pietila started all 27 games and played all but 63 minutes of the entire season. Pietila had a great year with a goals against average of 1.91, a save percentage of .918, and was named to the All-CCHA Second Team. He did seem to tire in the last 6 weeks of the season but was still a critical factor in almost every Husky victory.

This year, we also mourn the passing of Esposito, who was not only an all-time great for Tech and an All-American for three straight years, but also a 1988 Hall of Fame selection after concluding a fabulous NHL career.

The John MacInnes Coaching Grade

Over the four years of Joe Shawhan’s tenure as the lead musher for the Huskies, he’s taken a fair amount of heat from fans for a variety of reasons. This season, however, has certainly been his best so far. With Shawhan’s first recruiting class now seniors, MTU played a very tough schedule as the new CCHA configuration eliminated some of the easy games the Huskies used to play in the now defunct men’s WCHA.

Overall, Tech’s stellar penalty killing and powerplay (26.2% success, 4th in the NCAA) were great — and that’s a tribute to both Shawhan and assistant coach Chris Brooks, whose influence on the Huskies tactical success this past campaign was both obvious and crucial in the overall success of this team.

Them Dogs also improved their scoring from the previous season, averaging 3.2 goals per game, up from their anemic 2.6 average in 2020-21. They still had difficulty scoring against the best teams, though, an ongoing issue for the Huskies under Shawhan’s guidance. 

No matter. In a tougher league, the Huskies finished second overall behind Frozen Four qualifier Minnesota State, their highest conference finish since sharing the MacNaughton Cup with MnSU in 2015.

It’s also noteworthy that Shawhan has slowly gained a much stronger capability to deal with the media and is getting better at that all the time. That’s an important factor, not only in presenting Michigan Tech to a world that often doesn’t know where the Upper Peninsula is, but also in creating the image that will attract high caliber recruits to Tech. Add in the high scholarship element mentioned above, and the off-ice portion of Shawhan’s performance is first-rate.

When the Old Dog steps back from the whole picture, this was a very successful season and I’m giving Shawhan, Brooks, assistant Tyler Shelast and goal coach Jamie Phillips an A-. They earned it and deserve high praise for the way this team performed all year. This is far and away the best coaching we’ve enjoyed since Shawhan became head coach.

Next year, though, will be a tough year. Can Tech reload when losing perhaps 10 seniors, all of them key players — or will they have to rebuild? The way college hockey teams are put together these days, with both recruiting of young players and the potential to add transfers being more important than ever, it’s a story that’s yet to be told.

You can only be sure that the Tech Hockey Guide will be there to offer you news, insights and statistics for Husky Nation.