Well, here we are—the 2023-24 college hockey season is about to start.

Technically, it already started when the Michigan Wolverines, due to an error from the NCAA (what else is new) were allowed to play an exhibition game against Simon Fraser University from British Columbia. But that shouldn’t count—as an exhibition, it’s not a game that affects anything, and Michigan wasn’t tested at all against a Canadian college team. Nor was Alaska-Anchorage or Alaska-Fairbanks in exhibitions against Vancouver Island, which doesn’t even have an athletics page on their website.

That’s not a knock against VIU, though; their campus is stunningly beautiful and they offer a wide range of academic challenges. It’s just an acknowledgement that most of the NCAA exhibition games against Canadian universities are lopsided affairs that don’t amount to much.

And, trivially last as well as trivially least, on Friday Arizona State plays the University of Arizona club team.

The real games start this week on Saturday, October 7.

A Traditional Dog Fight Rival Is Up First

At 7:07 PM CDT, at the Amsoil Arena in Duluth, Michigan Tech will face off against old foe Minnesota-Duluth in the US Hockey Hall of Fame Game. The Bulldogs have been picked 5th in the tough National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC—but it’s “The Nacho” to Tech fans) and also ranked 16th in the preliminary national polls. In those same polls, the Huskies were rated at either #10 or #11, so, at least in the minds of the pollsters, this should be an excellent test for both teams to start the season.

In the Old Dog’s first column of this season, I gave you a glimpse of the talent that Tech will have this year. THG also has a ton of other articles about the coming season, from Jonathan Zamaites, Nathaniel Brose, Tim Braun, and Nathan Cima, as well as our Chasing MacNaughton podcast crew.

But if you’re too lazy to click on any of these links, suffice it to say that this is one of the best teams—again, at least on paper—that the Huskies have put on the ice for a long time. They’ve had good talent in many ways in the past decade, but this is probably the most complete and deep set of talent in Houghton in a long time, possibly even going back to the glory years of the 1970’s.

The Key Will Be Putting The Pieces Together

Them Dogs have an ideal mélange of strengths for the coming season. Great goaltending, senior leadership, scoring prowess, and solid defense will blend with an outstanding freshman class and two potentially talented transfers. The Huskies should be strong in every phase of the game, unlike previous seasons where there was always something just short of the top tier in college hockey.

One year it was goaltending, going back and forth without a clear #1 goalie. In more than a couple of years, it was a lack of scoring from anywhere but the first line. In Tanner Kero’s senior year (2014-15), Tech had a similar package of talent, but didn’t really have they depth that they should have this season.

With this assemblage of skilled and heralded players, Coach Joe Shawhan will play an even bigger role than a head coach might otherwise. Finding the right combinations on the top two lines and top four defensemen will be of the utmost importance, and there are more options for Shawhan than ever before, particularly for the forwards. With just a few open spots in the lineup, the competition among the Huskies for a slot on the game sheet each night should be fierce and unrelenting.

While the whole season won’t depend on what happens Saturday night in Duluth, it will be our first real look at this year’s Husky team, and we’ll get a glimpse of what could be a season to remember.

The only video feed for this game will be through NCHC TV,  where you can get a one day pass for $16.95. Otherwise, you can always listen to the Huskies, and hear Tech’s great play-by-play man Dirk Hembroff, through a variety of web radio links.

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.