The last six months have been full of adjustments within the Michigan Tech hockey program, but even though the biggest changes are complete, like a new coaching staff, adjustments have been the name of the game so far during the season, too. The ability to adapt has been key to Tech's 4-0 start.
"We're not so stubborn that we just have to say, 'This is the way we have to do it,'" coach Mel Pearson said, citing a specific example from Saturday's 3-2 overtime win over Wisconsin.
With Michigan Tech leading 2-1, Huskies forward Alex MacLeod went off for a five-minute major boarding call that gave the Badgers a prime opportunity to tie the game. However, thanks to a key change made between the second and third periods in the Huskies' penalty killing approach, Tech only gave up one shot and had four shorthanded shots of its own during the penalty.
"Every time we dumped it down into their zone, we attacked and went after them hard," said Pearson, who noted assistant coach Damon Whitten primarily coaches the PK and suggested the change. "If you don't, a lot of teams will set up and come out at you systematically. But here you disrupt it and it causes chaos, plus you're down in their zone for a while, and you end up outworking the power play. When you do that, it causes a lot of frustration for the power play and you could see that."
That adjustment may have been the biggest difference between winning and losing, but it was just one of several adjustments made the week leading up to the Wisconsin series and during the weekend.
Several forward lines and defensive pairings were changed, highlighted by a return to the Brett Olson/Jordan Baker/Blake Pietila first line that ended up scoring both OT game winners. The MacLeod/Dennis Rix/Aaron Pietila line was moved from fourth to second line Saturday to reward their great play Friday. The Huskies were forced to adjust to the loss of defenseman Tommy Brown, who had his appendix removed.
Tech has also adjusted its approach in net thanks to the consistent play of Josh Robinson, who will more than likely start again this weekend - as opposed to an automatic split between Robinson and Kevin Genoe.
"(Robinson) has looked awfully good. I wouldn't say it's his job to lose, but he's got the hot hand," Pearson said. "We'll probably continue to go with the guy who has the hot hand. Why wouldn't you? And he has some confidence going for him, and that's important."
Of course, the coaching staff is more than willing to make an adjustment if Robinson falters. It's that pressure to make changes to any position at any time that has kept the intensity high for the whole team - even players that have received little to no playing time.
"It doesn't take much for a guy to go down and bang you get the opportunity, and you have to be ready for that opportunity," Pearson said. Brown's situation is a prime example, allowing Brad Stebner to jump from a healthy scratch to a top-four defenseman.
It's early in the year, and last year's 4-30-4 team started 3-0-2, but if the coaches keep pushing all the right buttons, and the players keep buying into their message and seeing positive results, fans, media and the entire college hockey world may be the ones continuing to make the biggest adjustments - to their expectations of Michigan Tech hockey.
Football: Playing for pride
After a 4-1 start to the football season and powerhouse Grand Valley's 0-3 start, the Michigan Tech Huskies had every reason to be excited about a possible playoff run. But, after two crushing losses at Sherman Field, making the playoffs would take nothing short of a miracle, even if the Huskies win all four of their final games.
Some of the team's main goals entering the season are unreachable, but the Huskies now need to play for pride, representing a program that has steadily been a top four finisher in the always-tough Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
"There's maybe some things we lost (Saturday) that we can't get back, but the next four weeks will determine what kind of football team we are," Tech coach Tom Kearly said after Saturday's 13-7 loss to Hillsdale. "I think a lot of the character will be determined in the last four weeks in how this football team stays together, plays hard, is disciplined and does the little things."
The Huskies' road doesn't get much easier, playing three of their final four games on the road, including contests against GVSU (which has now won its last three games) and a season finale against Northern Michigan in the Superior Dome.
"If all we had to play for is pride, we'll still play our hearts out for pride alone," said Huskies' lineback Ian Coughlin, one of 16 seniors in their final month in a Tech uniform. "We're going to come out every game like it's an elimination game. I'm not worried about that."