Michigan Tech hockey sent shockwaves across the college hockey landscape last Friday with a 3-2 overtime win against still-No. 2 Minnesota, at Mariucci Arena no less. It's the kind of signature win that gives the Huskies legitimate belief that they can beat any opponent in any venue.
"The key to the victory Friday was we did a good job on special teams and we just kept battling and kept competing and found a way to win," Tech assistant coach Bill Muckalt said Monday. "One of the things we're trying to do is establish good patterns in a tough environment against great teams."
And the Huskies stayed true to that form through the first 42 or so minutes of Saturday's game - until it all unraveled. Tech gave up four unanswered goals after tying the game at 2-2 early in the third period, and tempers flared late in the game.
In a game that already had a major contact to the head penalty, five-minute high sticking call and a 10-minute misconduct, Tech defenseman Carl Nielsen exchanged blows with Minnesota's Seth Helgeson, followed shortly after by a heated verbal exchange between Muckalt and Minnesota's coaching staff.
"I'd prefer not to really discuss it. I got my point across," Muckalt said, as evidenced by the video footage on USCHO.com's WCHA blog (bit.ly/ubnW4p).
"Hockey is a passionate emotional game, and as coaches we stand up for our players and support our players. We're proud of our players and really that's all there is to it," he added.
When asked whether it was something unsportsmanlike that Minnesota did to spur the exchange, Muckalt said, "That would be a safe bet, but at the end of the day, that's in the past."
And it is. Cooler heads ultimately prevailed, and despite the referees' initial plan to prevent a handshake between teams, head coach Mel Pearson insisted the customary show of sportsmanship be displayed.
"Once the game's over, the game's over. You play hard between the whistles. Obviously Coach (Pearson) is a big proponent of shaking hands and making sure everyone was professional," Muckalt said.
And that will need to be a big point of emphasis this week heading into a one-game weekend Friday against rival Northern Michigan - in Marquette.
The Wildcats are third in the nation in penalty minutes and have already racked up nine major penalties and five game misconducts. But for all that time in the sin bin, NMU is fourth in the country in penalty killing at 89.5 percent. Tech, by way of comparison, has an 81.0 percent penalty kill - but the Huskies also boast the nation's 11th best power play, converting 22.78 percent of opportunities.
Needless to say, the team that keeps its cool and stays out of the penalty box Friday will have a good chance to win the non-conference U.P. rivalry game.
"When we look at our team, we see a very disciplined hockey team. Northern is very well coached and they're a very good hockey club," Muckalt said. "The stage is set for a great game. We know they're going to give it their best and obviously we're going in there to play our best hockey."
May the best (disciplined) team win.
Stephen Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @steander.