Does anyone know the recipe for a successful first period this Friday? If you do, give Michigan Tech hockey coach Mel Pearson a call.
The last two Fridays, Tech has fallen behind at least 3-0 in the first period, on the road no less. Not an ideal situation.
"If I knew the answer obviously it wouldn't happen," Pearson said.
Of course the Huskies came back to tie Minnesota-Duluth two Fridays ago, and they tied the game after two periods against Minnesota State before falling 5-3. Tech is ultimately "happy but not satisfied" with taking five of eight points from a pair of Western Collegiate Hockey Association road series.
"That's what I like about this team is that with their backs to the wall, they found a way to get it done, but we have to learn to get off to a better start Friday," Pearson added.
The easy answer would be to look at Saturday.
Tech led 4-0 in Duluth after 20 minutes two Saturdays ago and 6-2 in Mankato last Saturday.
But was there really that much of a difference in preparation?
Nope. It was just a matter of executing what the team already knows and playing with that all-too-elusive intensity.
"Once we feel like we disappointed ourselves Friday, we want to make up for it. ... We played with a little chip on our shoulder and we have to have that chip every time we take the ice," senior captain Brett Olson said.
One way to bottle up that intensity is to not use up as much of it during the week. The coaching staff is reducing the practice and weightlifting load on the team heading into the final month of the regular season, and emphasizing healthy routines - sleeping habits in particular.
See, no secret potions or shortcuts.
"If there was any answer for it, if anyone had the magical elixir, we'd figure it out, but it just comes down to every man that's going to be on the ice that night being ready and finding their way to be ready," Olson added. "The past couple weekends it's come back to haunt us early in that period, but we're just trying to learn from it, like we do with every game, and keep moving forward and not try to dwell on it too much."
Fair enough. So, looking ahead to this weekend.
It may sound clich to say Friday and Saturday's games are important - all games are - but this series against Nebraska-Omaha carries an added level of significance that's fairly new to Tech: serious (home) playoff implications.
The Huskies (10-8-2 WCHA, 22 points) are in a three-way tie for fifth place in the WCHA, with none other than their next two opponents: Nebraska-Omaha (9-7-4 WCHA, 22 points) and North Dakota (11-9-0 WCHA, 22 points).
Oh yeah, and it's Winter Carnival weekend.
Biggest Tech hockey series in recent history? Hard to argue against that.
"We talked a little bit about being in this position and who would have thought at the start of the year," Pearson said.
"It's a testament, but it's about what we're going to do now these next four weeks, to really get focused and put some of the distractions aside for the next month, month and a half, two months - just school and hockey."
And potential distractions will be abundant this week: no classes Thursday and Friday, family and friends visiting, Winter Carnival events.
"We want to maintain our focus as much as possible. Try to stay in a rhythm somehow even though we might be out of our original schedule," Olson said. "It's a big weekend. ... It's going to be fun, but we also have to not focus on all those little distractions and make sure we're ready to play this weekend."
So, on second thought, distracting Pearson with a phone call may not be the best idea. We'll all find out soon enough if Tech has solved its Friday first period woes.
Stephen Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/steander.