Michigan Tech hockey and football fans have seen their teams at their best and their worst. Now, as the Huskies hockey team prepares to host No. 1 Minnesota, and the 5-1 football team kicks off its toughest stretch of the season, the only question is "Which teams will show up?"
On the ice, will it be the team that got outshot 11-4 and fell behind 1-0 in the first period in last Thursday's 4-2 loss at Lake Superior State? Or will it be the team that outshot the Lakers 16-4 and took a 3-0 lead in the first period of Saturday's 8-4 win over LSSU?
"I think you're going to see some inconsistencies and we have to learn how to be a lot more consistent game in and game out ... but we're learning," Tech coach Mel Pearson said after Saturday's game. "And it's early, so we're going to make some mistakes, and with young players you're going to have some."
With no senior forwards starting Saturday and all three captains on the blue line, the offense is still searching for leadership to fill the large void left by Brett Olson and Jordan Baker's graduation.
There's no denying that the Huskies are relying heavily on underclassmen for scoring,
So far, of the 24 goals and assists, 13 have come from freshmen and sophomores, and of the 73 shots on goal, 37 have come from those two classes.
"It's a long season, we're playing a lot of good teams. It doesn't matter what you did the last game, it matters what you do the next game," Pearson said in a preseason interview with the Daily Mining Gazette. "(The young players) are going to find out in a real hurry that every night everyone is ready to play and anybody can beat anybody in this league. You have to be ready to play. The consistency is one of the things they're going to have to work on the most."
Pearson has repeatedly referred to "standards of play" he wants his team to follow and even in Saturday's third period the Huskies got away from some of those standards. With a 7-2 lead after 40 minutes, Tech took its foot off the gas a bit, and more importantly, took some costly and unnecessary penalties.
"Obviously (the game) was a confidence booster and we're going to need that, but we have to stay out of the box," said Tech junior forward Milos Gordic, who has two goals and two assists in two games this year. "We can't go down 5-on-3 against Minnesota."
Obviously we'll all soon find out which Huskies team will show up against the No. 1 Gophers.
The football Huskies have faced similar problems battling inconsistency. Three weeks ago, Tech fell behind 37-7 at halftime, only to storm back and lose by only eight points, 51-43. Two weeks ago, it was the opposite: Tech jumped out to a 34-3 halftime lead, but only scored seven points in the second half of a 41-17 win over Northern Michigan. Saturday, Tech fell behind 21-7 at halftime but came on strong in the final 30 minutes to score 21 unanswered in a 28-21 win.
"I think we have to get tighter. We have periods where we get a little bit sloppy," Tech coach Tom Kearly said a week ago.
If that quote looks familiar, it's because I used it in last week's column, but the same issue surfaced on Saturday.
"I guess you always deserve to win if you win, but I didn't think we played very sharp," Kearly said after Saturday's game.
And, just like the hockey team faces its toughest challenge this weekend, the football team is entering its final four games against the other best teams in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference North Division.
Ferris State, this weekend's opponent, is 3-3, but has beaten Grand Valley State. Then again, so did now 1-5 Northern Michigan, 38-10 on Saturday.
"That's what this league is like. You have to play every week. If you don't, someone's going to get you," Kearly said.
And for Tech of course the emphasis is playing consistently every week, and every part of each week's games.
After playing Ferris, Tech then heads to Saginaw Valley (5-1), hosts Hillsdale (5-1) and visits Wayne State (4-2).
So, will the Tech football team build on its 5-1 record? Will the Tech hockey team shock the world against the best team in the nation? It all depends on which teams show up.
Stephen Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/steander.