HOUGHTON - It was equal parts competitive and comical Friday night at MacInnes Ice Arena as generations of Michigan Tech hockey players gathered for an alumni hockey game.
The Gold team ultimately edged the White team 7-6, but all players skated away smiling, as did the few hundred fans who watched some free hockey and got their first taste of the new video scoreboard.
"I thought it was a great night," said Tech coach Mel Pearson, who got an assist on a Gold goal by Tech assistant coach Bill Muckalt. "It's always good to get former players, equipment managers, coaches back together and celebrate Michigan Tech hockey."
Michigan Tech White team forward Pete Rouleau (14, 2005-08) skates up ice as Gold's Damon Whitten (14, Tech assistant coach) and Dirk Hembroff (11, Tech radio voice) pursue during Friday night's alumni game at MacInnes Student Ice Arena. Gold won 7-6. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
Michigan Tech hockey head coach Mel Pearson skates for the Gold team during Friday night's alumni hockey game. Pearson played for the Huskies from 1977-81. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
It wasn't always the prettiest hockey during two 25-minute, running-time halves, but the flashes of brilliance and signs of rust were equally entertaining in the laid-back atmosphere.
"... I hope none of our players were watching that, because obviously this is not how you do it, you do it a lot better," Pearson said. "I haven't played much hockey, but it was just fun to get out there and be part of it."
Pearson selected the teams, botching a strategy Muckalt and former Stanley Cup winner Randy McKay devised to get some revenge on the head coach.
"Mel fixed it so me and Billy were on the same team as him so we couldn't go after him," joked McKay (1984-88 at Tech), who scored a game-high four goals for the victors, including a natural hat trick to start the game. "I just went to the net and tapped in rebounds. They weren't pretty, but it's kind of hard not to put them in when they're 3 inches from the goal.
"... I thought the other team had a little more speed, a little more youth, but sometimes wisdom rises above."
Players from seven different decades participated, ranging in age from Paul Tormala, who played for Tech from 1951-54, to Carl Nielsen, who was Tech's captain last year. Because several former players opted not to participate in the game, rosters were filled out with players like Tech radio voice Dirk Hembroff and assistant athletic director Joel Isaacson for Gold, and Tech video coordinator Nick Laurila for White.
After McKay started the game with three goals in the first 12 minutes, White's John Hartman (2001-05) and Tyler Shelast (2004-08) cut Gold's lead to 3-2 heading into the brief halftime.
Mike Hauswirth (1989-92) tied the game up just 30 seconds into the second half, but Gold scored four in a row. McKay's fourth and Nielsen's first bookended a pair of tallies from Muckalt to make it 7-3 Gold with 11 minutes left.
But White responded quickly with goals by Randy Stevens (1991-95), Hartman and Hauswirth. The clock stopped during the last minute of play, and a Pearson slashing penalty with 30 seconds left - called in animated fashion by longtime local referee Joe Romano - gave White a chase penalty shot with a chance to tie. But White, who sent three people in on the breakaway, got too fancy and never got a clean shot on former Finlandia goaltender Mike Wuthrich.
Players met for a social event after the game, and another social and golf outing are planned for today, with about 40 alums expected to participate during the weekend.