Hockey is now back
Over the course of the last week, the sport I consider the best one on the planet, hockey, kicked into high gear. Locally, the Michigan Tech Huskies started their season with a loss to No. 12 Wisconsin, and then followed that loss with a pair of victories over Union and Minnesota-Duluth. Nationally, the NHL season got underway Wednesday and saw all kinds of craziness already.
However, I feel the need to start with Team Copper Country.
The defending national champions finally lost their first game of the season this past weekend against a Minnesota-based squad. It would have been easy for Team CC to take it easy this season after winning the ultimate prize last year, but this group has proven to be every bit as hungry as last year’s, and that could a sign of a highly competitive high school season this year.
As for the Huskies, hats off to new head coach Joe Shawhan on earning his first career victory Friday night as the team exploded out of the gates and racked up a 4-1 lead before No. 16 Union knew what hit them. Freshman Mitch Meek scored his first career goal just 3:29 into the contest. Before all was said and done, junior Dane Birks, senior Mark Auk, senior Joel L’Esperance and junior Jake Jackson all tallied goals.
On Saturday, the Huskies fell behind 2-0 for the second time this season just 8:32 into the contest. From there, goals from Auk, sophomore Raymond Brice, sophomore Gavin Gould and freshman Justin Misiak were more than the Bulldogs could make up for over the final 50 minutes of regulation.
For Brice and Misiak, the goals were their first of their careers. In Brice’s case, the goal is made that much sweeter by considering the fact that he basically played about nine minutes total as a freshman but is in the process of carving out a role as a second-year player.
Two more stats jump out at me as well. First, the Huskies have six power play goals through the first three games of the season. They are averaging 42.9 percent on the advantage right now. It won’t last, but it is a fun stat to say the least. Second, Auk is tied for the nation’s lead in scoring. With two goals and six points through three games, Auk is tied with two other skaters: Boston’s Patrick Harper and Northeastern’s Zach Solow.
With the start of the NHL season, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ quest to become the first team since the New York Islanders to three-peat as Stanley Cup champions began with a loss in overtime to the St. Louis Blues… At home!
Through two games for every team, some interesting trends have popped up. The San Jose Sharks are 0-2 after losing to Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The Detroit Red Wings are 2-0, as are the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Chicago Blackhawks have both scored 15 goals through their first two games of the season, with the Blackhawks posting 10 on the Penguins on Thursday. The only other team with at least 10 goals is the Washington Capitals, and that is because Alexander Ovechkin has seven of them.
Former Huskies center Jujhar Khaira made the opening night roster of the Edmonton Oilers, who opened their season with a 3-0 win over the Calgary Flames in a game that saw phenom Connor McDavid score a hat trick for the Oilers.
The Red Wings opened the disappointingly named Little Caesars Arena with a crazy 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild in which the Wild had not one, but two, goals called back in the first period. That being said, however, the Red Wings played a roster dotted with several young players from their AHL Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins over the first two nights, and the kids are all right.
Martin Frk, the forgotten man from a junior hockey line that featured Jonathan Drouin and Nathan McKinnon, has two goals and three points thus far. Anthony Mantha has a goal and two helpers. Dylan Larkin has also gotten off to a fast start with a goal and two points.
Other teams have also loaded up on young talent. The Boston Bruins saw first career goals from Jake DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy in their opener. Philadelphia is 2-1 on the season despite having only two defensemen with more than two years of playing time at the NHL level. The Colorado Avalanche are 2-1 with J.T. Compher having scored a goal and two points.
This is already shaping up to be a very exciting year for hockey at several different levels. I, for one, am very excited to see where it all goes over the course of the winter.