Tech freshman look good

Thoughts From the Penalty Box

While their season-opening weekend was not a very successful one as the No. 19 Michigan Tech Huskies hockey team lost both matchups with the No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, there were some positives that they could take out of the weekend. The first was the play of senior goaltender Devin Kero and another would be the play of several of the new faces the Huskies inserted in the lineup throughout the weekend.

On Friday night, the Huskies dressed six freshmen. The group combined for 10 of the 33 shots the team took, led by defenseman Colin Swoyer, who took four. One, winger Trenton Bliss, picked up an assist on the Huskies’ lone goal by junior Gavin Gould.

Two, center Brian Halonen and winger Alec Broetzman, played together most of the night. While the duo only had two shots in the game, fans could see them work together well the longer the game went on. As a forechecking tandem, they made life difficult for the Bulldogs’ defense.

“Some young guys got some great minutes,” said head coach Joe Shawhan after Friday’s contest. “Halonen was very good. Bliss made a great play at a critical time in the game. Broetzman, I thought, played a tremendous game.”

Eric Gotz, the other defenseman in the lineup, had a very solid effort as well.

“Eric Gotz played a tremendous game,” said Shawhan after Friday’s game.

Shawhan felt, heading into Saturday’s contest, that Gotz might have been the best defenseman the Huskies had on the ice Friday when discussing his lineup with Dirk Hembroff on 93.5 FM WKMJ prior to faceoff.

Pretty high praise for the youngster.

Saturday, two more freshmen made their college debuts as wingers Andrew Bellant and T.J. Polglaze both were inserted into the lineup. One replaced classmate Tommy Parrottino, the other was in for junior Thomas Beretta.

Bellant had one shot on goal Saturday, but it was a big one, as he took a pass from assistant captain Jake Jackson in motion, skated behind the Bulldogs defense and beat goaltender Hunter Shepard with a backhand after a quick deke.

While Bellant was happy to score his first career goal, he was more concerned about the fact that the team lost and was not ready to enjoy his accomplishment during the post-game interview with local media.

Polglaze also had a shot on goal, but did not manage to have the same luck.

Broetzman and Halonen were again paired together throughout the night. Even after things broke down defensively for the Huskies, the duo continued to try to make things happen offensively where they could.

It nearly the entire 60 minutes, but their hard-nosed forechecking efforts were finally rewarded in the final minute of the game when Broetzman pulled the puck out of a scrum along the right boards. Halonen snatched it from there and fed it over to defenseman Cooper Watson, who snuck in from the left point. Watson unloaded a blast that beat Shepard cleanly.

Broetzman alos led all Huskies with three shots on goal.

Shawhan was happy with the performances of both Bellant and Halonen.

“Those are two really gritty hockey players,” said Shawhan after Saturday’s game. “The gritty guys are the ones that got something done.

“Halonen won a battle on that second goal. There is a price you have to pay to get anything that is worthwhile…There is a price you have to pay and we need more guys to pay those types of prices right now.”

Shawhan continued his discussion of Halonen. The Huskies’ coach compared the youngster to another former Huskies star who is currently playing professional hockey in the American Hockey League.

“I don’t know if it is ability, but it is certainly desire,” said Shawhan. “He’s like Blake Pietila. He comes to play. He straps his skates on, buttons his helmet on and he comes after you.

“He plays it clean. He doesn’t get dirty. He just plays. He doesn’t complain. He doesn’t whine about officiating. I am really glad he is here and a part of our team.”

Again, high praise for the youngster.

While, on the surface, it is easy to dismiss this early version of the 2018-19 Huskies squad as a team that could struggle throughout the season, the reality is this was just the first weekend. They faced a very tough opponent in the Bulldogs, who returned 18 players off the national championship-winning squad from last season.

There are a number of reasons to be bullish on the future of this group of Huskies. Several freshmen will have significant impacts before the WCHA season comes to a close in March.