Alumni excited about hockey program
HOUGHTON – In the three years following former head coach Jamie Russell’s second double-digit win campaign, the Michigan Tech hockey program won just 15 games. In current head coach Mel Pearson’s first season, they won 16.
Since he was brought in to replace Russell, Pearson’s teams have accomplished a number of goals in much the same way you might check off items on a checklist.
First, there was a playoff series victory and a trip to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five. Then, there was a win at the Great Lakes Invitational. Then there was a sweep of Michigan State, a near repeat of the GLI victory with an overtime loss in the title game. Finally, in Year Four, there were home playoff games, another trip to the WCHA Frozen Four, and a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since Pearson suited up for the Black and Gold as a player.
“It’s unbelievable,” said former defenseman John Scott. “I couldn’t be more happy.”
This past weekend, the hockey program honored many of its alumni with a game and many events around the game. For some, it was the first time they had been back in several seasons. For others, it was a chance to see the improvements to the building, both the seats and the scoreboard.
One fact was not missed by any of them, Pearson has the program moving in the right direction.
“Mel is solid,” said former defenseman Scott White. “[He’s a] good man and a good coach. He understands the game and understands the business. Kids want to come here. Bottom line, that’s a good thing.”
Currently getting ready for his eighth National Hockey League season and first with the Arizona Coyotes, Scott is extremely proud of his alma mater’s accomplishments.
“It’s nice because I still play, obviously.” said Scott. “I run into guys who played for Wisconsin or North Dakota or Michigan. Now I can do a little bragging myself. It’s unbelievable what [Coach Pearson] has done for the game. It’s great for this area.”
Older alumni also have taken notice of the return to form of the hockey program. The program’s all-time leading scorer, Mike Zuke, swells with pride when he sees where things seem to be heading.
“It’s great to come up here, especially after a winning season,” said Zuke. “Mel has done a great job, as have the other coaches.”
Zuke also mentioned changes that cannot be seen, but instead felt.
“It’s the atmosphere, the positive atmosphere,” said Zuke. “From the alumni. You know, it trickles down from the players to the coaches to the alumni. The alumni get excited when the team is doing well. It’s great for the city and great for the school.”
With everything Pearson’s teams have accomplished already, it certainly has become an exciting time to be a student, an alum, or a community member. The hockey world has taken notice as well.
Scott perhaps sums it up best.
“We are not too far away from a national championship,” said Scott. “I think.”