First look: Tech showcases new faces at intrasquad scrimmage
HOUGHTON — The last time most of the Michigan Tech Huskies hockey team took the ice at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena, it was before a capacity crowd in a game that saw then assistant captain Shane Hanna score the game-winner in double overtime.
Saturday was the first chance for those returners to step back on their home ice in their team colors and display their skill once again for those that took advantage of the opportunity. It was also the first chance for Huskies’ fans to see the 10 new faces on the roster this year and a chance for new head coach Joe Shawhan to see his team in game situations before Sunday’s season opener at Wisconsin.
While White won the game, 2-0, with sophomore Gavin Gould scoring the game-winner on the power play, the game was more about giving the players a chance to work in units, and Shawhan liked much of what he saw, despite the fact that there is still a ways to go before the matchup with the Badgers.
“It’s hard to get a real good gauge,” said Shawhan. “Going with two lines on each team, fatigue sets in. We’ll see what we have next weekend against Wisconsin.”
Along with all of the new faces, two old faces were back who missed much of last season: seniors Brent Baltus and Dylan Steman. Baltus, the newly-minted captain, and Steman skated together on a line for Gold with junior Jake Jackson.
Baltus was happy to be back on the ice with his teammates.
“You never want your last year to go out with an injury like that,” said Baltus about himself and Steman. “Just to be back playing hockey is exciting. I know we are both really excited.”
Gold was awarded the first power play of the night and Baltus and Steman worked well alongside sophomore Alex Smith as a part of a five-man unit.
On White, Gould was part of what could be the Huskies’ top line early in the season alongside junior Jake Lucchini and senior Joel L’Esperance.
Gould, who scored seven of his 12 goals last season in the last eight games, will be counted on to build off of that this season, and he showed speed and confidence throughout Saturday’s exhibition, creating multiple scoring chances before finally breaking through with 12 minutes left in the contest when he collected his own rebound, fired a backhand shot that hit the post, hit freshman Robbie Beydoun in the back of the leg and bounced into the net.
“You always want to produce and you always want to do the right things,” said Gould. “With a little bit more experience, I wouldn’t say it’s easier, but you know what to do and you know how to handle yourself.”
That was the only goal Beydoun gave up in 20 minutes action. The youngster, who played last season for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL, was challenged multiple times by the Lucchini, Gould and L’Esperance line before surrendering the goal to Gould.
Beydoun, who has been strong in practice, thought he was ready for his first experience wearing the Black and Gold, but that was before he stepped on the ice and heard the Tech pep band.
“I was looking forward to this, listening to the band, playing at this arena for a while,” said Beydoun. “Just coming out for this, I got chills. It was really exciting. I am looking forward to the season.”
Juniors Devin Kero and Patrick Munson — a transfer from Denver — also had strong moments Saturday, making Shawhan’s decision about who will start against the Badgers a difficult one at this point.
“I thought all of our goaltenders were good,” said Shawhan. “They all look good in the early going and hopefully that will be a strength of our team.”
Another transfer stepped in and had a strong night for Gold. Sophomore Keegan Ford played alongside junior Dane Birks and the pair moved the puck well between them. Ford, who played 12 games for the Badgers a couple of seasons ago, was happy to finally be back on the ice in a college uniform.
“It was exciting, just to have a game, even though it wasn’t a real game,” said Ford. “It’s good just to get out there and compete.”
Ford showed flashes of his ability to control the puck along the blueline on the power play. Sitting at the top of the umbrella on the man advantage, Ford looked, at times, like Hanna or even former Husky Steven Seigo, as he moved the puck across the blue line, creating new shooting lanes before releasing a shot or another pass.
White’s second tally came off the stick of freshman Marcus Russell, who beat Kero with a wrist shot from the slot. Russell, who struggled a little early in the game, found a soft spot in Gold’s defense and called for a pass from Lucchini. Once he had the puck, Russell skated in and picked a spot, beating Kero with just under two minutes left in the contest.
The Huskies play for real on Sunday at the Kohl Center in Madison when they face the Badgers in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game at 3 p.m.