No. 15 Michigan Tech aims to keep momentum rolling against LSSU
SAULT STE. MARIE — Three games into the college hockey season, the Michigan Tech Huskies are the talk of the hockey world, having entered last weekend’s Ice Breaker Tournament as the lone unranked squad before defeating No. 16 Union and No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth en route to becoming tournament champions. Several aspects of the Huskies’ game are clicking right out of the gates, which is very promising for first-year head coach Joe Shawhan.
The No. 15 Huskies saw three skaters score their first career goals over the weekend, as freshman defenseman Mitch Meek broke the ice on Friday night just 3 minutes, 29 seconds into the contest against the Dutchmen before sophomore winger Raymond Brice and freshman winger Justin Misiak both scored on Saturday as part of a 4-3 win over the host Bulldogs.
Shawhan was pleased with how quickly the Huskies came out of the gates on Friday, which he felt was the direct result of the week of practice the team had going in.
“It was something we wanted to see if we would because we had been practicing so well,” said Shawhan of the fast start. “I was excited to see us play. I liked the way we had been practicing.”
With a 4-1 lead going into the third period Friday, the Huskies let off the gas a little bit, and that decision proved costly as the Dutchmen scored twice in 2:37. Instead of crumbling, the Huskies responded well with goals from assistant captains Joel L’Esperance and Jake Lucchini over the game’s final 10:38 to seal the victory.
While the turnaround effort was important for the players’ confidence, it was just as important for the coaching staff, who were presented with an early season challenge.
“What I was proud of was that when they made it a one-goal game, we played much better hockey from that point on,” said Shawhan. “We did a pretty good job, after they made it a one-goal game of getting back to the way we wanted to play.”
Saturday night, the highlight for local hockey fans came at the end of a Huskies’ power play in the second period when Brice, a Houghton High School graduate, banged a backhand past Bulldogs goaltender Nick Deery at 12:49. Brice felt he surprised Deery on the play.
“I guess I got a good bounce there going on,” said Brice. “I don’t think the goaltender really expected that.”
It was not his best scoring chance in the contest.
“I think that I had a couple of chances earlier that I should have buried,” said Brice.
After struggling to break into the lineup only to get hurt in his lone appearance as a freshman, Brice is taking advantage of the faith Shawhan and his staff are showing in the hard-working forward.
“He brings that out of other people too,” said Shawhan. “The people who want to take Ray Brice’s spot have to work really hard, and the guys that Ray is chasing have to work really hard. What Ray is beginning to do for us, is that we can use him as an example of what we want.”
Brice feels that the coaching staff is entrusting his line to make things happen on the ice.
“Coach has instilled some trust in me, and our line,” said Brice. “I think we are starting to play well.”
LAKE SUPERIOR STATE
This weekend, Brice and his teammates have a new problem to deal with, keep their newfound momentum going as they travel for the third straight weekend, this time to face the Lake Superior State Lakers.
The Lakers are 1-1-0 on the season after splitting a pair of nonconference games against fellow WCHA member Northern Michigan. In the season-opener on Friday, the Lakers scored four powerplay goals.
Former Huskies’ head coach Damon Whitten is in Year Four of his rebuild and things are starting to click for the Lakers.
“Damon’s done a tremendous job,” said Shawhan. “People here know the type of hockey team he likes to have. They are veteran. They are big, strong. They have skill, they play with skill. I think this is a year where they are playing for home ice.”
Junior forward Diego Cuglietta is off to a great start for the Lakers with two goals and three points through two games. Freshman defenseman Lukas Kaelble is also off to a hot start with three assists last Friday.
Junior goaltender Nick Kossoff has played both games for the Lakers thus far, going 1-1-0 with a 3.01 goals against average and a .906 save percentage.
Game times this weekend are 7:37 p.m. Friday and 7:07 p.m Saturday. Both are at the Taffy Abel Arena.