Huskies look to get back on winning track against Nanooks

David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette Huskies goaltender Devin Kero readies for a shot during a game earlier this season at home against the Bowling Green State Falcons. The Huskies are on the road again this weekend as they take on the Nanooks.

HOUGHTON — Michigan Tech is done talking. The Huskies spent their first week in Alaska talking things through, and now head coach Joe Shawhan is looking for action. 

“I think we are spending a lot of good one-on-one time together,” he said. “I have had a lot of good individual talks with different players. It doesn’t all happen at once. Guys don’t turn the corner all at once, it is a one guy at a time thing. I have seen a lot more positives in practice and a lot more consistency.”

He’s hoping to turn that progress into wins this weekend with a two-game series against Alaska (4-8-2, 2-5-1-1 WCHA), Friday and Saturday at 11:07 p.m. at the Carlson Center. 

The Huskies are coming off a two-game series against Alaska-Anchorage where they tied with the Seawolves 1-1 and then 3-3 the following night. 

Shawhan said Tech (5-6-4, 3-5-4 WCHA) is making strides, and the ties with Anchorage are not indicative of the team’s progress. 

“In reality, I thought we deserved a little bit better fate than we got,” he said. “We just weren’t able to put the puck in the net. We generated a ton of offense, though, and I thought we showed great improvement in a ton of areas.”

When Tech got blown out by Northern Michigan 4-0, Shawhan called for leadership. Now he is getting it from his senior captain, Brent Baltus. Always a quiet leader, Baltus’ style is just what the Huskies need now.

“Right now what you need, is you don’t need a ton of voices, including mine,” Shawhan said. “What you need is example, and we are getting that.” 

Baltus’ is leading the charge, along with his linemates, Alex Smith and Jake Jackson. The three produced the bulk of Tech’s scoring chances against Anchorage, and Shawhan expects that to continue. 

As the Huskies progress player by player Shawhan is trying to be patient with his team.

Tech spent time earlier in the season ranked in the top 20 before a five-game winless streak pulled them from the rankings. Now the Huskies are trying to put their first 15 games – both wins and losses – behind them and focus on the second half of the season. 

“What they need is just confidence and the ability to put the puck in the net,” Shawhan said. “That comes in time and it’s happening one guy at a time.

“I’m expecting us to continue to grow. I’m expecting us to continue generating offense. I expect our power play to put some pucks in the net, and I expect our power play to be good so we are a team that no one wants to play in the second half of the year.”

The penalty kill has been the biggest struggle for Tech this season, giving up 16 power-play goals so far. But against Anchorage, the Huskies didn’t allow any on any of the seven power plays – the first time they’ve done that in a series this season.

“The areas where we are really spending a lot of effort on, we are seeing results, so it just takes time for everything to fall into place,” Shawhan said.

Alaska will allow Tech to test its progress, as the Nanooks have gotten three of their four wins this season at home. Tech, however, has won six of the last seven matchups between the two teams.