With an Alaska roadtrip, Michigan Tech has chance to bounce back

Michigan Tech’s Jake Jackson watches as Northern Michigan’s Atte Tolvanen makes a save, Saturday, at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Bryce Derouin/Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — Michigan Tech needs a breakthrough. The Huskies are in a four-week slump that started with a home loss to Alabama Huntsville and was punctuated with a dismal blowout at rival Northern Michigan. 

They begin a four-game road trip today and tomorrow against the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves at 11:07 p.m. This could be a make-it or break-it point in their season and luckily for the Huskies, the circumstances appear to be in their favor. 

Their road trip takes them away from home crowds and distractions, giving the team a chance to focus on nothing but hockey.

In addition, Alaska Anchorage and Alaska (the next team on Tech’s schedule) are both beatable opponents. Anchorage is 1-7-2 (1-2-1 WCHA) and Alaska is 3-7-2 (1-4-1 WCHA)

The Huskies (5-6-2, 3-5-2-1 WCHA) could realistically come away with four wins, something that would put them in a good spot going forward, and serve to build confidence in a team that desperately needs it. 

Head coach Joe Shawhan has talked all season about Tech’s difficulties with special teams. Through 13 games the Huskies have a 70.9 penalty kill percentage and just 14 power-play goals in 70 opportunities.   

The Huskies coaching staff has tried different strategies to shake things up on special teams — but nothing has worked. Tech is running out of options. 

“We’ve been patient with this group knowing that they lost key elements,” Shawhan said. “But at some point when guys show that they can compete at this level and it strictly comes down to will-power, then they have to respond.”

He’s hoping to get that response this weekend. 

With a fanbase that is accustomed to hockey greatness, Shawhan feels he owes the community wins, something he expressed following Tech’s 4-1 victory over Northern Michigan on November 10.

“I’m thankful for the support we’ve gotten from the community. We haven’t given them much to cheer about lately,” he said. “The people here in this community embrace Michigan Tech. You feel awful the last few games here because we haven’t given the people what they deserve. We go home with that at night. They spend their hard-earned money to come to our games and we haven’t given them anything.”

On the road, the Huskies won’t have to worry about fans, only wins. 

Tech has the chance to push its record above .500 in Alaska, but the team will have to combat an Alaska Anchorage team that makes the most of its games against Tech. Last season the Huskies played the Seawolves in four tight contests, escaping with a 1-0-3 record. Overall Tech is 33-34-14 against Anchorage, with the Seawolves holding a 14-19-8 advantage at home.