Tech preps for road challenge at Ferris State
HOUGHTON — Playing at home is an automatic advantage for any team, but Ferris State takes that to a whole new level. The Bulldogs have an unusually shaped rink, and according to Michigan Tech coach Joe Shawhan, that will make things difficult for the Huskies when they travel to Big Rapids this weekend for a two-game series tonight and Saturday.
“They are built to play in their rink, so it is automatically going to be a challenge to go in there and have success,” he said. “In their rink, it is a different shaped rink, they know the bounces of the rink and everything goes towards the net with a lot of traffic. They are much better offensively in their own rink than they are on the road. They are the one team in our league that has a definite home-ice advantage.”
Tech needs to pick up points this weekend if the Huskies want their own home-ice advantage during the WCHA playoffs.
Eight teams make the playoffs with the top four playing at home. Tech (13-9-5, 9-6-5-2 WCHA) is currently in fifth place, two points behind Bemidji State in third and six points behind Bowling Green State in fourth. Ferris (10-17-1, 7-12-1-0 WCHA) is in eighth place.
Tech picked up six points last weekend with two wins over Alaska, and with eight conference games remaining on the schedule, every point counts.
But Shawhan and the Huskies are trying not to get too caught up in points and playoffs.
“We are just trying to stay in the moment,” he said. “We can’t control what is happening with other teams, we can’t control what will happen a week from now. All we can control is what happens Friday night, and that is what we want to focus on.”
That means keying in on the Bulldogs and stopping their attack. Ferris State is led by junior Corey Mackin and senior Mitch Maloney with 19 points each. Shawhan knows his Huskies won’t be able to match up individually with Mackin and Maloney on their own ice, so stopping them will be a team effort.
“It is going to be important to stay out of the box, because they are special teams guys and they have enough of that to do a lot of damage,” he said. “Everybody is going to have to pitch in; it is going to be a job by numbers. Last weekend there was a certain amount of guys that stepped up, and this week we want them to contribute.”
Offensively Tech has gotten balanced production over the last few contests. In the series against Alaska, seven different players scored.
The Huskies are averaging 32.9 shots per game and 3.05 goals per game in conference play. But for Shawhan, the offense isn’t the concern. He would like to see his players do a better job of limiting their opponent’s chances. Tech is giving up 2.48 goals per game, but Shawhan wants that number to dip down to two.
He said that will happen when every player buys into focusing on the little things, something that has been an emphasis in practice lately.
“Our biggest challenge is ourself,” he said. “It is our growth and understanding of getting better and attention to detail. Our biggest challenge is productivity from our top end on a consistent basis, and that comes with attention to detail. When everyone is on board with their commitment to the little things, we are a good hockey team. When they aren’t, it usually shows up in guys that we really rely on to make a big impact for us. Our emphasis has really been on accountability, on being demanding without being demeaning.”