Rivalry renewed: Huskies get ready to face Wildcats
HOUGHTON — The Michigan Tech Huskies hockey team is eight games into the WHCA portion of their season, and after an explosive second period on Saturday against Bemidji State, they 7-0-1 in conference play, which has them still in first place.
Key goals from senior forward Dylan Steman, who has three goals over 13 games, Alex Smith who got two of his three goals on the season last weekend and sophomore defenseman Seamus Donohue who picked up two of his ten assists for the season on Saturday, the Huskies seem to be clicking right now.
Coach Joe Shawhan is happy to see so many of his players find success. Considering the season is still young, he wants his players to stay focused for the tough schedule ahead if they want to continue to improve on their 8-5-1 record overall.
“We’re eight games in (in the WCHA),” he said. “These points all add up, but we still (have) 20 games left with ranked teams.
“(We’re) keeping things in perspective (and) still look at what we have to get better at and go from there.”
Longevity and focus played their part in last weekend’s 3-3 tie and 7-2 victory. Four sound lines with strong chemistry and an even stronger defensive core helped the Huskies stay undefeated in conference play.
“I think there was resiliency.” said Shawhan. “Like on Friday night when that (tying) goal went in, it just seemed to take the air out a little bit. You could see it. You could feel it. I liked how the guys battled to stay focused on it, get through it and get into the overtime and get that extra point. We felt like we came out with a win but, in reality, we came out with a tie.
“I’m just very happy (and) proud of where they’ve come from, that whole defensive core. (Their) growth has been incredible. A lot of that comes from the work (from) the forwards, helping them do what they can do, play within themselves and take away time and space.”
Sophomore defenseman Tyler Rockwell has one goal and five assists, two of which came Saturday. Over 11 games, he has adapted his game to shape what the Huskies need.
“With ‘Rocky,’ he didn’t travel the second week of the year to Wisconsin,” Shawhan said. “He worked very hard in the offseason and kind of revamped himself. It got to the point where he said, ‘the coaching staff doesn’t get it, but if that’s what they’re going to ask me to do, I’m going to do it, because I’m not going to sit out anymore.’
“He’s kind of changed his game into how we’ve asked him to play. He’s found some success in it. He’s always been good with the puck, but he’s defending much better now. He’s playing with Sheamus right now and Sheamus is playing better. They complement each other and are puck movers.”
Junior winger Thomas Beretta has two goals over five games and has worked his way into the lineup after finding what makes him unique as a player and how he could best contribute.
“He sends the right signal,” Shawhan said. “He played (in) three games before the weekend. He wants to play. He’s a veteran. He’s a junior. (We’ve had) a lot of talks, watched a lot of video (and had) a lot of discussions on role identity.
“When he got the chance, he worked extremely hard in individual work and in practice. When he got the chance, he was ready to play and now (we’re) not looking to make a change there because he’s filling a role that (we) really need. He’s a size (and) strength forward that’s now engaged in battles.”
Senior Dylan Steman is also building up some momentum for the Huskies with three goals and five assists over 13 games.
“Dylan has had the opportunity to play with some offensive players right now and it’s working for him,” said Shawhan. “He’s putting some points up. He’s getting to play with Lucchini, who’s leading the league in scoring, and he played with Gould last weekend. He provides a lot of energy (and) grit on that line and he’s making some plays that equate into points.”
Few team rivalries in Michigan sports culture compare to to that of Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech. It is a natural rivalry as the two schools are just 97 miles apart. Shawhan needs not offer any words of motivation before the puck drops at the Berry Events Center on Friday and the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena on Saturday
“A lot of young guys are evolving that young defensive core, that’s been a big difference is we play less in our zone right now,” he said. “We’ll have to figure out a way to play on big ice on Friday night on the Olympic-sized ice at Northern.
“These are all good tests because you never know who your going to play down the road.”
Shawhan wants to see his players prepare as if it were a game just like any other.
“It’s a game. We have four games left before Christmas,” he said. “(We) want to have the best performance. In rivalry games like this you, don’t worry about motivation, you just take care of your tactics and stuff like that.
“Everything proceeds the same as it did last week and the week before and the week after. Right now, it’s just a matter of continuing to improve and trying to get better every game. If we’re better every game, then hopefully our last game of the year is our best. If we can get it to the point where it’s good enough, hopefully that last game of the year will end with a win.”
Senior forward Troy Loggins leads the Wildcats with six goals and 12 points. Junior defenseman Philip Beaulieu and Adam Rockwood both have 10 points each.
In goal, senior Atte Tolvanen has played every minute, going 6-9-0 overall, with a 2.26 goals against average and a .920 save percentage.
Friday’s game is set to start at 7:07 p.m. at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. Saturday’s contest is set for 7:07 p.m. at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.