Rebounding: Huskies look to end losing streak against Falcons
HOUGHTON — After a strong November, the Michigan Tech Huskies struggled through an uneven December. Their up-and-down performance has continued into January with a pair of losses last weekend to the WCHA-leading Minnesota State Mavericks.
The Huskies fell to the Mavericks 4-1 on Friday and 4-2 Saturday to the No. 8 Mavericks. Add to those two losses the 6-3 loss to Lake Superior State in the Great Lakes Invitational title game, and Michigan Tech finds itself mired in the team’s first three-game losing streak of the season.
It is not all bad though, Huskies coach Joe Shawhan saw improvement in his team’s effort Saturday, despite the outcome.
“We didn’t feel that we gave our best effort in the championship of the GLI and we don’t think that we showed what we’re capable of in the Friday game against Mankato,” he said. “In the Saturday game, I thought we competed much more. It’s difficult to win in Mankato. It’s not an easy environment. I thought we put ourselves in (a good) position.”
Shawhan liked the fact that the Huskies played a close to 60-minute effort Saturday. He knows that his team will have to put in a similar effort against the Bowling Green State Falcons this weekend, the only team to sweep the Mavericks this season.
“I think we made some strides in the Saturday night game against Mankato,” he said. “I think it was a good hockey game. They scored a good power play goal late and got an empty net goal for a 4-2 win, but it was a competitive game and I liked the way we played in it.
“I’m looking forward to see how we follow that up against another extremely good hockey team (in the Falcons). We’re going to see how we line up with them.”
Assistant captain Jake Jackson and freshman winger Trenton Bliss played strong games on Saturday. Shawhan still has the big picture-postseason game play in mind despite recent outcomes.
“I thought our puck support (and) our breakouts were much better,” Shawhan said. “I thought Jake Jackson (and) Trenton Bliss played a tremendous hockey game on Saturday. A lot of guys played well. We saw a lot of good things in the game that we’re looking forward to seeing if we can carry that through.”
Facing the Falcons, who currently sit second in the WCHA with a record of 9-3-2-2 in conference play and 14-4-3 overall, is a challenge Shawhan welcomes.
“I want to keep seeing these good teams one after another because we want to continue to use them as gauges (to see) where we’re at,” he said. “We’re trying to build for something, to be at our best at the end of the year. You do that by game in and game out showing that we can compete with each team.”
Stronger third periods are a hope for Shawhan and the Huskies as they work to distribute the work of the game evenly.
“We still have to find a way to have that drive to generate what we need to do in those third periods against those tough teams,” said Shawhan. “I was happy with the effort. I thought the guys played well and left it on the ice.”
Shawhan is still looking for the team to gel together rather than to be a collection of talented individuals.
“Our guys are trying to carry the weight all on themselves,” he said. “They lose the thought process of learning and relying on others. That all comes from trust and being (though) situations.
“We need to learn how to rely on each other. They’re trying so hard to do it on their own, to carry the whole load on their shoulders and that’s not needed.”
After two weekends on the road and being away from home for nearly a month, the Huskies are happy to be home.
“We love to play at the Mac,” Shawhan said. “Our guys like to be there. We like to be home. You have to put your best foot forward. There’s that added energy that they provide for you, that you can feed off of and keeps you going when things start to go a little helter skelter if they do. It’s always a big thrill for us to be able to play here in front of our people.”
The Bowling Green Falcons are second in WCHA standings with 31 points.
The Falcons are led offensively by Vegas Golden Knights draft pick Brandon Kruse. The sophomore had seven goals and a team-high 26 points.
Junior Lukas Craggs leads the Falcons with 13 goals and has added four assists over 21 games. Captain Max Johnson has nine goals and 23 points over 21 games.
Junior Ryan Bednard has been good in goal, going 12-3-2 in 17 starts with a 1.76 goals against average and a .928 save percentage.
Shawhan looks to combat the Falcons’ strong depth with growth and teamwork.
“They have good depth in their lineup, but they have a top line that’s just as good as anyone that you’ll find,” he said. “That line is absolutely tremendous, (and along with) some young (players) that are playing well (and) getting active in the play, they have veteran goaltending. They have everything they need to make a deep run.
“(We will need) to continue to grow and to play cohesively. (We need) to rely on each other in times of need. There is no I in team, but there is an I in win. The individual is very important and we’re hoping that our individuals, within the team concept, can shine and show that we’re an awfully good team as well.”
The Huskies and Falcons will faceoff at 7:07 p.m. both Friday and Saturday nights.