Carnival time: Huskies need points during special weekend
HOUGHTON — The Michigan Tech Huskies hockey team are coming into this weekend’s Winter Carnival festivities after a week off working on every area of their game, big and small.
Offensive pressure is first on the list for Michigan Tech as they host No. 6 Minnesota State (23-6-1 overall, 18-4-0 WCHA) who is ranked No. 1 in the WCHA standings with 54 points. Michigan Tech (12-13-3 overall, 11-7-2 WCHA) holds fifth place with 36 points.
“The encouraging part of where we’re at, what we’ve done recently, is that we have three shutouts in our last six games,” said coach Joe Shawhan. “That’s a pretty good accomplishment. The down side is that we have to focus more on hard ice and create more offense.”
Winter Carnival is a special weekend to bridges the community and hockey team together. Shawhan hopes to see his team embrace the tradition while still using this weekend to grow against a Top 10 opponent in Minnesota State.
“Winter Carnival here is a big deal,” he said. “The whole thing about it is enjoyable. In the past it’s brought out the best in us and we’re hoping that our guys take pride in what it’s all about and they feel that culture.
“We have a lot of young guys (that will) experience this for the first time so we’re trying to get them to understand that it is a big deal for this university (and has) been around a long time.”
A lot has happened since the Huskies last faced the Mavericks in early January, falling 4-1 on Friday and 4-2 on Saturday.
Left Wing Marc Michaelis leads with 13 goals and 17 assists over 28 games. Right wing Parker Tuomie has 11 goals and 17 assists in 24 starts this season.
“You’re always going to get a high compete level out of that, which is what you want to make you better,” Shawhan said. “That’s the challenge (we) look forward to.
“They set the standard in our league. They’ve done it for a long time. You’re going to get a great team, a great effort (and a team) pays attention to detail.”
“We’re working hard on finding ways to generate offense against a very good team,” Shawhan continued. “If we can play, compete well and perform well against Mankato (Minnesota State) then we can perform well against anybody in the country.”
When asked how Saturday’s early start time of 5:07 p.m. would effect the team, Shawhan saw it as a positive in the long run and hopes to see more games with this schedule in the future.
“I like the early start time,” he said. “If I was on the road, I’d love it because it gets you home a little bit earlier (and) gets you on the road a little bit (earlier and) keeps you acclimated.
“Those few hours are a big deal. When we’ve done it in the past for Winter Carnival I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Shawhan thinks an early start time also helps the local businesses.
“It would be something I would look forward to doing all the time if we could get the crowds,” he said. “I think people (and) business owners would like it (to) get a crowd after the game.”
The Huskies used the past week off to regroup and refocus on the fundamentals on both sides of the ice both defensively and offensively.
“There are good things,” said Shawhan. “There are young guys that are competing and doing a good job. The whole team has not been giving stuff up. We’d like to get more offensive production. We’ll find out this weekend.
“We worked on a little bit of everything. We have to improve in every area, so we have reiterated the basics of everything (and are) continuing to do that now. I think we have to take a little bit of a step backwards and go back to the details of the game. I think we lost or offensive side because we cheated for offense, we wanted easy offense.”
“We’ve gone back to the basics (and) gone back to the compete level of the game to try to get that instilled back into our culture,” Shawhan continued. “We’ll see how it pays off. We’re trying to focus on getting better every day. In order to do that, (we) have to identify the areas that (we) need to work on.”
Playing a balanced game while adding to what the Huskies have already learned this season will be the key to finishing out the season strong.
“We don’t want to lose what we’ve gained defensively,” Shawhan said. “I think the guys are understanding that side of the game extremely well. That’s the part that (we) can really teach, the hard work part.
“The offensive side is the creative side, so we’re trying to create situations where guys get comfortable where they can create a 2-on-1 and win a battle. That’s what the game’s about.”
Friday’s contest is set to have a 7:07 p.m. puck drop at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena. Saturday’s start time is set for 5:07 p.m.