Shawhan discusses new faces in hockey program
HOUGHTON — The weather might be nice but that doesn’t mean that hockey season isn’t right around the corner. With every new season, comes new players to cheer for.
The Michigan Tech Huskies will be returning to action after defending their WCHA playoff title with a victory over Northern Michigan University on the road in March and another appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
After sporting a 22-17-5 record in head coach Joe Shawhan’s first season, the Huskies look to incorporate 10 incoming freshman and one transfer into their program.
“We have a great group of young men with a strong culture and I think that’s been our main ingredient since I’ve been here for any success we’ve had,” said Shawhan. “We have a culture that comes from the upperclassmen that filters down through the lower classes that carries out momentum and has kept us on a pretty straight path.”
Even though this year’s Michigan Tech hockey team is stacked with a number of upperclassman, that doesn’t mean that the newest members on the team won’t get some time on the ice this season.
“I think each of them have the ability to compete for ice time right away,” said Shawhan. “They’re all recruited for a specific purpose.
“They bring something that gives us the ability to create some diversification in our lineup and that’s an important thing that we’re trying to accomplish.”
A good team is built on recruiting good student athletes, Michigan Tech is no exception with the addition of this new class of youngsters.
“I think what you try to do is recruit players that fit into the way that you play,” Shawhan said.
“When players join the team freshman year, they may not know all that comes with playing at the college level. That’s why it’s good to recruit and shape players over a four-year period.
“There’s certainly a benefit in college athletics to players having the ability to progress through a four-year window. In college there is more patience in the development of players.”
Matt Jurusik joins the Huskies as a third goalie for this season. A transfer who played previously at Wisconsin, he will be sharing the net with returners Robbie Beydoun and Devin Kero, who returns after taking over as primary goaltender in the second half of last season until an injury against Minnesota State ended his season.
“There will be competition (for playing time) there,” said Shawhan. “The position is wide open, whoever’s playing the best will have the opportunity to play.
“Whoever stops the puck the best, whoever gives us the best chance at success.”
Colin Swoyer, formerly of the Sioux Falls Stampede, will be sporting a Husky jersey this season. He will fill the need for a strong right hand shot, something the Huskies have been missing since Matt Roy jumped early to the professional ranks.
“Colin Swoyer is a tremendous talent,” said Shawhan. “He has great offensive instincts. He’s a great skater, he possesses a great shot. He’s going to work himself into playing every role within our hockey team. (He) Is also a right-handed shot, which is what we really need.”
Former Janesville Jets forward T.J. Polglaze will be joining the Huskies after learning from former Huskies assistant coach Gary Shuchuk last season.
“(He is a) high character man with a good compete level,” said Shawhan. “He pays strong attention to the details of the game, which puts him in the hunt for being able to play. He’s aggressive on the puck, which is something that we like: guys who can take away time and space.”
Trenton Bliss was 10th in the United States Hockey League in scoring last season with 55 points, he will also be a freshman to watch this season.
“He has excellent vision and excellent puck skills,” said Shawhan. “He goes into hard ice areas which is where you’re going to put up points and score goals.
“He uses his reach well and has some good feel from the blue line in, so he’s got some good instincts to be a good offensive-type player.”
In any college sport, athletes are constantly being interchanged as students graduate and move on. Shawhan feels Michigan Tech is prepared to tackle that challenge head on.
The newest Huskies have big skates to fill with the loss of players like Brent Baltus, Mark Auk, and Joel L’Esperance to graduation, Mitch Reinke and Dane Birks to professional contracts, and goaltender Patrick Munson, who is no longer with the team after an incredible playoff run last season.
Joining the Huskies alongside Jurusik, Swoyer, Bliss and Polglaze this season are defensemen Tyrell Buckley and Eric Gotz and forwards Andrew Bellant, Alec Broetzman, Brian Halonen (a cousin of former Huskies star Blake Pietila), Zach Noble, and Tommy Parrottino.
Senior Dylan Steman also returns for a fifth season after scoring 15 of his 19 points after the start of the New Year last season.
“We are going to do it by numbers,” said Shawhan. “When you graduate or move on players, there’s big holes to fill. It’s going to take time, guys are going to have to get acclimated.
“I liked the job that the coaches did in recruiting and we’re excited to get these guys here and get these guys out on the ice and get them acclimated.”