Taking it outside: Huskies head to Bemidji, will play outdoor game

BEMIDJI, Minn. — The Michigan Tech Huskies hockey team has some internal adversity to work out over the next few games after struggling in the opening periods of the last three games and then proving unable to make up for lost time in two of those three contests.

The Huskies split with Bowling Green State this past weekend with a 2-0 win on Friday and a 3-2 loss on Saturday despite a late two-goal comeback. Huskies coach Joe Shawhan sees internal struggles of confidence and reliability hurting the team’s overall play.

“We saw a lot of the same,” he said. “We’re still working though some accountability things and trying to get (to) a complete game. I thought we played two pretty good periods of hockey. I thought the first two periods each night were OK.

“Right now with us it’s a total accountability issue. Things were going pretty well (but) some things crept into our game. I don’t think the foundation is strong enough for a lot of individuals in a lot of ways, so now it’s turned into a confidence issue for some guys. Right now they’re just having a hard time finding that team game and team chemistry.”

Late power play opportunities for opponents have also hurt the Huskies in recent games despite being one of the least penalized teams in the league. Shawhan hopes his team can start coming away on the winning end of timely goals.

“We’re one of the least penalized teams in the country and a lot of the penalties that have been called against us are phantom calls,” said Shawhan. “Calls that when you look at on video could’ve called something else at some other part of the game.”

The Huskies have seen top-end teams each of the last two weekends, but Shawhan does not want to use that as an excuse.

“In two of the last three games, we’ve played Top 10-ranked teams in the country (with ties) in the third period,” he said. “We have all kinds of momentum. We’re playing well. In one we came out with a win, and in the other two, we came out with losses and in both those games. (The losses came) because of penalties where they ended up scoring. (They were) timely goals.”

Fundamentals of the game, team chemistry and group efforts are also things that Shawhan would like to see as the Huskies move forward.

“We have a discipline issue within that part of our game,” Shawhan said. “We have to make sure that doesn’t creep in with frustration, with our attention to detail and our strength on the puck, our transition, our team play.

“We have a lot of individual play out there. We have a lot of guys that are trying so hard to do their job, that they’re losing the fact that we need to rely on each other.”

Shawhan believes the Huskies can turn things around quickly if they work hard and focus.

“We’re close,” said Shawhan. “I don’t think our deal right now is our talent, (but it) is our overall commitment to each other. Some of them are seniors and the clock is ticking in their eyes on their career, so they put that internal pressure on themselves.”

Better even strength pressure is also a goal for the coaching staff who want to see less reliance on penalties to make plays.

“Our 5-on-5 play has to get better,” Shawhan said. “Our special teams play has been OK. Our penalty kill (and) power play have been good to average. We have to get some 5-on-5 play, pressure and opportunities. When that starts, coming everything else will fall into place.”

The Huskies travel to Bemidji State this weekend where they will have the chance to play in an outdoor game on Friday. Temperature will be a factor, so the Huskies are planning on taking advantage of longer intermissions and also expect to use special gear to help prepare for the elements.

“It’s going to be cold for both teams,” said Shawhan. “We’ve got some extra gear to do it. They are going to lengthen the intermissions to help us, but it’s the same for both teams.”

Shawhan is not using the elements or who their opponent is as crutches for what the Huskies need to do this weekend. He has spent his week prepping the team to play two games, where all six available points matter.

“Right now it’s a preparation for a game that both teams have to play,” said Shawhan. “We’ll be able to skate on it on Thursday and then we’ll play on Friday. I think right now we’re finding ways to manage the temperature.”

This is the first time many of the players have played an outdoor game at the college level, but not the first time the Huskies have faced the Beavers. Back on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, the Huskies tied Friday night before scoring in 3-on-3 plain the second overtime to earn an extra point before unloading for a touchdown’s worth of goals in a 7-2 win on Saturday.

The Beavers are currently 10-11-3 overall and 8-7-1 in conference play, good for sixth in the WCHA with 25 points.

Justin Baudry leads the Beavers in scoring with five goals and 19 points through 24 games. Aaron Miller has a team-high 10 goals and has added seven assists over 23 games. Left wing Charlie Combs has nine goals and seven assists in 24 games.

GAME TIMES

Friday’s contest will take place at 8:07 p.m. on Lake Bemdiji, just outside the Sanford Center. Saturday’s will start at 8:37 p.m. at the Sanford Center.

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