Huskies still battling consistency as they head to face Falcons
BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Despite falling in both games last weekend against Northern Michigan, Huskies coach Joe Shawhan liked his team’s effort on Friday.
The Huskies had spent the week preparing for senior winger Troy Loggins, who had five goals on the weekend, and senior goaltender Atte Tolvanen. The Huskies struggled to matchup with the WIldcats but, at times, they showed they still have lots of fight left.
“I saw a good effort on Friday from our team,” said Shawhan. “What I saw was that, in full congratulations to Northern, they had their top guys, who we spent a majority of our time preparing for, able to get it done. Loggins (had) five of the seven goals on the weekend (with) his linemates. Those guys dominated.
“Atte Tolvanen was extremely good on the weekend, so congratulations to them for battling hard for high seating to try to get as much home ice as they can. Their whole team played well and their top end guys got it done. I think that was the difference in the weekend.”
“Saturday (was) kind of a little bit of a different team (for us),” said Shawhan. “Maybe (they had a) little bit of a let down after Senior Night, after not having success (despite) playing well. We don’t have those options anymore to take a night off.”
Despite recent outcomes Shawhan still sees good potential from his team as they head to Bowling Green this weekend for the opening round of the WCHA playoffs. The Falcons are 21-9-5 overall and finished 16-8-4-3 in the conference, which was good for third the standings with 55 points. Michigan Tech placed sixth with a record of 14-18-4 overall and 13-12-3-1 in WCHA play, good for 43 points.
“I think we’re still capable of playing, but we still have to go out on the ice and (we) have to prove it,” Shawhan said. “I think we have potential, but you lose a lot of games without execution and I think we have to execute (and) pay attention to detail better. It’s been the same thing for the entire year.
“We’ve gotten more consistent, certainly in the second half, in our quality of play. It hasn’t equated to victories. Overall, it’s more of a consistent effort.”
Shawhan feels that the Huskies have shown flashes of how complete a team they could be if things fall into place on a given night.
“I think that we have (been) showing that we have the capabilities (but) we have to put it all together consistently,” he said. “We have a lot more guys engaged now. We’re creating more offense opportunities, it’s not necessarily equating to goals, but we’re playing against better teams in the second half.”
Shawhan feels that the second half schedule has helped the Huskies prepare for this playoff series.
“We’ve had a good schedule to prepare us for the playoffs in the second half and I’m happy about that,” he said. “What we’ve done over the year is beat teams that we’re capable of beating. The teams that we’d have to play really well to beat, those are the teams that we’ve had trouble getting over the hump against, so we have to continue to grow at that and we’re still working on it.
“We’ll go in (and) give it our best effort Friday night and hopefully come out and get some momentum and come out Saturday and then ride it and then have another week to prepare hopefully and get a little bit better.”
The first two rounds of the WCHA playoffs are in a best-of-three format, so there is little room for mistakes.
“The pressure is up a little bit now because it’s do-or-die time and that certainly puts an element of urgency within us because I think we’re capable,” Shawhan said. “We’ve been trying all year to find the right buttons to push to make that equate into consistent play.”
Falcons captain Max Johnson leads the team with 14 goals and 17 assists over 35 games. Right wing Connor Ford comes into the weekend with 13 goals and 14 assists. Forward Lukas Craggs has added 24 total points, giving the Falcons a number of options offensively.
Shawhan hopes to see a cohesive effort with a high compete level for the Huskies this weekend.
“Bowling Green is tough in their rink,” said Shawhan, “they compete extremely hard and they certainly have a lot of talent. Their defense are efficient at breaking the puck out of their zone. The forwards are capable of creating hard offense. They like to be in traffic areas, so we’re going to have to find that within our group.”
“We need to continue to work on every part of our game, our offensive, defensive (and) our transition game, goaltending (and) defensive skills,” Shawhan said. “We have to continue to work on everything which we’re doing. I think we’re trying to build something here for the long hall that will have sustainability. Short-cutting that process I don’t think is in our best interest, so we’re going to continue to push it.”
The Huskies and Falcons are set for opening faceoff each night at 7:07 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, if necessary.