College Hockey: Lacking Huskies face struggling Lakers in Winter Carnival bout
HOUGHTON — It isn’t quite a five-alarm fire.
But after splitting both series against Ferris State and Alabama-Huntsville — who have as many combined wins as Michigan Tech — in the last two weeks, the Huskies’ hockey season is smoldering.
At least going into this weekend.
The Huskies (15-13-3, 10-10-2 WCHA) will look to rekindle its hot finish to 2019, and repeat a first-half sweep against Lake Superior State this weekend as the Lakers visit during Winter Carnival.
Michigan Tech has fallen into a rut in 2020 of playing from behind, or just good enough to have chances late in one-goal games. The Huskies have 18 one-goal games out of their 31 total contests. Tech has had seven one-goal games out of 10 since the new year. Tech has an 8-7-3 overall record in one-goal games this season.
Tech has scored first in just three of 10 games since the new year.
Luckily for the Huskies, the Lakers (8-19-3, 6-11-3) are in town. Puck drop is 7:07 p.m. Friday and 5:07 p.m. Saturday at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
Lake Superior State has won just four games since being swept by the Huskies on Nov. 15-16 in Sault Ste. Marie.
Michigan Tech is fifth in WCHA standings (32 points) trailing fourth-place Alaska by three points, with the Lakers in seventh (24).
After successive weeks of splitting series against sub-.500 teams, Huskies head coach Joe Shawhan took the blame for the team’s subpar outings.
“We struggle with that and that’s what we have to find,” Shawhan said of the team’s lack of mental sharpness and urgency. “When a team’s not playing to their performance, it falls on the coach. We have to find a way to do that in today’s world.
“I’m not going to blame the players when we have the talent and we’re not performing. We have to find the mechanism where it means that much to them.”
While the community is enjoying Winter Carnival festivities throughout the week, Shawhan said the pageantry around Michigan Tech’s winter tradition and strong attendance at hockey games on Winter Carnival weekend has no bearing on motivating the team.
“I don’t think that’ll have anything to do on the impact of our game. (Saturday) night was an anomaly. Being held scoreless four of six periods on the weekend isn’t good enough,” Shawhan said of the Alabama-Huntsville series. “We got four goals in the third period last night, one goal in the third period tonight. We have more ability than that. What we have to do is it has to matter more to the group. We have to find a way within. I take responsibility for it. We have to find a way within to find accountability in structure in place. Without having the proper push from the bottom and enough pull or accountability from the top, we have to find a way to instill that. Until we do that, it doesn’t change.”
Lakers treading water
Lake Superior State was swept three straight weeks after opening the season with a sweep against Merrimack. The Lakers swept Ferris State to start November but went 2-11-1 to close out the 2019 portion of the schedule.
Senior captain Max Humitz has 16 goals and 24 points in 30 games. Junior Hampus Eriksson has five goals and 19 points.
Junior goaltender Mareks Mitens has played 1,687 minutes in goal, or about 92 percent of the Lakers’ season, with junior Roman Bengert playing the other 117 minutes.
Senior defenseman Keegan Ford returned to practice with the team Tuesday after missing the last four weeks to a shoulder injury sustained in practice. Freshman forward Jake Crespi missed the Feb. 1 game at Alabama-Huntsville after sustaining a concussion in the Jan. 31 game. He did not practice this week and will not play against the Lakers.
Shawhan was mum about assistant coach Dallas Steward’s recruiting trip to Canada last weekend while the Huskies played the Chargers.
“I have no comment on that. The biggest thing we need to do is improve our competitive depth,” Shawhan said of what he and the coaching staff are seeking in next year’s freshman class. “We have guys that work hard. We don’t compete with the attention to detail and the desire to perform like we need to.”