Fresh off sweep, No. 16 Tech hosts No. 17 Fighting Irish
HOUGHTON — In recent years, it has been a long time since the Michigan Tech Huskies hockey program can say it waltzed into Madison, Wisconsin, and swept the Wisconsin Badgers.
But that is exactly what happened this past weekend when the Huskies breezed in and took both games from the then-No. 13 ranked Badgers.
This weekend, the Huskies (2-0-0 overall) look to carry the momentum they built up into a pair of games against the No. 17 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-0) and the United States National Development Program.
Friday night’s game against the Fighting Irish is set to start at 7:07 p.m. at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena. Puck drop against USNTDP is 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
The Fighting Irish come into this weekend having lost a scrimmage with the USNTDP and win the following weekend over Long Island University. Five different Irish scored over the course of the contest, including sophomore Landon Slaggert and freshman Hunter Strand.
Fifth year goaltender Matthew Galajda, a transfer from Cornell, got the start in net, giving up two goals on 17 shots.
When asked if he is noticing a buzz around the locker room about getting to host No. 17 Notre Dame this weekend, Shawhan said that the team is actually more excited about simply playing at home, rather than excited about the opponent.
“There’s just a buzz in the locker room (because we) can’t wait to play in front of our crowd,” he said. “Some guys got their first taste of that, like freshman and sophomores, got their first taste of that the other day. Our sophomores had never seen that.
“I’ve never seen that element to our program. No, it’s just another hockey game and that we have to perform.”
Badger natives shine
For several Huskies, the weekend was made that much sweeter by the fact that the Badgers were the team they idolized growing up.
Co-captain Alec Broetzman, the Hudson, Wisconsin, native, scored two goals and five points in the two games. Co-captain Trenton Bliss, an Appleton, Wisconsin, native scored a goal. Senior defenseman Michael Karow was a plus-2 on the weekend.
The fact that all three upperclassmen had strong weekends in Madison was not lost on head coach Joe Shawhan.
“(The) guys played well,” he said. “I’m really happy, for the Wisconsin guys especially, for the entire team. I was happy for the Wisconsin guys, all being seniors, in their trip to Wisconsin.”
The Huskies scored 10 goals on the weekend, but what stands out about that total is the fact that seven of those came while the teams played 5-on-5. Michigan Tech struggled with that last season, and it became something they strove to fix throughout the summer.
One player whose hard work paid off was junior forward Logan Pietila. As a freshman, Pietila scored 8 goals and 20 points. As a sophomore, he scored 0 goals and just 4 points. Friday night, during the Huskies’ 5-2 victory, he struck twice, including one where he drove hard to the net and emerged with a tally. Saturday, he scored again, giving him four points on the weekend.
“Logan had a little bit of a setback here last year,” Shawhan said. “He came in with high expectations. He had a 20-point year his freshman year. He’s an extremely hard-working, conscientious individual that wants to perform well. It’s not like he didn’t prepare. It didn’t happen and then I think it was harder on him. I think, in some ways, he started limiting himself because of the internal pressure.”