What happened last weekend?
The Michigan Tech Huskies spent last weekend celebrating the team’s first Great Lakes Invitational title in 32 years. Players hit the outdoor ice with the trophy, and much celebrating was done by the players, alumni, and community members, many of whom called or texted players to thank them for all they had accomplished.
The Minnesota–Duluth Bulldogs spent the week trying to recover from a last-place showing at the Florida College Classic back on Dec. 28 and 29. After sweeping the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves on Dec. 14 and 15, the Bulldogs dropped a 1–0 decision in the opener to Maine before losing 6–2 to last season’s NCAA Frozen Four Runner-up, Ferris State.
What does winning the GLI mean for the Huskies?
While winning the GLI is a great recruiting tool, it means so much more than that for this young squad.
“They proved they could beat good teams,” said Huskies head coach Mel Pearson. “There’s still a lot of hockey left, but this should be good motivation for them that they can beat anybody at any time.”
With leading goal-scorer Blake Pietila playing in the World Junior Tournament, the Huskies needed scoring from other sources. On Saturday night, they got a pair of goals from winger Alex Petan and one from Jujhar Khaira, both of whom made the All-Tournament Team. Petan’s performance against Michigan was especially gutsy.
“Alex’s goals were made even more impressive considering he almost didn’t play,” said Pearson. “I received a phone call earlier that day that he was in the hospital hooked up to IVs because his flu was so bad. To be honest, he and J.J. had struggled in practice leading up to that game, and that may have been a factor.”
Hockey pundits talk about the importance of secondary scoring. The Huskies had better than that, getting goals from defenseman Tommy Brown and forwards Blake Hietala and Aaron Pietila.
“Tommy is one of the most popular guys in our locker room,” said Pearson. “You could see that in the way the guys celebrated his goal…Blake and Mikael Lickteig and Daniel Holmberg all came in on Sunday and did a good job for us.”
What do the Huskies still need to work on?
The Huskies need to settle back down and get to business. Pearson and his staff have a lot of work ahead of them to make sure the team is ready to return to action.
“We have talked to the guys about what they have accomplished, which is great,” said Pearson. “Now they have to play every weekend like it’s a tournament weekend. You have to win that Friday night game in order to play in that big game Saturday night.”
Freshman Pheonix Copley played extremely well in earning the MVP honors. However, before the tournament, there was no guarantee that Copley would be the man between the pipes, especially given how strong senior Kevin Genoe had been all season on the road.
“We really weren’t sure who we were going to go with in the days leading up,” said Pearson. “One day it was Kevin, another it was Jamie [Phillips] and another it was Pheonix. We really considered all three before deciding on Pheonix, who obviously played very well.”
The inside scoop: a look at the Bulldogs
Unlike in recent years, the Bulldogs continue to struggle to sort out what kind of team they are going to be. After taking three of four points from the Huskies, the Bulldogs split with Bemidji State before sweeping the Seawolves and losing twice at the Florida College Classic.
“It’s really like looking into a mirror when we look at the Bulldogs,” said Pearson. “They are still trying to figure out what they are doing in goal, but Coach Sandelin will make sure they are always very competitive.”
Senior winger Mike Seidel continues to be the offensive leader of the Bulldogs. His 11 goals and six power play goals both lead the team. Freshmen forwards Tony Cameranesi (8-11=19) and Austin Farley (7-9=16) have both continued to score at will.
If there is anything really working in the Huskies’ favor, it is the fact that the Bulldogs continue to struggle at home. This season, they are 3–4–1 at Amsoil Arena. Also, the Huskies are not the same squad that faced the Bulldogs early in the season.
“Our goaltending is better, and our penalty killing is better than when we played them last time,” said Pearson. “We have really come a long way since then. However, I expect that Coach Sandelin will have his team ready to go as well.”