Last Friday, the Old Dog and Mrs. Dog packed a bag and got on an early morning flight to Las Vegas. Of course, we were headed west from Dallas to join the rest of Tech’s loyal fans for the inaugural Ice Vegas Invitational Tournament. And, with the exception of the outcome of Saturday night’s game, we had a really great time with all of the Huskies who went to Sin City.
After arriving and heading to New York New York, the semi-official Tech hotel, we headed to the pre-game get-together sponsored by MTU and met people from all over and all ages. The administration was, naturally, well-represented, with Brenda Rudiger, the Alumni Director; Darcy Way, the Athletics Advancement Officer; and President Glenn Mroz all present at Tom’s Urban bar in NYNY. Dustin Lindstrom and Ryan Johnson from the THG staff were also there.
I also had a chance to catch up a bit with one of the Oldest Dogs, Bob Carnahan, Class of ’51 and one of our readers who posted a comment on the Old Dog’s article about the Wolfpack, Tech’s club hockey squad. I had met Bob at the alumni reunion dinner last August, but had not put his name and comment with the face that I remembered from the dinner. Bob’s passion for college hockey and the Huskies in particular is unmatched.
Once we wrapped up the pre-game (and yes, adult beverages were consumed) there was a mass exodus for the T-Mobile arena, which was just a few hundred yards from NYNY. At the arena, I was really fortunate to meet Bob Mikesch, a member of the ’62 NCAA championship team led by Lou Angotti, Henry Akervall, and Elov Seger. When I met Bob he was wearing a “P Mikesch” Huskies jersey—because Bob is Pat Mikesch’s father. I was able to hear some great stories about that 62 team.
The seating section that Tech secured for tickets bought through the university was connected to the Jack Daniels Old No. 7 lounge, a private club and bar that can only be entered with tickets for the seats directly in front of the lounge. The lounge was crawling with Huskies, and I was able to meet several members of the 74-75 NCAA Championship team. Dana Decker, Peter Roberts, and Stu Ostlund had all shown up for the game. I also met Jack Williams, one of the then-student staff members for the 75 national champions. I had a great time showing them the column I had just written the previous week about their team.
Decker told me that Billy Steele was there, too. But I never managed to find him. Decker and Roberts kept telling me I’d find him in his natural habitat, the bar, but despite their help, I just couldn’t track him down.
They were joined by Frank Krieber, who played goal from 77-78 through 80-81. Frank played on four straight GLI Championship teams, including the 1979 champs. The Huskies won the trophy that year with a triple overtime victory against Michigan in the final game at the Olympia arena. The winning goal, as many Old Dogs and THG readers know, was scored by Mel Pearson. The Old Dog and Mrs. Dog were able to see that one in person.
Mrs. Dog also ran into Tom Leonard from Muskegon. Tom’s wife, who is a skilled seamstress, had made Tom a shirt from special material embossed with a repeating pattern of MTU’s circle logo. Mrs. Dog wants her to make one for her to wear—we’ll let you know how that turns out.
All of us were then treated to a great game with Boston College, as the Huskies shot out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and ended up with a 4-2 victory. After the game, we spent more time in the Jack Daniels Lounge, and many of the Tech fans made their way back to Tom’s Urban in the hours beyond.
While we were at the Lounge, the Northern Michigan-Arizona State game got underway, and we were all stunned as ASU just pounded on the Wildcats, jumping to a 6-0 lead before sewing up a 7-3 victory. When NMU finally scored their third goal late in the final period, the arena public sound system blared out the Michigan Tech fight song. That couldn’t have been pleasant for the Wildcats, but to be honest, the PA team at T-Mobile made a mess of the announcements and sound bites throughout the tournament.
The Old Dog and Mrs. Dog made our way back to Tom’s Urban, but we were done in by an early flight, the two hour time zone adjustment and the excitement of the victory over the Eagles. A bit of alcohol (well, more than a bit for the Old Dog) probably added to our fatigue, and we called it a day just short of midnight. But many of the Other Dogs were at it much later, as I learned the next day.
At breakfast that morning in the hotel, Mrs. Dog happened to sit next to a table of a family of Northern Michigan fans. It couldn’t have been pleasant for the NMU faithful to lose to the team believed to be least likely to win a game. So, in the Yooper spirit, Mrs. Dog, whose parents were Hancock High grads, told them she’d really hoped that Tech and Northern would be playing in the championship game. She then asked them what had happened the previous night. The father looked at his young adult son and said, “Ask him.” Oops! Mrs. Dog recovered and told them she hoped they’d beat BC in the consolation game.
Because Mrs. Dog had never been to Vegas before, we decided to go on a walking tour of The Strip Saturday after breakfast. At Bellagio, we discovered that February 16th, 2018, will mark Chinese New Year and start the Year of the Dog. In the large atrium of the Bellagio, a giant dog exhibit more than two stories high was being assembled. And, best of all, the dog they chose as the centerpiece of the display was a huge Husky! Even better, he was flanked by an equally huge “Lucky Knot” display, the Chinese symbol for good luck.
It all seemed like destiny. A victory over BC. The Year of the Dog and the giant statue. Most of the Tech fans started again at the bar in the hotel in the evening and made the short walk to the arena with high hopes for an MTU victory. Destiny didn’t play out, though, as the Sun Devils jumped ahead 3-0 after two periods, and the Huskies late rally fell short, handing ASU the title with a 3-2 victory. Even with The Misfits yelling their heads off, ASU found a way to frustrate Joe Shawhan’s squad.
That spoiled the weekend to some degree for all of us, but really, everyone had a great time. Tech fans outnumbered BC fans by at least 5 to 1 and maybe more. Even on the second night, Tech fans were in the majority for the ASU game. Based on the last few years it seems evident that MTU wants to be involved in tournaments like Ice Vegas. Tournament organizers should have been impressed by how well the Husky faithful traveled. After a big turnout in Phoenix two years ago, MTU is gaining a reputation bringing their fans with them and that will likely mean more opportunities to play on the Big Stage.
Of course, there were a few more things that happened in Vegas, but some of those things will stay in Vegas.
Next week, the Old Dog will discuss the actual hockey played at the tournament. But for today, I just wanted everyone to share the fabulous time that we all enjoyed over the weekend.