In my last column for 2018, The Old Dog will split the space that THG grants me into two short subjects. In the first half, we’ll look back at last weekend’s series with Alabama-Huntsville. Then we’ll look at my list of gifts Santa can bring to the Huskies.
After splitting with UAH, there’s been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth about losing three points to the #58 (out of 60 Division I teams) ranked pairwise squad. But the Friday night game looked an awful lot like the Friday game The Old Dog and Mrs. Dog watched the first week of November down in Alabama. In that game, the Chargers repeatedly frustrated the Huskies by clogging passing lanes, causing turnovers, back-checking like demons, and trying to create an impenetrable defense.
They didn’t pay much attention to offense, and just waited for an occasional chance to get off a shot, usually from a turnover. In case you forgot, Tech won that contest 2-1, and it was a nail-biter the entire third period, as UAH outshot the Huskies in that period and potted their only goal with about 9 minutes left in the game.
So what was the difference this week? Joe Shawhan certainly hit on several issues, both in his post-game interview Friday and his Monday radio show. Right after the loss, Shawhan’s list included a sub-par effort, too many turnovers, and a failure to execute the game plan. On Monday, after some reflection, he gave a more specific reason—an over-reliance on skill, or trying to make the great play instead of taking what is available. In both cases,though, he gave great credit to UAH and the 100% commitment they made to the defensive game that Charger coach Mike Corbett has used to frustrate good teams again and again.
Looking at things from Texas, all of that rings true, particularly the praise for the Chargers. But something else rings, too—namely the two solid posts and one cross-bar doink that the Huskies endured on Friday. If two of those go in, the result is the same as it was in Alabama. Without question, Charger goalie Mark Sinclair played great in this series, but he also got several lucky breaks. Still, Tech out-shot UAH 39-17 and didn’t score a goal. It wasn’t the disaster that some fans felt it was.
On Saturday, the Huskies were more intense and adjusted to the Chargers slow-down game. Tech again had a huge shot lead (35-15 in regulation), but they couldn’t get one past Sinclair until the third period, when Tommy Parrattino once again found the net on a play that was all about hard work. Grayson Reitmeier’s overtime marker gave the Huskies the split and kept them in first place in the WCHA.
Nevertheless, Shawhan is dead-on in his observations. This is a young team, and they’ve had some success that highlighted the real skill this year’s Husky team undoubtedly possesses. And it’s not hard to conclude that more than a couple of Them Dogs started to believe they can win on talent. That’s something you often see in minor hockey and even into juniors.
There’s one thing you can be sure of, though, after this weekend. Every WCHA coach who will face Tech during the remainder of the season will be studying these two games and trying to see how UAH slowed down the game. Not all of them will play that way—Minnesota State and Bowling Green are much more likely to try and force their proficiency on Tech. In every case, however, we can expect that the free space and open passing lanes we’ve seen so far this season will be scarce, the pace will be faster, and the points will go to the teams that work the hardest and are willing to grind when there’s nothing else available.
Can the Huskies do that? We’ll have to see, and that will make the second half of this season either an agony or a joy for Tech’s incredible, rabid fan base.
Now onto Topic Number 2.
It’s almost your time to shine, and The Old Dog wants to ask for a few small gifts for the Huskies. We’ve been good hounds down here in Texas this year. We haven’t pouted nor have we cried. Heck, Mrs. Dog hasn’t even dropped the f-bomb once this year—and the Old Dog has NOT once drowned his sorrow in Two Hearted Ale, either. (I was sorely tempted on that second night in Madison, but I knew you were watching!)
I know I used the term “rabid” in a story with a dog theme, but really that’s just a figure of speech. The Misfits have been great fans and barely rubbed it in to the other team when Them Dogs scored six or seven goals a few times. And I haven’t heard any obscene chants work their way through the FloHockey broadcasts of games from the JMac. I know personally that our fans were very nice and not at all naughty down in Huntsville.
And the boys on the ice have been nice, too. They’ve only had one major penalty all season, and that was Saturday in Madison when the Badgers were downright naughty all night. And they’ve done that while the other teams have racked up nine majors against us!
So what can Santa bring the Huskies? Sure, we could ask for a MacNaughton Cup, a Sauer Trophy, and an NCAA championship. That would be greedy, though, and when I was just a pup I learned that if you asked Santa for too much, you actually got less. So, we need to be realistic. Here are a few nice things that Santa could bring that I think we’d all welcome.
- Here’s a wish for Jake Jackson. Jackson’s had a rash of injuries in his career at MTU, and it would be great both for Jackson and the Huskies if he can have a pain-free 2019. Them Dogs could certainly use his talent as they face the top half of the WCHA. His overtime goal in last year’s playoff winner against Minnesota State will be a legendary moment in Huskie history, but it would be a shame if injuries prevented him from adding to his career highlight list.
- Next, consistent goaltending would be a wonderful present to find under the tree this Christmas. Some of the net-minding has been good and even spectacular at times, but between a three goalie rotation and a rash of goals scored from the blue line or on fat rebounds, we need better. So, without asking for any one of the three goalies, please bring us consistency and solid play no matter who’s in the lineup.
- After a lousy start, the Husky penalty kill has improved. Santa, please bring us a shut-down PK and find some way to inject TJ Polglaze’s energy and determination into every penalty killer.
- And Santa, could you use some of your magic to inspire the freshmen forwards to combine their natural ability with the passion and discipline that Raymond Brice and Justin Misiak bring every shift?
- Finally, we’d like to ask for something nice for another team, too. (Just shows we like to share.) The UAH Chargers have worked so hard that we hope you’ll reward them as well. Give them a victory (or two) or even just a tie in each of their series against Minnesota State, Northern Michigan, Bowling Green, and Lake State in the second half of the season.
Your Faithful Husky,
An Old Dog in Texas
P.S. The Old Dog and Mrs. Dog wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous New Year!