After yet another close-but-no-cigar weekend for the Huskies, it’s time for an age-old question in sports. Have we reached the point where we need to say “Wait ‘til next year?”
This year it has been a tale of two seasons. Before Christmas was a tough non-league slate, with games against Duluth, Wisconsin, and Clarkson. Duluth is currently third in the Pairwise Rankings, Clarkson is 12th, and Wisconsin is 31st. Tech was 1-5 in these games. In addition to playing these ranked teams in the first half, Tech also played against what has ended up being the bottom tier of the WCHA, and they rolled up a 10-1-1 league record in these games.
Then came Christmas break, and we all know what has happened since then. Playing primarily against the WCHA elite, Tech has generated a record of 2-9-3. This includes two regular overtime losses, losses that yielded no league points and count as losses in official NCAA records. They managed to come out on top during “extra time” in the three official ties only once—against Michigan at the Great Lakes Invitational.
Before the break, in 18 games, they scored 56 goals and gave up 29. In the 14 games so far after the break, they have scored only 23 goals while giving up 36. None of these totals include goals that came during shootouts or 3-on-3 overtime.
As Charles Dickens penned in A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” What few people remember is that Dickens added a number of additional polar opposites. For Tech, these Dickensian words apply best: “It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
So, which will it be? Them Dogs currently have 37 points in league standings, good for sixth place. They have 12 more points up for grabs, starting this weekend with a home series against Alaska-Anchorage. Northern Michigan has 44 points, with two games at home against Lake Superior State, and the final two games against Tech. Bemidji State, also with 44 points, has an even tougher finish to the regular season, with two at home against second place Bowling Green and two at league-leading Minnesota State.
Alaska has 31 points with their remaining games consisting of two at home against Bowling Green and two at Alaska Anchorage. While there are way too many possible outcomes for an Old Dog to count on his paws, the Huskies could finish anywhere from fourth to seventh. If the Huskies can get six points against Anchorage—something this team simply must accomplish if they want any momentum going into the playoffs—they lock up at least sixth place.
The other possibilities are complex enough to make anyone’s head spin, but one possible outcome includes the Huskies sweeping Anchorage and Northern, and Bemidji State and Northern getting no more than four points in their remaining games. Of course, Tech sweeping NMU means the Wildcats would have to take no more than four of six points from LSSU. That would give Tech 49 points, and NMU and Bemidji State would have 48. This isn’t a totally outlandish scenario given the schedule, but somehow it doesn’t seem to be the way the cards will fall.
All in all, it’s going to be exciting final two weekends for the fans, a great challenge for the players and coaches, and yet another great finish to the WCHA regular season.
For Husky Nation, there are plenty of topics for the faithful fans to chew on, including offense versus defense, whether pulling the goalie is worthwhile, coaching strategy, and endless speculation about many of the individual players on the team. But when all is said and done, all of this will be settled by very young men, some not yet even adults. With guidance from the coaching staff, it is the players who will lace up their skates and strap on their pads to determine what happens the remainder of this season. Nothing the Old Dog or anyone else says will make one whiff of difference in the final outcome.
We just need to sit back and enjoy the ride direct to Heaven or the trip the other way. To set the stage for this, the final act of the 2018-2019 regular season, the Old Dog would like to add one more quote for everyone this week. It’s not quite as eloquent as something from Dickens, but it applies very well indeed. It comes from noted philosopher, rebel, provocateur, purveyor of massive Brooklyn fearlessness, and NFL legend Al Davis.
“Just win baby.”