Once again, it’s time for the Old Dog to pick the Top Ten events for the past season. Last year, it was relatively easy to pick ten moments and keep the list largely on the positive side. This year, that was tougher to do, and some of these moments are things most Husky fans wish hadn’t happen. Nevertheless, here’s my list in roughly chronological order.
1-Tech smacks Wisconsin 6-2 in Madison, Then Loses 6-2. After dropping two games to defending NCAA Champion Minnesota-Duluth, the Huskies traveled south to Madison to face the Badgers. With an offensive outburst that promised fireworks during the season, Tech stormed to a 6-2 win. Unfortunately, in a true harbinger of the way the season would go, Wisconsin reversed the score on Saturday—plus, fans watching on the internet had to endure an extremely annoying broadcast feed, which was nothing more than whatever the Cheeseheads decided to show on the Jumbo Tron at center ice.
2-Huskies sweep Alabama-Huntsville on the road. It wasn’t very inspired hockey, but after the series in Madison, Tech headed down south to play the Chargers and took both games. It only makes this list because The Old Dog and Mrs. Dog went to ‘Bama to see the game, and to party with dozens of Husky fans.
3-Leading the WCHA at the Holiday Break. While it was clear Them Dogs had made hay against the weaker teams during the first half of the season, a 10-1-1 mark at the midpoint of the league schedule had Husky Nation’s hopes sky-high for the year.
4-The emergence of the Class of 2023. While I said the same thing last year, this year’s freshman class appears to be even better than the 2022 class. With tons of skilled forwards (Brian Halonen, Alex Broetzman, Trenton Bliss, TJ Polglaze, and Tommy Parrottino) and two promising defensemen (Eric Gotz and Colin Swoyer), it will be exciting to see how the roster matures with all of the young players that will likely return in the fall. Within this group, Halonen deserves special recognition. He lead the team in goals, and, at times, seemed to be Tech’s major offensive threat, particularly in the second half of the season. As he attracted more and more attention from other teams, his time and space decreased for him to set up and get off his wicked shot. We’ll see if he can grow and develop next year, when he will find out (as Gavin Gould did this year) that being a big-time scorer in the NCAA means big-time attention from the other team. But Halonen looks like he has the physical tools to deal with this. You can never tell how a freshman will progress during his career–as the next Top Ten moment shows. Matt Jurusik isn’t a freshman but his addition to the team could also be seen as a bright spot. After some struggles early, Jurusik emerged at the end as the primary netminder and did some great things. The goaltending situation should be a strength next season.
5-Tyler Rockwell Steps Up. Last season, Mitch Meek and Seamus Donohue made a big impact on the blueline as freshmen. Fellow freshman Tyler Rockwell only dressed for five games. After a slow start, Rockwell came on to become one of Tech’s best defenders. Meanwhile, Meek was injured after 8 games this season and never returned to the lineup. (I don’t think the details of what was going on have ever been made public—was it a season-ending injury or something else?) Donohue struggled at times, particularly late in games when the Huskies gave up lead after lead. This is just another reminder that a player’s college career can be a series of ups and downs, and isn’t destined to be a one-way path to better play each successive year.
6-Parrottino’s shootout goal sends Tech to the GLI finals. In a game that fans had circled on the calendar as soon as it was announced, Tech faced Michigan and former Husky player and coach Mel Pearson in the opening round of the Great Lakes Invitational. The back-and-forth game resulted in a 2-2 tie that couldn’t be settled in regulation or overtime. In the shootout, Jake Lucchini had to score in the third round to keep the Huskies alive. Finally, in the fifth round, Parrottino scored the winner. The replay highlight garnered more than 5,000 YouTube views.
7-Huskies Lose Two Heartbreakers in Mankato. In the first series of 2019, Tech was swept by Minnesota State. That alone wasn’t a Top Ten moment. What made it list-worthy was how they lost. On Friday, they gave up a goal in the first minute of the game, and another in the last two minutes of the first period. They never recovered, despite playing well throughout the game. In the second game, the Huskies jumped ahead 2-0 with power play goals, but gave up a last minute power play goal at the end of the second period. Then, holding on to a 2-1 lead, Donohue took a five minute major with less than six minutes to go. The Mavs tied it up with Donohue in the locker room and then won it in overtime. This scenario started the Groundhog Day nightmare that became a full second half collapse.
8-The Outdoor Game In Bemidji. In utterly crazy outdoor conditions—less than ideal lighting and a wind chill temperature below -20F (so cold that Dirk Hembroff’s mobile equipment wouldn’t work), Them Dogs grabbed a 2-1 lead in the first period, then Bemidji evened it up at 3-3 in the second. Tech scored early in the third, but again surrendered a late goal and lost in overtime to a power play goal—much like the second game in Mankato.
9-Painful Winter Carnival Weekend. With Minnesota State in Houghton for a rematch, the script played out the same way—again. Tech and MSU were scoreless through 2 periods on Friday, and Tech notched an early powerplay goal in the 3rd. The Mavs scored in the last minute for the tie, and took the shootout. In the final game, the Huskies jumped ahead 2-0, then gave up a goal in the final minute of the second period, and then surrendered another with less than five minutes remaining in the third period. All of the goals came on power plays. MSU again won this one in overtime. Where’s Punxsutawney Phil?
10-Sweep of Alaska-Anchorage. Even though it was to the lowly Seawolves that finished 3-28-3, the Huskies managed a sweep despite playing to the level of the opponent, scoring 6 goals on the weekend but not making either result a convincing one. Unfortunately for Michigan Tech, those were the last wins of the 2018-19 season.
All in all, it was a terribly disappointing season. Losing is tough to take, but the way things worked out game after game in January, February, and March was hard to watch (or listen to, or read about, or—worst of all—to write about week after week).
This will likely be the Old Dog’s last column until next fall. If something really noteworthy happens in college hockey, it’s possible I’ll get motivated enough to add one or two in the next six months, but we’ll have to see what happens. As always, WOOF WOOF WOOF!