It was a great weekend for hockey, as Tech fans saw (or heard via Dirk Hembroff’s radio call) a very intense two game series in the desert on the road against the Arizona State Sun Devils. Not only was the hockey exciting, but the Cult of Michigan Tech was present in force in Tempe. The Old Dog & Mrs. Dog packed up and flew from Dallas to Phoenix and joined the weekend long party.
First, let’s review the games. On Saturday, Them Dogs seemed to be suffering from either travel fatigue (they were on the road for almost two weeks) or possibly from a victory hangover after their Michigan State-Michigan sweep and Great Lakes Invitational championship. While Tech started fast, ASU, a physically imposing team with great size and speed to match, soon began their relentless forechecking. It paid off through the first 50 minutes or so of the game, as the Sun Devils jumped to a 3-0 lead. Tech countered, but soon gave up another goal, a goal that may have been disallowed if the ASU rink and video had the capability for a multi-camera review. Then, with 10 minutes left, the Huskies took over, scoring twice and keeping relentless pressure on ASU. But it wasn’t enough and ended with a 4-3 loss for MTU.
It seemed familiar to the Old Dog, as ASU had beaten Tech in much the same way in two of the previous three meetings between ASU and Tech that started in 2018 with a 3-2 loss at the Ice Vegas Invitational.
In the second game on Sunday, it seemed like Joe Shawhan and his staff had figured out ASU’s scheme, but the game was still back and forth, with the contest tied 1-1 heading into the third period. Alex Smith put Tech up 2-1 at the 11:50 mark of the third, but ASU came back with a power play goal (with, ironically, Smith in the box for boarding) with just 3:45 left on the clock. But on a beautiful combo play, Trenton Bliss and Tommy Parrottino set up Logan Pietila for the game winner with just 2:05 remaining.
In truth, it was a series that either team could have swept. But the Sunday win gave the always rabid Husky fans a high at the end of a weekend that was also a two-day long bash.
And that’s the second half of the story. To be honest, though, the experience at the ASU rink was mixed, to say the least. While the Sun Devil fans were extremely gracious hosts, the rink (a commercial ice arena just a few miles from campus) just isn’t up to NCAA Division I expectations. It would not even be seen as an acceptable community rink in southeastern Michigan or almost anywhere, really, in Minnesota. It only seats 750 people, and, with standing room, has an official capacity of 840 fans. Tech was allotted 50 seats, split between general admission and reserved seats. Mrs. Dog and I splurged for reserved seats, but they were obstructed view—and I found out later that most of the reserved seats Tech was allotted were “obstructed view.”
I expected to have a pole in my way, or to be looking around some seam in the netting. But it was much worse; when I was seated, I could only see half of the ice surface as a structural wall was in my way. It made me wonder if the building architect even knew that hockey existed. ASU fans, though, kindly offered both of us seats that were not blocked and were unoccupied because someone hadn’t shown up.
The rink is a low-ceiling building with only five rows of bleachers on the side of the rink away from the benches and press box, and while you were close to the glass, the angles to see action in the far corner were poor. Kinda makes you long for Ewigleben Arena at Ferris State.
It did seem, though, that there were at least 1,000 people at each game. With that kind of turnout, it was a shock to see how small the restrooms were. There was one room each for men and women; according to Mrs. Dog, there were three stalls total in the women’s room. The men’s room had three urinals and one stall—I’ve been in small bars that had bigger facilities.
From the Old Dog’s obstructed perspective, this is one reason ASU hasn’t found a conference yet. While the University has been promising to break ground for a 4-5,000 seat arena for three years, and requests for proposals have been let to architects and construction firms, ASU just hasn’t approved anything, even though there have been several promised groundbreaking dates. It’s too bad, because the Sun Devils are a bona fide NCAA tournament contender.
Beyond the rink, there were plenty of things to do including MTU Alumni gatherings at the Fate Brewing Company before each game. We felt right at home when arriving, as there’s both a Houghton Road outside of town and a Hancock Avenue down the street from Fate Brewing.
On Saturday evening, the Tech Alumni office threw a party in a private room at Fate Brewing. After a 2 hour social, with attendance over 40 people, they screened the PAC-12 webcast of the game in the room for those who hadn’t scored a rare ticket. Of course, I later heard that because the camera angles were difficult (due to the low ceiling and the limited perspective for any camera) it wasn’t the easiest telecast to follow.
On Sunday, we moved the pre-game party outside and there the Old Dog caught up with additional Husky faithful.
This also included Bob Carnahan, Class of ’53, one of Tech’s most faithful fans and a continuing contributor to THG. I’ve run into Bob three times over the past three years, and he’s always eager to talk about Them Dogs and college hockey in general.
There were a lot of former Huskies at these games as well. Darcy Way, Director of Advancement for Athletics was there, as was John Rockwell—who was seemingly always on the move in the arena, schmoozing and talking up the Huskies. I managed to catch a few words with some of them, and Mrs. Dog and I were thrilled to meet three guys from the 1965 NCAA Championship team—Al Patterson, Rick Yeo, and Steve Yoshino.
Finally, at the rink, Husky partisans were loud and proud.
All in all, it was a great weekend for Mrs. Dog and the Old Dog. And it all shows how great the Husky Nation is by the way Tech alums, parents, students and friends turn out for distant road games.
We’re seriously considering a road trip to Huntsville at the end of the month!