In the early 1960’s, back when the Old Dog was just learning about Lou Angotti and Tech’s first NCAA championship, there was an unusual TV show called That Was the Week That Was. It was probably the first satirical show about the news ever aired. David Frost was the host with John Cleese and Graham Chapman (of Monte Python) writing—and it was also the first show from the BBC to pierce through American media domination in the US.
In short, it was groundbreaking. And I’d say this past weekend in Marquette was, in its own way, a landmark, too. It was a great week that was as well (try saying that quickly three times). The Huskies sweep of Northern Michigan will go down in Tech hockey history as one of the all-time best playoff series, and there have been plenty of huge series during Them Dogs’ long history.
Friday’s 4-1 win over the Wildcats was a serious nail-biter for several reasons. To start, the first game in a best of three series is always nerve-wracking for the fans; the team that wins has a big advantage from that point forward. Second, things got off to a terrible start as Matt Jurusik made a sloppy play handling the puck that led to a very early goal by NMU’s Hank Sorensen less than 2 minutes into the first period. And third, any game involving NMU is emotional.
While the game was wide open, played on the large Olympic ice sheet at the Berry Events Center (better known as the Litterbox, where the Cats dump a load now and then), Tech couldn’t seem to get much going offensively. NMU had the better of things throughout the first period. Jurusik bounced back, though, and made several unreal saves to keep Tech in the game—but each point-blank shot was an “eyes closed I can’t look” moment.
The Huskies turned up the heat in the second, but it wasn’t until very late in the period when Justin Misiak made a terrific feed to Alex Smith, who converted on a great tip in to tie the score.
It seemed like an eternity to be behind by a single tally. Then, early in the third, Logan Pietila won a draw in the Northern end, getting the puck to Tommy Parrottino who snapped it past goalie Nolan Kent for the first lead of the night. At that point, the nervousness of watching Tech play from behind changed immediately to the dread of playing with a one goal lead.
When the Cats pulled Kent late in the third, the level of angst went up again. Parrottino relieved the Huskies faithful, however, when he used his great speed and puck sense to pick off passes and top things off with two empty net goals to seal the victory.
There were plenty of heroes in the game—Parrottino with a natural hat trick, Jurusik with 34 saves on 35 shots, Misiak with great play all-around, Smith and Pietila with big plays, and solid defense from Seamus Donohue, Tyler Rockwell, and Colin Swoyer.
One down. One more to go. But I don’t think any Husky fan anticipated what was to come Saturday night. With NMU’s back against the wall, it turned into one of the best games in Tech’s history.
It started with a scoreless and penalty-free first period, but the action was frenetic, as NMU knew it was win or go home. In the second period, the dam burst. The Wildcats opened the scoring early when Brendan Datema bobbled a hard-to-handle loose puck at the blueline. Mitchell Slattery raced the other way and roofed one at the 1:25 mark and the Wildcats took the lead.
Eight minutes later, Logan Ganie poked in one of Joe Shawhan’s favorite “dirty goals” in the NMU crease, but Northern answered about a minute and a half later to retake the lead 2-1. 23 seconds later, Parrottino sprang loose and scored on a breakaway. Northern regained the lead at the 15:32 mark on a beautiful play by freshman Andre Ghantous, and Tech trailed again.
Just two minutes into the 3rd stanza, Ganie again banged in another goal in the crease—while getting cross-checked in the process—and Tech had, for the third time, come from behind to knot the score. Halfway through the 3rd, the Cats had outshot the Huskies by a 25-13 total, but Jurusik’s solid play kept the game tied.
With 10:15 left, Alec Broetzman broke in on the left wing on a sweet pass from Swoyer and beamed a laser off the left post for what looked to be the leading goal—but video review, in a very tough-to-judge play, ruled that Broetzman was offsides. Despite chances for both sides, the game went to overtime.
In the first overtime, the manic pace continued, but no one could score. Halfway through, Trenton Bliss was breaking in and was grabbed and pulled down. Bliss went crashing into the end boards and was injured. But there was no call, and to add insult to injury, Bliss was assessed a 10-minute misconduct for his comments to the ref as he was helped off the ice. Later, Tech was whistled for too many men on the ice—and, with 20 seconds left in the OT period, NMU appeared to make the same mistake but no penalty was called.
At that point, Tech was riled up—a questionable disallowed goal, no-call on a clear NMU penalty resulting in Bliss’s injury and misconduct, and a no-call on an obvious too-many-men on the ice all suggested that NMU was enjoying home-cooking. Shawhan was trying hard to stay in control, and he remained agitated even after the game. But, in a sign of his maturation as a head coach, he took the high road and didn’t add fuel to the fire.
By the time the second OT began, the tension and unease for fans on Discord and at the Winter Dog House was as heavy as it can get. Mrs. Dog was at full-on emotional overload by this time. The frantic pace continued, with NMU’s Brandon Schultz ringing one off the pipe behind Jurusik, Parrottino with yet another breakaway, Misiak with a point-blank powerplay chance, and then Parrottino getting a wide-open shot in the slot. Brian Halonen almost picked the upper left-hand corner but Kent got a blocker on it. And NMU had at least three shots deflected just wide of the MTU goal.
There was a good scoring chance at one end or the other almost every minute of the period.
In the last seconds of the period, Griffin Loughran, the Wildcat that Husky fans love to hate, got tangled up with Colin Swoyer near the NMU bench. As he always seems to do, Loughran embellished the encounter, and when no call was made, he speared Swoyer in the groin from behind. For whatever reason, the referees called him for slashing but didn’t review the play—still, the WCHA suspended Loughran on Monday for one game next year for what can only be called vicious stick work. Shawhan was gob smacked there was no major assessed, but the teams headed off to rest for yet another tense period of go-go-go hockey.
And it started the same way it had been for 100 minutes, as Tech came close to ending it on the powerplay. NMU didn’t quit, and Jurusik made a couple of big saves not long after Loughran returned from the box. Finally, at the 4:41 mark, Logan Pietila won a draw in front of Kent, and Misiak, filling Bliss’s spot on a top line, picked up the puck at the top of the circle. He swung back towards the boards, hit Pietila with a perfect pass, and Pietila one-timed it over Kent’s left shoulder for the game winner.
That was the only time the Huskies had the lead all night.
What followed for Husky Nation was a ton of relief and joy mixed together, at least for one evening. After everyone sitting on pins and needles for almost five hours, the Huskies prevailed. They’ll now travel to Mankato to take on #2 ranked Minnesota State—and the anxiety will start all over again.
There’s a lot to be said about that series, but I’ll have an Old Dog Extra tomorrow to give you my take on Tech’s chances against the Mavericks. And don’t miss Jonathan Zamaites series preview on Friday—and, since there’s no such thing as too much Husky Hockey or THG during the playoffs, this week’s Chasing MacNaughton podcast will be out on Thursday, too.
Just like any Dog that smells something he likes, the Old Dog is rolling in it this week.