With Michigan Tech temporarily out of action due to COVID issues on the team, the Old Dog spent his hockey-watching time last weekend surfing college hockey games in the western conferences. In keeping with the rules that most NCAA institutions have adopted for the pandemic, we don’t know many details about what’s going on with the Huskies.
There could be a contact tracing issue; someone associated with the team was exposed to a known case. There could be one or more positive tests, with either asymptomatic or symptomatic outcomes. And it could be one of the support personnel or one of the players. (Joe Shawhan ruled out the coaching staff as the source on his Monday radio show.)
Late Tuesday afternoon, the games at Ferris State this coming weekend were postponed. The revised schedule released at that time will have these games played as part of Tech’s trip to Alabama-Huntsville on February 5-6–one on the Tuesday (Feb 2) and one on the way back (Tuesday, Feb 9). Then FSU will come to Houghton on the following weekend (February 12-13).
It’s crazy but this is a crazy season.
Also, the postponed games in Mankato against Minnesota State will be played March 5-6, on the weekend that was supposed to be open prior to the start of the WCHA playoffs. That could turn out to be a huge series with the MacNaughton Cup on the line.
With that out of the way, let’s whip around the WCHA, B1G and NCHC to discuss what happened on games that could be seen in Texas.
Bemidji State and Bowling Green split their series, with BG taking the win on Thursday night 3-2 while the Beavers won 4-3 in overtime on Friday. These games were intense, very physical, and at times nasty. Both teams played passionately and there were long periods where each team dominated play. Them Dogs will have their hands full when they play these squads later this season.
In a bit of a surprise, Northern Michigan was swept by Lake State—although these games were not league contests. The Lakers are demonstrating that they are for real, and the Wildcats are showing the effects of having a prolonged COVID layoff in November and December. The Lakers are now 6-3-1 for the year have pulled up to 19th in the USCHO rankings.
Probably the most entertaining games in the WCHA this weekend were between Ferris and Alabama-Huntsville. For the first time since 2018-19, the Chargers swept a series and looked very solid while doing so. In the first game, it was back and forth, tied 2-2 at the end of two periods. More than halfway through the third period, the Bulldogs went ahead, and three minutes later UAH tied it. Then the Bulldogs went ahead with 2:37 left, and it looked like they’d prevail. Back and forth with lots of goals. But Huntsville tied it up with an extra attacker with only 2 seconds left and then won in the 3-3 overtime.
On Saturday, Ferris could not get the puck past 6 foot 6 goalie David Fessenden and the Chargers earned the sweep with a 2-0 shutout. There were fans in the Von Braun center (30% of capacity is allowed under state rules, and there are 7,000 seats, so there were quite a few people watching) and it was eye opening to see how good UAH could be. It’s far less of a surprise that they gave Tech trouble the previous weekend after seeing them in this pair of games.
We’ll see if Huntsville is for real when they visit Bemidji State in the far north next. But the Chargers were a lot of fun to watch last weekend—and it’s got to be a tough time down in Big Rapids as the Bulldogs are now 0-8 in this odd season.
There were only two games the Old Dog and Mrs. Dog could catch from the NACHO boys, and that was the Duluth-St. Cloud series. In the first game, St. Cloud jumped out to a 2-0 lead after 1 period, but UMD countered with three in the 2nd period to jump ahead. The (other, less cool sweater) Huskies tied it up late in the second and then won on an early goal in the third.
In the second game, there were no goals in regulation and SCSU finished the sweep in overtime 1-0. These teams are fast, highly skilled, play excellent defense and have sound goaltending. In the NCHC, everyone chews on everyone else, so getting a sweep is a huge deal for first place St. Cloud. From what I could see, ex-Tech defenseman Seamus Donohue played well in both games.
We were able to watch two series on either cable or the web—the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry and the Minnesota-Wisconsin battle between the top two teams in the Big Ten (or Big Seven and a Half, maybe?).
The downstate home-and-home Troll Matchup was just plain weird, even weirder (at least to out-of-staters) than the “Michigan Left” turn. Michigan ran away with the first game 9-0 at Yost, with nine different players scoring.
On Saturday, though, it was a defensive tussle at Munn Arena. The teams exchanged goals in the first period and were scoreless in the second. The Wolverines scored with 4:38 left to play, and it looked like the game would be over.
But the Spartans scored with 2:01 left and then even more surprisingly got the game winner with just 37 ticks left on the clock. It’s a good thing Mel Pearson has most of his hair; he’s probably pulled out more than a bit of it after this wacky ending.
It just shows how truly difficult it is to sweep anywhere in college hockey these days.
In Madison, in a Battle of the Rodents, the Badgers fed the Gophers their first loss of the year on Saturday as Robbie Beydoun, Tech’s former goalie, shut the door on the #1 Minnesota team and led his team to a 3-1 victory. But he wasn’t able to do the same on Sunday, giving up five goals on 24 shots, and the Gophers evened it up with a 5-3 win.
In watching these two games, it’s easy to see why Minnesota is ranked #1. They roll four lines and can score at any time. The have a stout defense and excellent goaltending. Barring injury or a COVID derailment, they’ll likely be a favorite when the NCAA tournament rolls around.
There were even more games available on the web, but there are only so many that the Old Dog can watch before they all start to blur together. Or before I either run out of Two Hearted Ale or fall asleep after two of those things. It will be much better when Mrs. Dog and I can watch Tech, but that may be a while with the virus still running wild.
When that happens, we’ll hold our breath as we wonder what the Huskies will do after not playing for a while. They’ve got a history of regressing when they aren’t constantly reminded of the competitive fish tank they swim in, and if that happens it could be unpleasant. And that would be a great waste because this team was really starting to get their legs when the holiday break came. Playing only one series in three weeks is not what Tech fans would have hoped for.