COLLEGE HOCKEY: It’s been a tough season for TechHuskies have dealt with injuries, departures and losses all year
It has been that kind of season for Michigan Tech. Nothing has gone right.
By: Brad Elliott Schlossman, Grand Forks Herald
HOUGHTON, Mich. — Michigan Tech took the 7 a.m. flight to return home from Omaha in December.
The Huskies got to Chicago and were about to take off just before a huge winter storm hit. But as the plane was taxiing, pilots had mechanical troubles and they had to return to the airport. The flight was canceled. The storm hit.
Tech chartered a bus, but had to wait three hours for it to show up. The usual seven- or eight-hour trip back to Houghton, Mich., took more than 11 hours, because the bus had to stop every 20 to 30 minutes. In all, the trip home took about 25 hours.
It has been that kind of season for Michigan Tech.
Nothing has gone right.
It started in September when leading career scorer Jordan Baker was ruled out for the year with his second significant injury in six months.
Then, senior Eric Kattelus — the team’s top point-per game producer — was dismissed for violating rules. Then, sophomore Anthony Schooley quit. Then, the team’s captain and best player, junior Brett Olson, was sidelined for nine weeks. Then, senior Bennett Royer went out for a third of the season.
The mentioned players were Tech’s top five returning forwards. Others have been injured as well.
It got so bad that the Huskies had to pick up a random hockey player from campus to join the team in December — and he’s played four games.
“It’s been exasperating to border line ridiculous,” Tech coach Jamie Russell said of the injuries.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Michigan Tech has struggled greatly on the ice.
It went through a 26-game winless streak that lasted more than four months. The Huskies enter this weekend’s series against No. 1 UND with a 4-26-4 overall mark and a 2-22-2 record in league play.
Russell and the coaching staff have worked hard to keep the players positive.
“I’ll be honest, when you get kicked in the teeth every weekend, that’s tough to do,” Russell said. “As a staff, we’ve stressed work ethic and competing every single day. We’ve tried to make it enjoyable for the guys to come to the rink. That’s hard to do when you’re not having success. When you’re not getting results, you don’t have a real high level of confidence. But they’ve been terrific sticking with things and not getting discouraged.”
If there’s one bright spot for Tech, it is the play of the freshmen.
The top three scoring forwards — Miles Gordic, Ryan Furne and Jacob Johnstone — are all rookies. They’ve been forced into key roles because of injuries to players like Olson, who will be out again this weekend with an undisclosed injury.
“No question it’s been frustrating,” Russell said. “We’ve faced a ton of adversity on the injury front and we’re a young team to start with. I couldn’t be happier with our freshman class. With the injuries, we’ve had to elevate them up the depth chart to power play, penalty kill, end-of-game situations. . . that’s asking a lot of first-year players. The WCHA is not kind when you put young kids in those situations.”
The Huskies have already locked into the 12th spot and know they will play UND again next week in the first round of the playoffs. So, Russell said getting league points this weekend aren’t a priority.
But Tech does have one big goal in mind.
“We want to plant an element of doubt,” Russell said. “We want them to know it’s going to be a tough four games against Michigan Tech. . . it’s not going to be easy.”
Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.