Friday, February 5, 2010

Its Carnival Time!

It is a great time of year to be a hockey fan in Houghton, no matter how much the hometown Huskies have struggled. It is Winter Carnival, a time when the students forget about the long winter and use its bounty, the UP snow, to create really awe inspiring sculptures. Oh, and there is a hockey series also.

If you can take yourself away from the snow art and the other events of winter, you can go inside to see the MTU Huskies play their hearts out for a packed house. It is the for sure one of the times the whole year that the games mean something more to the whole MTU community. Not to mention that MTU always plays a little harder against UMD as evidenced by heartbreak at the DECC earlier this year.

That will then be the task, to overcome the hardest rink to play in the WCHA, when it is full that is. The band directly above your goaltender for two periods, raucous fans, and a hard hitting defensive oriented team just to name three things going for Tech this weekend.

It may start to become clear that I have great respect for MTU and especially for Winter Carnival, and that is because I do. The successes in Houghton have been long forgotten by newer fans of the WCHA, say anyone under 45. The Huskies have played in national championship games. Michigan Tech has won national championships (yes, plural is correct here). True scholars of college hockey should have respect for this program that has been down now for many years.

If you are going to Houghton or are already there, live it up and take in the “Games we Know Captured in Snow.”

Power is Key. UMD comes into the matchup with the second best power play in the WCHA at 22.5%. The Bulldogs put that squad up against the last ranked penalty kill in MTU at 65.8%. The special teams opportunities will provide the key for UMD success this weekend. That being said, UMD and MTU are 4th and 5th, respectively, in the penalty minutes rankings of the WCHA

Defensive Minded. Tech has always made defense a key to their team. That is how they came to Duluth and took (stole) a win from the Bulldogs earlier this season. As of late, though, the Huskies have taken some big goal total losses. It all adds up to MTU having let in the most goals in the WCHA at an average of 4.23 goals per game. Compare that to UMD’s 2.71 and defense is likely the second key of the series as long as Kenny Reiter continues on his tear.

What Road Woes? UMD is currently on a 4 game winning streak on the road in WCHA that dates back to a loss in Colorado Springs on November 7. With six of the last eight games in UMD’s regular season coming on the road, it will be important to continue the streak in Houghton as the Bulldogs continue to press for the MacNaughton Cup. MTU is a good place to start the push for the cup which is owned by Michigan Technological University and is on loan to the WCHA for the regular season title.

So Who Wins? Again, I hate to make predictions, but it what is wanted by readers and pundits. So again, who will win? With all the unknowns I have no way of making any type of an educated guess. With Winter Carnival and the pride of a downtrodden Huskies team it is an almost impossible prediction. Of course, I would like to see a Bulldog sweep, improving their PWR.

Around the WCHA this weekend.

Only one other WCHA series this weekend as teams get ready for the final stretch.

Alaska – Anchorage at Saint Cloud State: SCSU coach Bob Motzko has taken his lumps this week as the WCHA has issued a public reprimand that reads:

MADISON, Wis. - The Western Collegiate Hockey Association today (February 2) issued a public reprimand to men's head coach Bob Motzko of St. Cloud State University for actions at the conclusion of the Jan. 30, 2010 game at Colorado College that were in violation of the WCHA Code of Conduct/Sportsmanship Rules.
SCSU will take their frustration of having their winning streak ended last weekend on the Seaswolves. The Huskies have a chance for first as they sweep the Seawolves this weekend and I predict they will.

Denver and Colorado College hosting Mercyhurst and Air Force: In an interesting kind of opponent swapping deal that CC and Denver do most years, they play a lower team in Mercyhurst and fairly prominent team in Air Force. With the way CC and Denver are playing, they are the favorites. The only “upset” I can see is Air Force over CC.

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