Michigan Tech’s win over St. Thomas on Saturday night was what their head coach described as a “brave” effort as satisfying as could be.
“Brave effort by our boys. You like every win, but some you like more than others,” said MTU coach Joe Shawhan in his post-game comments after Tech survived in St. Paul with a 4-3 win and a win in the series. “And the ending of this one was exciting.”
The Huskies had held a 3-0 lead in the first 10 minutes, but Michigan Tech saw the Tommies build that lead as the game progressed. Tech’s Arvid Caderoth was thrown out for a contact with the head game misconduct just 12 minutes into the half and St Thomas scored twice on that extended power play to make it 3-2.
The Tommies eventually tied 3-3 midway through the third period, but Ryland Mosley scored a dramatic goal from a man down just over two minutes from time to give the Huskies a 4-3 lead and eventual victory.
“It was a huge game for us. We have four tough games ahead of us with the two best teams in the league – three at home,” said Shawhan in the aftermath. “We’re definitely a bit stumped at the moment. A couple of guys fell during the game and a couple got injured but it was a brave effort.
This season, it seems like “brave effort” has been the Huskies’ calling card. After losing three of their top five scorers last season, the Huskies were predicted to finish fifth in the eight-team conference. However, Michigan Tech has so far resisted those predictions. They’re 8-3-2 overall and 4-2-2 in the CCHA, good enough for third place. However, big matchups with the state of Minnesota and Northern Michigan lie ahead over the next two weekends.
Shawhan said during his radio show Monday that he predicted Northern Michigan would win the league and Minnesota State would finish second. Currently, MSU is second, NMU fourth, and Bowling Green first, although the Falcons have already played 10 conference games. Nevertheless, NMU, BGSU and MSU lead the league in the ranking.
“The league is going exactly as you imagined. The teams with the best scoring chances are at the top of the standings,” said Shawhan. “The fact that we have eight wins gives our boys a lot of credit. It was agony. We didn’t play great in some of them, but the guys found ways to come out and win hockey games. I know it’s been a source of pride for me to see how they compete and how they grow as hockey players. On paper we should be at the bottom of the league.”
Maybe that’s not quite right. After all, the Huskies brought back Blake Pietila, who continues to post elite numbers (his 1.90 GAA and .929 savings percentage are both just outside the country’s top 10, and only Bemidji State’s Mattias Sholl has better numbers in the conference). Mosley, a junior forward, is also having a breakout season, having already bettered his 2021-22 total in just 13 games (he had 13 points last year and 15 this season). He leads the team in both points and goals (seven).
But Shawhan called his team an “anomaly,” largely because they haven’t scored quite as many goals as their peers in the top half of the league, and also because they don’t have standout attacking players to focus on like in a season Can base before with Brian Halonen and Trenton Bliss.
Still, Tech has only lost three times — to Bemidji and Bowling Green, and a preseason nonconference game to Ferris State. They’re perfect in their four games against non-CCHA opponents so far (having defeated both Alaska and St. Lawrence) and are No. 18 pairwise.
“I think we’re the anomaly because we’re winning some hockey games and I give our players a lot of credit for that,” Shawhan said. “It was a lot of experimentation, a lot of guys stepped up, showed up and did things. It seems to be someone different each time, but that’s what we’re going for because when everything clicks you never know what might happen.”
The Huskies host the State of Minnesota in Houghton this weekend; The Mavericks part ways with NMU. Tech has lost seven straight games to MSU, including a 0-4 loss to them last season. The Huskies’ last win over the Mavericks was on December 6, 2020 at Houghton – a 3-1 win in which Pietila made 43 saves.