by Mike Uhl / Feature Writer
After the first half of WCHA play, Michigan Tech had but one victory to show for their efforts. Based on pre-season WCHA predictions, MTU was slated by INCH, WCHA Coaches and USCHO to finish 7th, 9th and 10th respectively in the conference. Just when it looked like it could become a season of underachievement, Tech played a very strong Great Lakes Invitational tournament against #3 Michigan and #6 New Hampshire. The strong tournament play was followed up with taking two points at #5 Denver. The play at Denver was nothing short of impressive as Tech held the most potent offense in the country to one goal for the entire weekend. As Tech hopes to turn the corner for this season, Michigan College Hockey (MCH) discussed Tech’s program with Head Coach Jamie Russell (JR).
(MCH): What is your take on the season thus far?
(JR) : We knew going into the season that we would need a lot of patience with the team because of so many young players. The season also started with Taggart Desmet being injured and Jordan Foote is now injured for the remainder of the season. Colin Murphy has done a great job leading the team with the adversity we have experienced. He is keeping the guys working hard and battling under trying circumstances. The NHL team that picks him up will get a tremendous player and person. We are frustrated with the results so far, but have played some good games and are making progress in the right direction.
MCH: Goaltending was a struggle early, how does it stand at this point?
JR : Cam Ellsworth is coming around very well. He played very good at Lakehead and at the Denver series in Houghton before GLI. People have taken the Lakehead games for granted, but they are the #3 team in Canada and draw crowds of 3,000. Cam has also been named the National Player of the Week for the series at Denver.
MCH: What areas are you looking to improve?
JR : Aggressiveness on the penalty kill, reduction of goals against average, 4 lines that compete and more 5 on 5 scoring.
MCH: From GLI, the common statement from New Hampshire and Michigan fans was that Michigan Tech is the best one win team they have ever seen.
JR : I have coached in the CCHA and ECAC and the WCHA is without a doubt the premier conference. If you can win home ice in the WCHA, you will make the tournament; no other conference can boast that. Also, recruits want to play in the best conference and they know that is the WCHA.
MCH: Is there a timeline for your rebuilding process?
JR : The goal every year is home ice. To do this, we are moving forward with the freshman in the right direction. Tyler Shelast is a freshman and leads the team in goals. He will be a solid NHL player. It takes time, but you must set your sights high and hold players accountable. We need to recruit talent,speed, skill and character. As we fulfill those criteria, you will seeMichigan Tech with more NHL draft picks and this all equates to success.
Tech has a very tough schedule coming up against Notre Dame, Minnesota and Colorado College. It should become clear relatively quickly whether or not Tech has turned the corner for the season.