Senior forward Chris Conner
Well fans, the time is here, the leaves are falling along with the temperatures and there is a renewed hope for many hockey fans in the Houghton area. Friday marks the start of the college hockey season for our Michigan Tech Huskies and we are all ready to get this going.
Jamie Russell and the rest of the coaching staff have done all they can to get the Huskies back on the right path. Russell is in his third season as the head of the Huskies and is looking to improve on their last place finish from a year ago. If predictions have anything to do with it, they will be in eighth. INCH writer Jess Meyers has the Huskies at 8 and so did the coaches Tuesday on the annual pre-season conference call.
When Russell was asked why fans should be excited, he simply referenced the teams success during the second half of last season. Want more reasons? Offensively the Huskies will be returning nine of their top 10 scorers from a year ago, including standout defenseman Lars Helminen and electrifying forward Chris Conner. The power play was one of the best in the league last year and looks like it could be as good or better this year. Starting the year, look for Brandon Schwartz and Helminen at the point, Conner and Nick Anderson on the wings and Tyler Shelast in the center - four of the same five from last year.
What's new? A lot. MTU will be young again as they current roster is made up of 10 freshmen, most of who will be getting plenty of playing time early in the season. The recruiting has been improving each year, and this year looks to be the best since I have been tracking the Huskies.
What's missing? Colin Murphy and Cam Ellsworth. Murphy will be missed as he was the leading assist man in the nation and a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker award last year. His leadership was a big part of keeping the team in the right direction last year, and will be missed. Ellsworth was the go to goalie for the entire second half of the season.
The biggest question for the Huskies this year has to be the goaltending, as Ellsworth graduated and Bryce Luker left to pursue other opportunities. This leaves the group with a total of two games experience in college. It will be up to Kevin Hachey (So.), Rob Nolan (Fr.), and Michael-Lee Teslak (Fr.) to fill the always important role as netminder. The two freshmen are both highly-touted recruits and will need to step up and play a big part right away.
Defense will be an area of concern again as the Huskies will be young. John Scott will also be out for the first 14 games of the year for off-season troubles. The bench will be short in this area, so look for Helminen to do double duty early in the year.
We will all find out what the Huskies have as the season starts this Friday against 2005 NCAA tournament participant Mercyhurst. This will be the first ever meeting of these two teams. Other big games for the Huskies are the NYE Frontier Classic October 14th and 15th, home and home with rival NMU the weekend after, the best holiday tournament around, the GLI over Christmas break and the Winter Carnival opponent Minnesota.
F Colin Murphy (signed with St. John's - AHL)
F John Hartman
F Ryan Markham
D Clay Wilson
G Cam Ellsworth
D Brad Sullivan
G Bryce Luker
F Ryan Angelow (OPJHL)
F Alex Gagne (BCHL)
D Geoff Kinrad (BCHL)
F Dered Kitti (NAHL)
F Alex Lord (Champlain College)
G Rob Nolan (AJHL)
D John Schwarz (AJHL)
G Michael-Lee Teslak (BCHL)
D Mike VanWagner (USHL)