by Andy Bourdeau/Michigan Tech Beat Writer
It's September in the far north, the leaves are turning colors and the radio weather man is calling for snow flurries! This can only mean one thing - it's hockey time!
When looking at the top 20 Division I schools this year, one needs to include one of the original college hockey powerhouses, the Michigan Tech Huskies. Head coach Jamie Russell and the Huskies made many people notice the Huskies last year when he and the team ended the season with a winning record, the first time since 1992-1993. This year, the team returns all but three members of the squad and are looking to "raise the bar" from last year.
When asked about the expectations for this year, Russell (pictured) was realistic.
"Expectations are higher and we welcome that challenge," Russell said. "We have taken steps each year and we have been moving forward. Again, we need to take another step as we continue the process to return Tech to the top."
One can be sure that MTU will be ready when the puck drops this year.
Tech will need to replace defenseman Lars Helminen and forwards Mike Batovanja and Tyler Schworchinski - all three captains from last year.
Helminen will be missed on defense as he had been a permanent fixture on the blue line for all four years and a point man on the power play. Batovanja was the heart and soul of the team and his presence on and off the ice will be missed. Schworchinski's leadership and centering will be missed as well.
New to the roster will be forwards Eric Kattelus, Bennett Royer and Jordan Baker and defenseman Deron Cousens. Russell said he thinks the fresman class is very talented and expects good things from this group. Missing from the list is BCHL standout Casey Pierro-Zabotel, but his plans include him joining the team at the semester break.
"We expect to be strong defensively," added Russell when asked about the strengths of the team.
Look for strength from the blue line back to the men between the pipes in Michael Lee Teslak and Rob Nolan. Both will see ice time early in the year and could end up splitting all year as they did last season.
Expectations are high in Houghton and have started to spread. The Huskies should compete for home ice in the WCHA, which says a lot when just three years ago, they were in the basement of one of the top leagues in the country.
The Huskies kick the season off on Oct. 6 when they host the University of Toronto for a preseason game. The regular season will start the week after when archrival Northern Michigan comes to town for the first-ever Superior Cup.
COMING THURSDAY: The University of Michigan