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Tuesday @ The Rink

CHAT LIVE With Michigan Tech Head Coach Jamie Russell

Welcome to the CSTV.com moderated chat room!

On Tuesday, December 26 at 1:00 p.m. ET, Michigan Tech Head Coach Jamie Russell enters the "Tuesday @ The Rink", presented by CSTV.com and USCHO.com. The Huskies take on Michigan in the Great Lakes Invitational on Friday, December 29.

Jamie Russell

Jamie Russell begins his fourth year as Michigan TechâÂÂTMs head coach after taking the reins of the schoolâÂÂTMs storied hockey program for the 2003-04 season. The Kamloops, British Columbia, native owns a 23-75-15 overall record and a 19-54-11 mark in Western Collegiate Hockey Association play. . Russell has coached two All-Americans, four All-WCHA selections, one Hobey Baker Award finalist and 31 WCHA All-Academic Team recipients since arriving in Houghton.

The 40-year-old Russell spent the four seasons prior to arriving at MTU helping build the Cornell University Big Red into a national powerhouse. During his tenure (1999-2003) as the lead assistant at Cornell, the Big Red amassed an 87-39-10 record, won two Eastern College Athletic Conference regular-season titles (2001-02, 2002-03) as well as an ECAC playoff championship (2002-03). In addition, CU advanced to the NCAA Championships on two occasions, including a final eight appearance in 2001-02 and a spot in the Frozen Four in 2002-03. CU completed 2002-03 with a school-record 30-5-1 mark and was the top-ranked team in the country in the final regular-season poll. Among RussellâÂÂTMs responsibilities at Cornell were working with the defensemen and the penalty killing units. . Cornell finished number one in the country in both team defense (1.36 goals against per game; next closest, 2.21) and penalty killing (.900) in 2002-03.

Russell played defense for two seasons at Michigan Tech after sitting out 1986-87 due to transfer rules. He was an assistant captain in both of his seasons on the blueline for the Huskies (1987-88, 1988-89) and posted career totals of eight goals and 22 assists in 77 games played. Following graduation, he went on to play for Larjevellan Sweden in 1989. His final two playing years were spent competing for Winston-Salem of the East Coast Hockey League in 1990 and for Binghamton of the American Hockey League in 1991.

Russell has also been extensively involved with USA Hockey throughout the years. He served as the director of the USA Regional Bantam Evaluation Camp from 1996-99 and has also been a lecturer for the USA Hockey Coaches Achievement Program. In addition, Russell has been an instructor at multiple hockey schools, including Michigan TechâÂÂTMs Hockey Development Center. Russell, born Aug. 31, 1966, is a member of the American Hockey Coaches Association. He is married to the former Linda Frankovich of Laurium, Mich., and the couple resides with their sons Ben (8), Charlie (3) and Graeme (1) in Houghton.

** GET YOUR QUESTIONS IN NOW!!: Jamie won't be stopping by until 1:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday, December 26th, and his time will be limited, so feel free to submit your questions now and we'll save them for his arrival!
CSTV.com Moderator: Welcome to "Tuesday @ the Rink," presented by CSTV.com and USCHO. We have two great chats today, so let's not waste time. We're joined now by Michigan Tech head coach Jamie Russell.
Jamie Russell: Happy Holidays. I'm looking forward to answering questions from college hockey fans, who are some of the most knowledgeable and passionate sports fans alive.

Commerce Twp., MI: Jamie: The team has been setting goals for each portion of the season. Can you share with us your goals for the GLI.
Jamie Russell: That's a great question. Tech has struggled in the recent past with winning a championship at the Great Lakes Invitational, and as a coach, I've placed a lot of emphasis on the GLI and how special it is, but with the identity of our team, it's not like we're going to skate harder or compete harder or battle harder along the walls, because that's what we need to do every time we hit the ice. Everyone needs to play for guys sitting next to him. We've played the toughest schedule in the country, so while playing at Joe Louis Arena is certainly a wonderful experience, we've got to go out and remember our identity, and just have a real blue-collar effort.

Tech Grad (Houston): Congratulations Jamie on the best start the Huskies have had in quite a while. How do you assess your team's chances of getting home ice for the WCHA playoffs? What will it take for MTU to beat Michigan at the GLI?
Jamie Russell: In the past couple of years, we've been so young, and we've struggled out of gate. This year, we got off to a 5-1 start, and we're playing very sound hockey defensively. It's always a challenge to get home ice in the WCHA. Currently, we're tied for 5th, and we need to play strong at home, and pick up points on the road when we have the opportunity. To beat Michigna, it's going to be a group effort. We need to have strong team defense and limit their opportunities, and win the special-teams battle.

Bill (Houston): Jamie, in recent years Tech has had some great individual players, several of whom are playing professionally now, and had some great victories, such as the road sweep at Mariucci. Overall, though, this year's team has been much more successful. What are the key positive factors that are making the difference now?
Jamie Russell: Again, when you look at the last couple of years, two years ago, we had Colin Murphy, who led the nation in assists, and last year, Chris Conner, who was a spectacular offensive player. This year, we don't have superstars. We have four lines that can chip in offensively, and everyone's on same page with their systems and understanding how hard we have to to work to be successful. We're a pretty balanced team offensively and defensively.

MeanEgirl (Houghton): Jamie, how did it feel to FINALLY get some points out of North Dakota last weekend, let alone sweeping them in their own building?
Jamie Russell: Prior to December 15-16, the only members of the team that had beaten North Dakota were members of the coaching staff from their playing days. For us to go out and get a sweep on the road was extremely satisfying and garnered us some much-needed points in the WCHA standings.

Erik (Calumet): Hey Jamie, greatest start to a Husky season we've seen in 12 years, so congratulations. We've been talking a bit about the Teslak/Nolan rotation in goal last season and early in this season. You've said all along that you're comofortable with the rotation, but would go with whatever helped Tech to get wins. So during the Minnesota series, when Teslak stumbled a little, Nolan stepped up his game. Nolan has now played the last 11 periods of play, which included two wins against the NoDaks. What should we expect during the GLI in goal? (oh, and Merry Christmas, too)
Jamie Russell: Merry Christmas. Both goaltenders have played extremely well for us. Robbie Nolan was excellent at North Dakota, and was named WCHA Defensive Player Of The Week. He'll get start at the Great Lakes Invitational against Michigan. We'll make decisions as to who starts based on performance, but I have great confidence in both goaltenders, as does the team.

Jim (Denver): Congratulations, coach, on your season so far and especially on your successful trip to UND. Best of luck at the GLI. Where is Eli Vlaisavljevich fitting into your plans? It seems as if he sits a game, then plays.
Jamie Russell: Eli's been very solid, and has made a good transition from junior hockey to the college ranks. As a program, we're finally at the stage where we don't have to ask freshman defensemen to step in and play on our top four. There's a lot of competition amongst our defensive corps. Eli's a defenseman who can contribute offensively. He's been adapting to the power play at the college level and has a very, very bright future for the remainder of this year and the rest of his college career.

Martin (Lake Linden): Coach, you and your staff seem to have transformed the Huskies defence into a real force in the WCHA almost overnight. Tech's goaltenders are certainly more talented than in the recent past, but is the overall defensive success simply a result of more talent or is there also a renewed work ethic? Keep up the great work coach, everyone up here is pulling for you and good luck at the GLI!
Jamie Russell: I think it's a combination of our defensive corps, our goaltenders, and our forwards getting more experience in that we're an older team, and we play a system where we're very aggressive in the defensive zone. Our goal going into the year was to limit the shots on goal and reduce the time we spend in our own end. I think the work ethic of our team is among the highest in the country.

Jim (Fort Wayne): I graduted from MTU in 85. One of the most persistent and frustrating things about many of the post - MacInnes teams (and that goes back a way) has been penalty discipline. Your teams, on the other hand, seem to play at a very high physical level, but the players are playing smart - limited "stupid" penalties. Again, can you discuss how that change happened ? Finally, thanks for your work and the improvement the program has shown. Many of us alumni are excited about what's happening.
Jamie Russell: That's a real point of emphasis with the coaching. We're a hard-working team that plays a very physical brand of hockey, yet we're a disciplined team that ranks 35th in the nation in penalty minutes. The coaching staff and the leaders on the team hold everybody accountable.

Sheboygan,Wisconsin: Jamie, I have been following Tech's hockey program since the mid 70's. It seems that they are a stronger second half of the year team. A strong showing at the GLI usually is a spring-board for better performances into the new year. What are your thoughts on this and do you thing this team has what it takes to bring Tech back to it's glory years? Have they turned the corner? It's great to see some wins early in this season. What are your thoughts on the 2nd half?
Jamie Russell: We got off to a better start this year, and have positioned ourselves to make some noise in the WCHA in the second half of the season. Our goal as a team is to improve each weekend and be playing our best hockey at the end of the year. Whether we've turned the corner remains to be seen. I think we've had good progress, but where we finish depends on how well we come together as a team and can get the job done in the WCHA.

Dave (Santa Rosa, CA): Great job this year, I am glad to see Tech having success this year. How important is it for recruiting that you beat the Big Ten teams including Michigan and Michigan State in the GLI and Minnesota and Wisconsin in the WCHA?
Jamie Russell: I don't know if the Big Ten schools are significant any more than anyone else we play. The Great Lakes Invitational is certainly prestigious, but it was a big sweep at UVM when they were highly, and it was big sweep at North Dakota because of the tradition of that program. We have great respect for all our opponents, but a Great Lakes Invitational championship will go a great way in helping our recruiting efforts.

Bob (Houghton): Coach Russell: I was reading online that Tech's recruiting class for next season is ranked in the top 10. What are the challenges to recruiting top players to come to Houghton and what do you think are the factors that have helped to sign these incoming players next year?
Jamie Russell: There are some challenges recruiting to Michigan Tech as there are to any program, but there are so many positives about Michigan Tech as a university and as a hockey program. I have been fortunate to have great assistant coaches in Ian Kallay, Pat Mikesch and Chris Tok that have done a great job in identifying and bringing in top quality athletes.

JB (Walled Lake, MI): Jamie, with the recruiting class that is upcoming next year, how good will Zabotel, Kattelus, and Cousens make Tech next year....
Jamie Russell: I'm excited about all five players we have coming in next year. They all possess the qualities that we look for as a staff: talent, character, commitment and work ethic. They should all make early impacts on our program.

Paul in Ahmeek: Hi Jamie, I'm impressed with the recruiting for next year (on paper). How is it that you can attract top end players without a recent winning program? Is it offering immediate playing time? Is it the personalities of the coaches and their talent for recruiting? thanks for bringing respectability to a "perennial doormat"
Jamie Russell: I think it's all of the above. I think our assistant coaches are very hard-working. Michigan Tech has a tremendous amount to offer academically and as a hockey program. We're building something very special here, and kids are excited to be a part of that.

Mark (St. Louis): Coach Russell, Can you talk about the process of targeting kids that you want to recruit? Thanks
Jamie Russell: I think we look for qualities that are a fit for our program, in that team chemistry is extremely important. We specifically look for the right fit for Michigan Tech as a university and with play on the ice.

Richard, Grand Haven MI: Going with USCHO's poll question, Would you like to see college hockey adopt something similar to the NHL's four-on-four overtime followed by a shootout?
Jamie Russell: No, for the fact that we play so few games. I think to decide a game 4-on-4 or in a shootout format really changes the nature of the outcome of the game when you're only playing a 28-game conference schedule.

Paula (Duluth): Hey, Jamie, we really enjoy (and hate) the big following you get on the road from the Misfits. A tech alum friend said that he listens to the games on the internet and heard more Tech fans in Denver than Pioneer fans. How does the team react to having Tech fans turn up on the road?
Jamie Russell: Tech fans and alums have been so supportive through the hard times and so loyal. As a program, we're working as hard as we can to make everyone who follows Tech hockey extremely proud. The players feed off the energy from the Misfits whether we're at home or on the road, and their support has been amazing.
CSTV.com Moderator: That is all the time we have with Coach Russell this afternoon.
Jamie Russell: Thanks for the great questions. Everybody who's associated with Michigan Tech hockey appreciates the support.
CSTV.com Moderator: That'll do it for the first of our "Tuesday @ the Rink" chats today. Be sure to come back at the top of the hour, when we'll be joined by Alaska head coach Tavis MacMillan.

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