Bringing Back The Bark

Michigan Tech looks to build on impressive '06-'07 campaign


Oct. 4, 2007

By Amber Colvin

Special to CSTV.com

 

For a program once known as a hockey powerhouse, the Michigan Tech Huskies haven't done much barking in the past years -- it's been more like whimpering.

 

But that doesn't mean the 2006-07 squad ended the season with its tail between its legs. Far from it, actually. The Huskies used key wins in the second half of the season to propel themselves into the national spotlight, ending the regular season at No. 19 in the USCHO/CSTV poll.

 

From a sweep of Wisconsin to victories against Minnesota, Colorado College and Denver, Michigan Tech became increasingly dangerous as the season wore on. The Huskies bowed out in the WCHA Final Five with a respectable 18-17-5 overall record, 11-12-5 in the WCHA.


 

 

 

Now the Huskies are looking to carry their resurgence into the new season, starting Saturday with a home exhibition against Toronto.

 

In the Grand Forks Herald preseason coaches' poll, Michigan Tech was picked to finish seventh in the WCHA, with North Dakota taking it all. The Huskies also picked up 38 votes in the USCHO/CSTV national poll.

 

"Michigan Tech goes into the year with certainly higher expectations," said head coach Jamie Russell, entering his fifth season behind the bench with the Huskies.

 

Much of that expectation comes from the wealth of veteran players on this year's roster.

While most WCHA coaches will be talking about the growing pains that come with having a young team this season -- thanks to graduation and early departures to the NHL -- Russell gets to do something a little different.

 

"We've got an older, veteran team compared to some of the teams in the WCHA," Russell said.

 

Michigan Tech lost just three players from last year's team, all to graduation. The team boasts seven seniors this year, a group poised to make their final push toward prominence in the WCHA and an NCAA Tournament berth.

 

How do they do it? Simple.

 

"For us to jump up the WCHA ladder, we're going to have to score a lot more goals," Russell said.

 

Naturally, the Huskies will look to their veterans for a lot of those goals.

 

Leading the push will be last year's top scorer, senior Peter Rouleau. The 5-foot-7 center was the ultimate linemate last year with 23 assists and seven goals for 30 points.

 

Other returning high scorers are alternate captain Tyler Shelast, captain Jimmy Kerr and Malcolm Gwilliam.

 

But there will be some young guys out there crashing the net, too.

 

"We're very excited about some of the freshmen," Russell said.

 

Michigan Tech will have five rookies this season, but the one they're probably most excited about won't don a Huskies uniform until December.

 

Casey Pierro-Zabotel, the 80th overall pick in the 2007 NHL entry draft, will not be eligible for the first semester of the season due to academic reasons. The Canadian center will play for the Merritt Centennials of the BCHL before joining up with the Huskies for the Great Lakes Invitational on Dec. 28.

 

Michigan Tech will again rely on the junior goalie tandem of Michael-Lee Teslak and Rob Nolan. Last year as sophomores, the duo split time between the pipes.

 

In 22 games, Teslak earned an 11-8-3 record, 2.00 GAA and .916 save percentage. For Nolan, 20 games brought him a 7-9-2 record, 2.26 GAA and .910 save percentage.

 

In front of them on the blue line will be junior Geoff Kinrade and seniors Jake Wilkens and Mark Malekoff.

 

For this team on the rise -- or better yet, return -- the key to success will be starting strong.  And luckily for the Huskies, they kick off the season with six consecutive home games.

 

"We need to come out of the gates flying," Russell said. "Our biggest challenge early will be establishing our team identity. We want to be a tough team to play against."

 

If the Huskies come out looking anything like the ones last seen in March, they will be.

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