Sunday, February 04, 2007

Miracles Can Happen, But Don't Count On It

So, the Huskies went to another lowly Minnesota team that should have been an easy weekend, and what comes from it? Another debacle, resulting in a loss of 3 potential points. Just as with the trip to Duluth, which lost this team 4 points that would have us comfortably in 5th. Combine those potential 4 points with the 3 we could have gotten this weekend, and we'd be tied with CC for 4th.

I don't want to be all gloomy and depressing, but the Huskies have failed to turn things around in many places where they could have made tremendous strides to a truly great finish. I realize last year at this time, we were looking at a bottom-of-the-ladder spot, and barely had any wins, but still, this is the team that had the hockey public in Houghton on their toes after that fabulous start earlier in the season. I can see going to Denver and only coming out with 1 point, but making a trip to Mankato and doing so? Driving 5 hours to Duluth and getting swept? I think we should be upset that we didn't get to go to St. Cloud or face North Dakota at home. We probably could have taken 2 points apiece in those series, and I don't understand why.

So, to continue the upbeat theme of this entry, we'll look at the rest of the season. Let me tell you, its not a pretty picture. The Huskies still have a weekend off, so like UND and SCSU, which teams were able to gain ground on, everyone behind the Huskies will have a chance to close gaps, and those in front make them larger. The next three series don't scream success either, as the #2 Denver team comes to town for Winter Carnival. Though the strong showing in the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena may help the guys out, Denver always seems to always seems to find ways to win, as they did at home this year, despite being outshot. Unfortunately for the Pioneers, they gave up their last game to UMD 6-4, so there is hope.

The week after that, the Badgers make the trip up from Madison for a series that no one can make any guesses on. They are currently sitting behind the Huskies in the standings, and they play well enough to say that we may beat them, and crappy enough to say that we may lose to them (if we go off of the beat good teams, lose to crappy teams model). Those two games will more than likely be extremely hard fought, and more than worth the price of admittance.

Then comes the off weekend, and after that, one final trip to Mariucci Arena to visit Don Lucia's Golden Gophers. The Gophers aren't the same vicious rodents as the beginning of the season. They gave games to Wisconsin and Denver, and a series to UND. Hopefully Jeff Frazee is still having trouble stopping clearing passes, but the perennial favorites will more than likely be the biggest challege since they were in Houghton in December. There is a potential for points, but the Huskies are going to really have to get it together before they make a trip following an off weekend to face *#1 (pending the next three weekends, where they may screw up more).

What can these issues be attributed to? First of all, there is a huge lack of consistency in the lines. Skworch, Footer, and Kerr seem to be the only solid line on the team. The D-men are pretty shook up after a few injuries, and the forwards cycle spots on lines more than they cycle the puck on the powerplay. Coach Russell has a thing for throwing around St. Louis, Axtell and Lord based on their play, and if they aren't playing well enough to deserve a spot, I'm all for it. This Saturday, though, John Kivisto made his first start, while Axtell and St. Louis sat out. St. Louis was supposed to be a major help, and Axtell's probably finding his legs, but what are these guys doing so wrong, and why aren't they motivated to fix it? It would be wonderful to see some geling with ever line, as most anyone on the team can produce goals, but if they don't want to play to a level that Russell thinks will earn them ice time, then I don't see any other alternative.

Another issue the Huskies seem to have is Olympic-size (200x100 foot) ice sheets. CC, MSUM, UAA, Minnesota, SCSU, NMU and Wisconsin (200x97) have Olympic sheets in their home arenas. This year, the Huskies are 1-5-1 on Olympic ice, and have shown poor results in the past on the bigger sheet. That extra 15 feet does so much to the game, and in my personal opinion, in a world where most all of the players would like to end up in the NHL, where ice is 200x85 feet, I think we should stick with NHL size ice. This is sort of like the whole metric-English units thing, though, where the bigger sheet is more "hip" and "progressive" since international hockey is played on the bigger surface, reducing checking and promoting positional defense, while the U.S. and Canada still hold on to the largest hockey league in the world, and the smaller, more exciting ice. The change in size shouldn't be so much of a bother for a skilled team, so it looks as if the Huskies have some work to do on their game. What we really need to do is waste some of that hockey enrichment fund on an Olympic size practice sheet behind the JMSIA so the summer progams, local schools and Tech's intramural program can have some more ice time. That's just my humble opinion, though.

So there's a long road ahead. It is "mathematically" possible to get home ice, but don't get your hopes up. Looks like we'll have to spend another year making the trip somewhere else, and maybe next year the team can pull it together and get those easy, critical points when they need them most.

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