Friday, June 15, 2007

A Tribute to Mike Batovanja

When Mike Batovanja took the ice in his first shift as a Michigan Tech Husky, I could tell there was something different about the way he played. Somehow, he really stood out from anyone else on the Huskies, and from anyone else I've ever seen play before. I tried to figure out what it was, what it was that made him so different from anyone I'd ever watched before. Honestly, I never expected him to stick out like he did...

Mike Batovanja, or Batty as he is commonly referred to, came to Michigan Tech for his sophomore season after his last hockey program at Findlay University of College Hockey America folded. I had never expected much from him; just some guy from the CHA looking to join a team. He had connections with former assistant coach Ian Kallay back when Kallay coached him in the Drayton Valley Thunder, and that was how he found himself playing for Tech.

So what was it about Batty's first shift that had made me notice him so quickly? That made me see a different kind of hockey player?

We'll begin with effort and dedication. Most Michigan Tech players will put forth 100% effort on each or most of their shifts. Mike however, was giving about 123% effort EVERY shift. The determination that he always shows on the ice couldn't be more obvious, especially if even I can pick it out.

Mike is only 5'7" .. probably more like 5'6", which is smaller than about 95% of the people he encounters on the ice. Another huge reason that I admire him is that he's never let that stop him from being the agressive player he is. Mike has laid out some very BIG guys. It isn't good to be on the receiving end of one his checks, because he will just absolutely clobber you. Michigan Tech hockey has become more agressive and physical ever since he has joined the lineup.

Self-sacrificing... another one of Batty's great on-ice qualities. He will jump in front of any slap shot that he can to protect his net. Before Mike came along, that kind of blocked-shot play was something that I rarely if ever saw from my team. Now, many of the Huskies do the same thing. Whenever I go on hockey road trips, I often get comments from opposing fans similar to, "I can't believe how your players will just jump in front of any and every shot they can!" From my observation, the quality and quantity of those plays have been around only as long as Mike Batovanja himself.

On the bench and on the ice, Mike is a great leader. He always keeps the team together and focused. If you look at Mike's numbers since he's been at Michigan Tech, they're nothing to brag about. However, what he has done for the team is nothing that can be represented in his statistics. There's just no way to show it on paper. And while his numbers are not that great, him graduating and exhausting his eligibility for the Huskies is one of the biggest blows our hockey team could take. He was often called the "Heart of the Team." And there is of course a good reason for it. Not only could you see effort in each and every shift, but you could tell that he played with his heart. Mike also shared it with his teammates. The encouragement that always he provided to his teammates made a difference.

Mike also exhibits excellent character off the ice. Naturally, all of the guys love the support that they get from the fans, but Mike shows his appreciation a little more than many others do. He's never too good to say hi. He always thanks the fans personally for their support if possible. For me personally, it has been honor to know, work with, and cheer for him.

While the college hockey chapter has ended in Mike's life, he's about to begin a new chapter with fiance Stefanie. He and Stefanie will be married this July. Says Stef of her fiance, "I am so proud of Mike for all his accomplishments. I am very blessed to have him in my life. He is a wonderful person." I wish those two all of the best in their lives. Look for wedding pictures exclusively on the THB in July!

Batty, thank you for everything you have done for Michigan Tech Hockey. Thank you for giving us three wonderful years and for always showing such dedication. You will leave a lasting impression on this hockey program and community for years to come.

Thank you for the pic, Stef!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

THB EXCLUSIVE: Jersey Unveiling 2007!

This entry is dedicated to dggoddard of the LetsGoDU blog. In a recent questionnaire over at LetsGoMavs, for the question "Who has the worst jerseys?", Mr. Goddard proceeded to answer "Michigan Tech." I assume he was really referring to the [now] old black ones, since that may be all he'd ever seen. Those ones are different, I'll agree. Of course, me being a Tech fan, I love them and don't understand how anyone could view those as the WORST in the WCHA. Maybe he has a bias against Michigan Tech. This I do not know. But Mr. Goddard, prepare to change your mind.

Two years ago, the Huskies Hockey Program switched their jersey supplier. They were also looking to switch from the usual jersey material into the much lighter and more breathable dazzle material. They first switched out their gold jerseys. Last year, Tech fans got to enjoy new home whites. This year, the road black sweaters will be changed.

The Tech Hockey Blog staff has acquired the jersey file 2007 and are happy to share it with our loyal readers. Click on it for the full size.

The Huskies Hockey staff and team are very happy with the product and service they have received over the past two years. They reportedly "do not anticipate further design changes for a while."

Feel free to post your comments and feelings about the new jerseys here at the THB. We'd love to hear what you think about Michigan Tech's newest jersey, which will debut on the ice on Friday, November 2nd as they take on the Wisconsin Badgers.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Remembering October 18, 2003

Friday 17 October 2003... it was this writer's first road trip, first college hockey game, first hockey game period. That night was also Coach Jamie Russell's first regular season game as head coach of the Michigan Tech Huskies.

The place... Northern Michigan University's Berry Events Center, located in the craphole that is Marquette, Michigan. When the Huskies and Wildcats get together, you KNOW you can expect one hell of a game. This night was no different. And like every Tech-NMU game, it was a close one throughout. Unfortunately, Michigan Tech had two players in the penalty box during overtime, which eventually lead to a 5 on 3 game winner for the 'Cats.

Heartbreaking, indeed. Not what Coach Russell was looking for in his first game as head coach.

Now onto the next night. The night I, and many others like me, will never forget. This is the night that made me who I am today. This is the night that changed my life forever.

The game was started off the right way, with a Chris Conner (Colin Murphy, John Scott) goal coming at 5:46 of the first. The lead didn't last long though, as NMU struck back less than 3 minutes later.

In the second period, Tech scored twice with goals from Brandon Schwartz and Colin Murphy to make the score 3-1. The Huskies thought they were sitting comfortably with a two goal lead; however, NMU wasn't done yet. In fact, they were only getting started. Those pesky Wildcats scored 5 more unanswered goals, 4 of those coming in the 3rd period with the last one at 15:22. Unfortunately, when NMU's 6th goal came around with less than 5 minutes left in regulation, many of the Tech fans decided that there were more important things to do than perhaps witness one of the greatest comeback games ever played in the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena. Not only did fans leave after NMU's 6th goal, but this awful, horrible, ugly and fat Wildcat fan took off his shirt and started waving it around. Maybe that was actually why the Tech fans left. Who knows.

This night isn't looking good for the Huskies, who were desperately seeking revenge for the previous night's game. Four and a half minutes is plenty of time to stage a comeback though, right?

Nick Anderson, with a little help from Jon Pittis, got things moving in the right direction with his goal at 17:55. Two goals to go to force OT... just over 2 minutes left. I looked at my friend with eyes that said, "...well... maybe it can happen..." And although he was happy about the goal we just got, he doubtfully shook his head no. For some reason, I wanted to keep the hope.

18:34 of the third: score one for Colin Murphy, his second of the game. One more goal to go. One minute and twenty six seconds left to do this. Coach Russell thought it would be a good time to call a timeout here to make up a play to push this one into overtime.

Play started back up, and as soon as it was okay to do so, goaltender Cam Ellsworth rushed to the team bench and a sixth skater scurried to the ice. Time was ticking down, but the Huskies kept on throwing shot after shot on NMU netminder Craig Kowalski. With just 28 seconds remaining, assistant captain Colin Murphy completes his hat trick and ties up the game.

What a great feeling that was! In response to NMU's fat, ugly guy who earlier removed his shirt, Michigan Tech had a fatter, hairier guy remove his shirt and start swinging it around. It was disgusting, but it was absolutely sweet.

Going into overtime, MTU held a 44-31 SOG advantage over NMU, with 18 of those coming in the 3rd period.

With the bonus hockey beginning, there was no other option for Michigan Tech other than to win this game. They had come too far to make it a tie or a loss.

And sure enough, at 2:58 in, Colin Murphy, with a little help from Jon Pittis, put the game away for Michigan Tech.

Now, my team has never won a National Championship since I've been following them or even since I've been alive... but I have a pretty good idea of what it might feel like. The feelings that I experienced when this game was said and done have to be at least similar to those one may experience when their team wins a national championship. The euphoria was SO INTENSE. Nothing had ever made me feel the way I felt at that moment.

And do you remember that fat, gross, hairy shirtless Tech fan I spoke about earlier? Oh yeah, he was definitely going nuts waving his shirt around... rubbing it right back in the faces of the NMU fans who were taunting us earlier. Ladies and gentleman, this is the night when the lengendary Shirtless Guy was born.

October 18, 2003 is a night that Michigan Tech fans will never forget. It was a game that it looked like for sure we were going to lose... but with the persevering attitudes of the Huskies and the great coaching by Jamie Russell, a great story was made for the history books. Welcome aboard, Coach Russell.

USCHO Box Score