Friday, November 09, 2007

Great Article from St. Cloud Times


SCSU hockey: Russell feels relief at the rink
By Kevin Allenspach

Published: November 09. 2007 12:30AM

Jamie Russell feels on top of the world these days.

His team is in first place in the WCHA, ranked No. 13 nationally and has taken some strong early strides toward restoring a proud tradition at Michigan Tech.

And that all pales in comparison to simply having his 9-year-old son home from a Milwaukee hospital, where he recently went from having flu-like symptoms to battling a bacterial infection that attacked his kidneys and threatened his life.

But on Tuesday, 14 days after he was air-lifted out of Houghton, Ben Russell made the six-hour ride home with his parents. They navigated a snowstorm, including 40 mile-per-hour winds, but arrived safely shortly after midnight.

So, for the first time since his team opened the WCHA season, Russell will truly be able to focus on hockey tonight when his Huskies take on the 17th-ranked St. Cloud State Huskies at MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

“From a personal standpoint, it’s been tough,” said Russell, who has three boys under the age of 10 with his wife, Linda. “My family means the world to me and I spent a lot of time going back and forth to Milwaukee. Our team showed great leadership while I was gone. I really had no other choice. When something like this happens, you have to sort of drop everything.”

His assistants, Pat Mikesch and Chris Tok — each of whom have young children — took over.

“We went from a Monday when Jamie said Ben wasn’t feeling well to a Tuesday when he got called out from practice at 4 o’clock to learn he’s got to get on a jet to go someplace where they can treat his son better,” said Mikesch, who has two sons and a daughter. “My oldest boy is about the same age as Ben, so the past two weeks have been very emotional, to say the least.”

Mikesch and Tok, in daily phone contact with Russell, ran practice every day leading up to a home series against North Dakota and again last week before a road trip to Wisconsin.

“Everything becomes simple,” Mikesch said. “You just get out there and do what you’ve got to do so you can get off the ice and move on. The guys wanted to play for Ben and I think it’s great that they didn’t let that desire cause them to lose their composure.”

The players are used to seeing Ben Russell and all of the coaches’ kids around the dressing room, and they usually skate with their dads following practice on Thursdays when they’re home. It’s a tradition Russell started when he became head coach five years ago.

“Coach got back just before our first game against North Dakota and we knew how hard it was for him,” senior forward Tyler Shelast said. “He wrote us a message on our board that gave us a lot of incentive.”

Russell, who arrived about the time the team was on the ice for warm-ups, was too choked up for a speech. Instead, he let his players read the following: “I thought I knew what tough was. This past week, my 9-year-old son introduced me to a whole new world of toughness and courage. I really want to win tonight for Ben.”

Like something out of Hollywood, and as Ben Russell listened to the radio broadcast from his hospital room, Michigan Tech went out and knocked off the No. 1-ranked team in the country, 3-1. The Sioux stomped MTU 6-0 the next night, but by then victory and defeat had taken on new meaning.

“We gave Ben the game puck from that win against North Dakota,” said Shelast, who scored a goal and assisted on another last Friday as Michigan Tech beat the Badgers as part of a split. “It’s great to hear he’s doing better and it’s going to be good to see him around here again.”

While the outpouring from the community, locally and throughout college hockey, has been amazing, Jamie Russell said his son still has a long way to go in his recovery.

Fortunately, Linda Russell is a registered nurse. This week, Ben is receiving antibiotics intravenously every six hours and blood thinner medication every 12. He’ll take treatment in some form for six months, meaning he won’t be able to play hockey this season.

“I think that’s what’s been hardest on him,” Jamie Russell said. “But I’ve promised he can come on some road trips later in the season, so hopefully that will make up for it a little.”

Huskies notebook

» SCSU coach Bob Motzko said he would decide late Thursday or before the game today whether to dress Chris Anderson or Brett Barta on defense. He also was unsure of the exact make-up of his fourth line, which included Marty Mjelleli and Ryan Peckskamp in alternate games last weekend.

» Michigan Tech was 10th in the WCHA in overall scoring offense (2.25 goals per game) and power play (9.3 percent) last season. Through eight games this year, MTU is averaging three goals a game and is third on the power play at 20.4 percent.

» The series matches the teams with the two lowest penalty-minute averages in the WCHA. SCSU averages 10.2 minutes per game. MTU averages 14.0.

» Andrew Gordon, who scored the overtime winner for SCSU the last time the teams met on Dec. 2, 2006, was sent from Hershey of the AHL to South Carolina of the ECHL this week. Bobby Goepfert, who earned that victory last season also is soon expected to begin his pro career in the ECHL.


THB staff is thrilled to hear that Ben is home and doing better. We knew he could do it. :) Continue getting well, Ben!

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