It's not a happy situation in Houghton these days ... the poor Huskies have been left staked out in yard all winter; they've been underfed; nobody has bothered to knock the frozen piss off their dog boxes; and on more than a couple of occasions they've literally been bitch-slapped (bitch used in the dog context here ... not because I'm a potty mouth) into submission. Nobody has given them any love. Not even their fans.
If you listened to Huskies fans on the internet you'd have to think this year's edition of their team is nothing but futility. I know I've seen a fair amount of abuse heaped on them by their own fans so far this year. Their USCHO thread is titled "Michigan Tech Season Thread Part V: We Were Dead On Arrival". Dayum. It's bad enough down there that the only person stupid enough to talk any trash on their behalf would be some Houghton-clone of me. Well maybe a Houghton-clone of me would still have a hard time mustering trash talk. I dunno.
But I don't see them quite as the epitome of futility. Sure ... they haven't won a game since the 13th of November. Yesterday they broke that 13 game losing streak with a 1-1 tie versus bitter rival Northern Michigan. They played Minnesota much tighter than UAA did losing twice by 3-2 each night. It took an empty-netter by Michigan to beat them 5-3. UAA got throttled by Michigan at the Sully. They beat SCSU, UAA didn't (yet). But they did have an 8-spot hung on them 3 times and a 10-spot versus Michigan St. That's some ouch. But hey, the Seawolves had an 8-spot put on them too.
The Huskies have an average goal differential in losses against WCHA teams of 3.14; the Seawolves average goal differential in losses against WCHA team is 3.36. UAA has won two more WCHA games than MTU but I think all that should tell us all that this opponent is really no different than any other WCHA team. In other words, they're not likely to lie down like a typically abused dog will.
At this point the Huskies have played THE most difficult schedule in all of college hockey. That's right ... they are #1 in some category. Guess who #2 is? The Seawolves. UAA has played 16 conference games and won 4. MTU has played 16 conference games and won 2. I'd like to point to all sorts of stuff that would show UAA is somehow vastly superior but I can't. Don't get me wrong. I'm all about believing that UAA is a cut above MTU. But there is no real evidence to make my belief a truth (yet).
So how does any of that comparative drivel help the team to know what they can do to win these two games? It tells them that they damn well better play with every bit of emotion, intensity, effort and pride that we saw them put on the ice versus DU this past weekend.
Don't change a fucking thing. Trap the shit outta them. Block passing and shooting lanes exactly the same way they did against DU. Be committed in the defensive end i.e ... give up your body for the good of the team and block shots. I'm guessing Jonny O gets the nod on Friday and if his play is as consistent as it was versus DU then we'll probably see him on Saturday as well. Consistent solid play from him (or anyone else between the pipes) will be just as key as it was against DU.
There are some things the Seawolves will have to do better than they did against DU. They'll have to convert the chances off of turnovers into goals. They'll need to turn power play opportunities into goals. And they'll need to make sure that any pucks which happen to hit the back of a goaltender's legs go into the MTU net and stay out of the UAA net.
There's no mystery anymore. We have seen exactly what this UAA team can do. If you don't think the Seawolves were every bit the equal of the number 1 rated team in the country last weekend then you don't know shit. Anything close to a repeat of last weekends performance will translate to 4 points this weekend. I promise you that.
There isn't a team in the WCHA that could benefit more from a 4 point weekend right now than the Seawolves. That's why this is THE MOST IMPORTANT series of the season to this point. Last weekend, a couple of seniors on the DU team were the difference makers. This weekend it is the turn of a couple (or more) UAA upperclassmen to be difference makers. Kevin Clark in particular must be an offensive leader this weekend. He has to make other players on the ice with him better by helping them score and/or finishing their helpers to him.
Trevor Hunt, Nils Backstrom, Ken Selby, Nick Haddad, Tommy Grant, Craig Parkinson, Sean Wiles, Kane Lafranchise and Jared Tuton (on Saturday night) absolutely must make their presence known this weekend. Not everyone of those guys is going to contribute to a goal but some of them better. All of them can do their part to keep MTU from getting goals though. Anything that any underclassmen can contribute is of course great, but it can't be expected or counted on. There are 9/10 healthy and capable upperclassmen skaters on the squad and frankly it's time to see them all step it up a notch. If not now, when? Now ... is the only acceptable answer to that question.
This is 4 points that the Seawolves absolutely must get. Not 3. Not 2. No less than 4 points at this juncture of the season is acceptable. And I don't say that because of the opponent. I'd say that for any opponent this weekend coming off the really wonderful team performance we saw against DU. Any letdown from that level of play and UAA risks losing some portion of those 4 points. And that is unacceptable.
And yes ... it's more unacceptable than some musher with dozens of dogs that is too lazy to go out and bust all that piss off those posts. If you're going to keep that many dogs ... do them a favor and don't make them walk in circles around their frozen urine all winter eh? Disgusting. Knock it off the posts, load it in a wheelbarrow and haul it off to the edge of your property. 2 hours of work you lazy bastard.