by Tim Rosenthal/Staff Writer
Head Coach: Jamie Russell
2006-07 record: 18-17-5 (11-12-5 WCHA)
Key Returnees: Jordan Forte F SR., Malcolm Gwilliam F SR., Jimmy Kerr F SR., Tyler Shelast F SR., Peter Rouleau F SR., Jake Wilkins D SR., Mark Malekoff D SR., Rob Nolan G JR., Michael Lee-Teslak G JR., Geoff Kinrade D JR., Eli Vlaisavljevich D SO., Alex Gagne F SO.
Key Losses: Lars Helminen, Mike Bantovanja, Tyler Skworchinski.
"It was a good step forward," said head coach Jamie Russell about the 2006-07 Michigan Tech Huskies. "We finished in the top 20 and made the WCHA Final Five. I think we have set up a good foundation for the future."
After a 5-1 start in October, the Huskies finished 13-16-5. They had a brutal schedule from November on with the likes of Colorado College (who they eventually beat to get to the Final Five), Denver, St. Cloud State, Minnesota, North Dakota and Michigan and Harvard in the Great Lakes Invitational. In that span the Huskies had a record of 3-9-2. But they did finish the season on a positive note, going 10-7-3 in their final 20 games from January to March.
Part of the success from last season was the one-two goaltender punch of Michael-Lee Teslak and Rob Nolan.
"They were both good as freshmen and sophomores," Russell said about the two goaltenders. "They both gave us a chance to win last season."
This year, expect the same combination in net.
Now that 2006-07 is behind the Huskies, it is time to look ahead to 2007-08.
This year's recruiting class was a little small in the numbers, but that did not diminish the hopes of Russell's thoughts.
"We have five players that will help in the scoring department," said Russell.
If you look at the key point in 2007-08 it has to be the experience coming back.
"This is the strength of our team," said Russell. "We have had two huge recruiting classes, 18, in 2004-05 and 2005-06. They were very young at the time but now this year's juniors and seniors are our go-to guys."
Speaking of leadership, this year's captains will indeed be from both classes.
"Jimmy Kerr will be our captain while Tyler Shelast and junior John Schwartz will be the two assistants," Russell said. "Kerr is outstanding, he is not a rah-rah guy but he is a leader by example. Tyler is also a leader by example while John is a great role model."
This year the Huskies will look to take one step further as they could be one of the top five teams come preseason in the WCHA.
"Last year was a good experience," Russell said. "We were a bit nervous the first time around in the Final Five but they are more confident now. We are in a tough league, but I am optimistic and I am looking forward to restoring tradition at Tech."
Tech will need to get more consistent scoring from the likes of Tyler Shelast and Alex Gagne, though it does have some help coming in highly-touted forward Casey Pierro-Zabotel, who will join the team in midseason.
The strength is in the defense, which includes a top-notch penalty killing unit.
The tradition goes back a long way at Tech, but it has not made an NCAA tournament appearance since 1980-81 when newly-inducted U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer John MacInnes was the coach.
While a Frozen Four might seem out of the question (for now anyway), this team is capable of making things happen.