Pretenders Or Contenders: Michigan Tech & Ferris State Battle This Weekend

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With the WCHA season steering towards intra-conference play, an all-Michigan matchup in Big Rapids is worth noting this weekend. The defending Sauer Cup champion (postseason tourney) Michigan Tech Huskies (3-3) come downstate to face the Ferris State Bulldogs (4-4) in a compelling “pretender or contender” clash. Veteran Ferris coach Bob Daniels enjoys the opportunity to play the program that boasts so much hockey history.

“Michigan Tech has a storied tradition,” Daniels said. “Our conference is strong this year, and Michigan Tech is one of those teams a really good program now.” 

Daniels then detailed the history of the two programs, how they share a CCHA rivalry from the 1980s that has tracked back to today’s WCHA.

Second-year Tech coach Joe Shawhan cares mostly about last season, one in which his Huskies were swept by the Bulldogs. 

“You have to be ready when you play them,” Shawhan said. “Especially in their rink. They do some twists all the time, faceoff plays are creative, there’s always something new thrown in.” 

Shawhan, the former Lake State goalie, is a stickler for details — like so many in his goaltending union — and is convinced that not all rinks are created equal, especially in Big Rapids. 

“Regardless of what anybody says, their rink is different than most rinks in our league,” he said. “It’s small, and they play it well. They take risks, and can recover by keeping their feet moving, moving which elevates their game and their learning curve.

“That is as well-coached a team as you’ll ever see. Bob Daniels and his staff got to the national championship game not that long ago. They cycle their classes a bit. Last year was their rebuild year. Within the next couple of years they’ll be battling for the top spot in the league; that’s just how they do it there.”

Shawhan’s Huskies, in the middle of an eight-game road trip, need to keep heads on swivels and pay tight attention to details if they are to grab Shawhan his first points ever in Big Rapids. Friday’s game will be streamed live right here on FloHockey and live-tweeted by @TeeRaps.

Puck Drops . . .

  • A Friday win by either Bemidji (hosting Merrimack) or Northern Michigan (hosting Cornell) will give the WCHA as many critical non-conference wins as they had all last season. Going into this weekend’s games they are a collective 19-25-3 (.436), as opposed to 20-38-7 (.362) last season. 
  • Although feared within the conference, No. 3-ranked Minnesota State is also revered for its 5-1 nonconference record vs the biggest brand names in college hockey: BU, North Dakota, and Minnesota.
  • Lake State senior center Anthony Nellis has had a hand in 50 percent of all the Lakers goals scored this season, fifth-highest percentage. In the country. His 5-5-10 in six games played is the hottest start of his career in the Sault.
  • College Hockey, Inc. has found an unexpected connection between frozen Bemidji State and the Nevada desert. Sophomore sniper Brendan Harris (five points) hails from the Vegas suburb of Henderson, following in the footsteps of 2016 grad Cory Ward (Las Vegas hometown), now enjoying his third season of pro hockey. And the Beavers’ shutdown defenseman from last season, Zach Whitecloud, wandered into the desert after signing with the Vegas Golden Knights. Southwest Airlines might consider a direct route from Las Vegas to Bemidji. 

College Hockey, Inc., Michigan Tech, and the Ferris State Sports Information offices contributed to this report.

Tim Rappleye is the author of "Jack Parker's Wiseguys" and the forthcoming book: "Hobey Baker, Upon Further Review," set for release in November. He can be reached @TeeRaps.

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