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Much has been made of No. 2 Minnesota State’s supreme senior class, dubbed in this space as college hockey’s answer to “the Magnificent Seven,” and rightfully so. This Mankato septet has powered the Mavericks to a nation-best 31 wins.
There is another WCHA class that has earned far less notoriety, but which has led another club to the WCHA semifinals: the sophomores of Michigan Tech. Five of Tech’s eight sophomores are impact players: the WCHA’s current forward of the week Tommy Parrottino; team scoring leaders Trent Bliss and Alec Broetzman (27 points apiece); and defensemen Eric Goetz and Colin Swoyer, both having reached the elite 20-point plateau for blueliners.
Parrottino netted four goals in Tech’s road sweep over rival Northern Michigan in last weekend’s quarterfinals, while Gotz, Broetzman, and Swoyer all recorded assists in the series, Gotz setting up the tying goal in Saturday’s clincher.
“I’m very happy to watch these young men grow,” said head coach Joe Shawhan after Parrottino’s natural hat trick Friday night. “We’re all learning. You have to learn how to be your best at big moments.”
Shawhan’s young men will be facing their biggest moment of the season when they travel to Mankato this weekend to face off against WCHA superpower Minnesota State.
Mavericks co-captain and leading scorer Marc Michaelis is a quiet and humble leader. He did a quick analysis of the WCHA’s Magnificent Seven:
Charlie Gerard 5-foot-9 Wing
“Chuckie is the energy-bringer to our group. It doesn’t matter what mood he’s in — he always makes people laugh and smile, a really fun guy to be around.”
Parker Tuomie 5-10 Wing
“Parker and Chuckie are pretty similar in a lot of ways. He’s so competitive, coach [Mike Hastings] said it earlier, ‘There’s nobody that wants to win more than Parker Tuomie,’ and he’s absolutely right.”
Nick Rivera 5-10 Wing
“Nicky’s my co-captain; he and I mesh really well together. He’s the mouth of us, he talks a lot. He makes sure before weekends the team is on point, and everybody’s dialed in.”
Edwin Hookenson 6-0 Defenseman
“Hookey is kind of like myself, really quiet leader who leads by example, a selfless individual on and off the ice. He doesn’t get a lot of credit, but he plays such an important part.”
Ian Scheid 5-11 Defenseman
“He comes to work every day. One of the best offensive defensemen I’ve ever played with. I really hope he’s going to break the [school] record for most points by a defenseman in the Division I era.”
Josh French 5-11 Center
“Josh is probably the most mature person of all of us. You feel that every decision he makes in his life, he makes the right decision. He had a big weekend [vs Bemidji] and he had a big weekend the week before when I came back. It’s good to see him take his [game] to another level.
“These are guys you want to be around, guys you want to spend your time with,” Michaelis said of his Maverick classmates.
He is clearly hoping for the storybook ending, in which he and his remarkable senior class make history by leading the Mavericks to another WCHA championship and their first Frozen Four.
But a formidable obstacle stands in their way: a Michigan Tech team that is just discovering how good they can be. Their class of sophomores is eager to go toe-to-toe with the Maverick seniors. This sets up a classic crossroads confrontation: the veteran champs against the blossoming contenders. This weekend the timeless question will be answered once again: will youth be served?
Tim Rappleye is the author of Jack Parker's Wiseguys: The National Champion BU Terriers, the Blizzard of '78, and the Road to the Miracle on Ice. He can be reached on Twitter @TeeRaps.