Men's CCHA Hockey

CCHA RinkRap: Mankato's Attrition; The Shawhan Show

CCHA RinkRap: Mankato's Attrition; The Shawhan Show

Mankato joins Lake State in the battle of attrition, pearls of wisdom from the U.P.’s most quotable coach and Tech’s Pietila finally gets a breather.

Nov 29, 2021 by Tim Rappleye
CCHA RinkRap: Mankato's Attrition; The Shawhan Show

This week on CCHA RinkRap, Minnesota State joins Lake State in the battle of attrition; pearls of wisdom from the U.P.’s most quotable coach; and Tech’s Blake Pietila finally gets a breather in goal. 

Illness Tears Through CCHA

Minnesota State, the No. 1 team in the nation, did not storm into the Soo this past weekend, they limped in with fife and drum. Three of their “Magnificent Seven”—Dryden McKay, Kito Hirose and Julian Napravnik were scratched Friday night, leaving Nathan Smith, Reggie Lutz, Cade Borchardt and Ryan Sandelin to carry the flag for the reigning MacNaughton Cup champs. They weren’t enough. 

In a game between two teams with only one goalie in uniform that had played even a minute of college hockey, Lake State took out the men in purple 1-0. The Mavs' potential tying goal in the second period was wiped out by the men-in-stripes, a play that still has Hastings miffed. 

Here’s the video of a play that should knock the Mavericks off the top spot in the national rankings. You make the call: 

Lakers’ assistant Zack Cisek tried to downplay the effect of MSU’s missing star power Friday night—“They’re not a No. 1 team with just a couple of guys,” referring to MSU’s missing impact players. But team health is clearly determining results this season, affecting both the standings and national rankings. Mavericks coach Mike Hastings admitted that because of viruses ravaging teams these days, college hockey is indeed experiencing a new world order.

“Right now it is,” said Hastings to RinkRap. “There’s a combination, whether it’s COVID or influenza. Depending on who you talk to and when you talk to them, everybody’s going through it.” 

Turns out that it wasn’t COVID but the flu that raked Minnesota State this past weekend. That distinction allowed McKay to take the 10-hour bus ride with his club to the Soo during his recuperation. Hastings felt his All-American was finally fit to play on Saturday, and McKay rang up his record 30th career shutout while beating the Lakers 3-0. He needed only five saves to complete the shutout, and no, that save total is not a misprint. The angered Mavericks outshot Lake State by a 5-1 ratio, 25-5, in a display of pure domination.

It’s nearly impossible to predict college hockey results this season without a list of who gets on the bus each week, and no one is providing seating charts. The Mavericks have deduced that they got the same strain of flu that ripped through St. Thomas two weeks ago, not from the handshake line but just from competing in close quarters. The Tommies may not have scored a goal in 120 minutes of play against MSU, but they had a major impact on the Mavs' second CCHA loss of the year the following Friday.

Meanwhile, it was COVID protocol that forced three Laker players who tested healthy to high-tail it off campus for their mandatory quarantine. The trio joined up with their mates at Bowling Green last weekend having not practiced a minute. The relatively full LSSU roster was a mirage, and the Falcons had little problem sweeping the ill-prepared Lakers. Six points in the standings slipped away from LSSU for two straight weekends. The old sports adage applies now more than ever: it’s not who you play, it’s when you play them. If college hockey was a big-betting sport like its NCAA hoops siblings, this scenario would be wreaking havoc in Las Vegas.

The Shawhan Show

The CCHA’s All-Yooper (Upper Peninsula=U.P.) Thanksgiving weekend brought plenty of attention to Michigan Tech’s quote-machine/coach Joe Shawhan. In last week’s must-listen radio show, Shawhan spoke about the bands he is emulating on his guitar at home (Eagles and Doobie Brothers), and also shared some blue-collar motivation for his players: “You need to bring home that paycheck on put food on the table,” said Shawhan. “Get up, punch a clock, go to work. They may not like it.”

His Huskies did just that, pounding in 12 goals in their two home wins over Ferris State, the only Yooper club to enjoy a pure sweep. Junior Tristan Ashbrook is sizzling hot, enjoying a four-goal weekend, his second and third multiple-goal games in his last four. There’s a joke about asking the criminal why he robs banks—“because that’s where the money is;” Ashbrook feels the same way about going to the blue paint in search of goals.

“Good things are happening around the net,” said Ashbrook in the post game. “It’s a good place to create a little extra offense…it’s paying off.”

Shawhan fields questions from Huskies hockey nation each week from radio host Dirk Hembroff. Last Monday an astute observer wanted to know if and when Shawhan would ever give junior goalie Blake Pietila some time off in goal. Shawhan, a former goalie, went into a defensive posture, citing how few grade-A chances his starter faced a weekend, insisting that a teammate would have to outperform Pietila in practice to get playing time.

A few days later, coach Joe softened his position, because late in the Ferris finale, Joe brought in sophomore Cayden Bailey for his first ever Division I minutes in goal. Bailey ended the night with a perfect save percentage: one shot faced, one save recorded in three plus minutes of work.

“I was looking to get him in earlier,” said Shawhan to Hembroff in the post game, “but then we took a penalty. I didn’t want to put the poor guy out there short-handed right off the bat.”

It is unlikely that Bailey will see any minutes next week, as Tech travels down to Mankato to take on powerhouse Minnesota State. Shawhan will be counting on Pietila to be at his stingiest best in order to compete with the CCHA kingpins.