Tech, NMU tangle for WCHA points

HOUGHTON – With just one week of practice before the season begins, two straight non-conference road series at powerhouse programs and injuries to several key players, the Michigan Tech hockey team’s 0-3-1 start to the season can be taken with load of caveats.

But with the WCHA season opening Friday in Marquette against rival Northern Michigan and continuing Saturday in Houghton, the time for results begins now.

Before the season, Husky coach Mel Pearson highlighted the increased stakes with the Wildcats as one of the key benefits in the reconfigured-WCHA.

Pearson declined to comment for this article.

The U.P. programs split a pair of games last season, with Northern winning 2-1 in Marquette and Tech dominating 8-2 in Houghton, matching a series-high in goal differential.

Those two physical contests should jump another level with conference implications on the line and another pair of meetings in late-February. The WCHA coaches picked Michigan Tech to finish third in the conference and Northern to come in sixth. The media chose Tech fifth and Northern sixth.

Through the two series this season, Pearson has started sophomore goaltender Pheonix Copley in the Friday opener and sophomore Jamie Phillips in the second game. Before the season began, Pearson indicated he would eventually choose one to stick between the pipes but did not provide a timeline for doing so.

Copley has allowed five goals with a .940 save percentage while Phillips has seen eight get by for a .855 save percentage. Phillips’ numbers should be taken with a Zamboni-sized grain of salt, however, as seven of the goals came at Notre Dame with the Irish enjoying 12 power plays, including three five-minute majors.

The Wildcats drew 3,509 fans at the Berry Events center last year, while the Huskies credited 2,653 fans in the John MacInnes Ice Arena.

Both games are scheduled to drop the puck at 7:07 p.m.