Shoveling savant/Michael Bleach
Shoveling for what felt like the 14th time in 2014, I was struck with a rare moment of clairvoyance the other day when – daredevil that I am – I stayed outside longer than the weatherman-recommended 10 minutes.
On the precipice of deliriousness and minor frostbite, I had a glimpse into the future as the wind-chill whipped through my brain and had to scribble down a handful of predictions sure to come to pass for Michigan Tech sports at the start of the new year.
That, or I am providing plentiful fuel for mocking emails when these all fall apart.
Either way, everyone wins.
Hockey will host a home playoff series for the first time since 1993
There has been a clear hierarchy established in the new WCHA this season.
First comes Ferris State, at the top of the standings with a 10-0-2 mark.
Second comes Ferris State as well. They are that much better than everyone else.
A notch below the Bulldogs sit Minnesota State, comfortably cruising to second place.
In last, Alabama-Huntsville, demonstrating once again the futility of hockey in ‘Bama.
And in the middle there is everyone else.
Through 14 games this season, the Huskies have grabbed 14 points. That leaves them in a tie for fourth with Lake Superior and Bemidji State – the top four teams host first-round playoff series – with two games in hand on third place Bowling Green (18 points).
Northern Michigan trails at 13 points (having played just 12 games) and the Alaska schools have an outside shot if a polar bear in a fighter jet* were to blow up a rival stadium or two.
*Google it. Thank me later.
That’s a long way of saying it is anyone’s game right now (unless you are one of the seven loyal Huntsville fans, in which case, I pity you). A fresh start for ’14.
The remaining slate of series for Tech roughly comes to a wash in terms of difficulty. The Huskies are embarking on a critical four straight games against Ferris thanks to some bizarre schedule-making, where at least a couple points will be necessary.
They balance that stretch, however, with four straight homes games against hapless Huntsville and Alaska (Fairbanks), and have a pair of control-your-own-destiny series remaining with Bowling Green and Northern.
Where Tech will really have the kicker, however, is simple regression to the mean.
The Huskies have scored four goals in a game just twice this season, an almost impossibly low number for a team with seven wins and six ties.
Pure, dumb (puck) luck dictates that a team averaging 35.5 shots per game in conference will score more than 2.3 goals per game. Blake Pietila is too skilled to average just one goal per month, and the power play has nowhere to go but up.
Besides, the new video-board is just screaming out for a playoff-opening montage. Perhaps a Husky in a B-4? *
*Seriously, Google “Alaska Nanooks 2010 Hockey Intro.” I’ll wait.
The Tech men’s basketball team will make the NCAA Tournament but finish second in the GLIAC North Division The men’s side of the GLIAC is a mess this year.
With just two games left between North and South Division opponents this week, the standings show that six of the eight teams in Michigan enjoy a winning record in conference.
Just one team, Walsh (4-2), can make that claim in the South.
All of which means that the North is going to be an ever-changing landscape of disarray and chaos as Lake Superior (5-1), Grand Valley (5-1), Ferris (5-1), Tech (4-2), Wayne St. (4-2) and Northwood (4-2) duke it out each week.
The Huskies will win their fair share. They are so well-oiled offensively right now that they can beat anyone on any given night.
But over the long haul, with six contenders for the North title, athleticism tends to tip the edge when each game is as critical as the last and the schedule becomes a grind.
In that category – Austin Armga and Troy Hecht aside – Tech comes up short.
Still, a perfect non-conference record and handful of key conference wins should be enough to see the Huskies back into the NCAA Tourney. I suspect Kevin Luke would take that scenario.
Ben Stelzer will lead the GLIAC in three-pointers made
I have to be right about at least one of these.
The Tech women will win the GLIAC
Having already played more close games this season than all of last year, they may force coach Kim Cameron to see her cardiologist in doing so, but a perfect start to the year in GLIAC play has Tech in the drivers seat.
And frankly, offensive consistency aside, they are just too talented for most GLIAC opponents, even on an off night.
The Huskies can score inside (when they get the ball inside) at will with Kylie Moxley. They have a dynamic guard in Mackenzie Perttu who has shown a knack for late game heroics. They have a defensive dynamo in Dani Blake. They rank No. 3 in the conference in 3-point shooting.
And most importantly, reigning National Champions Ashland lost Kari Daugherty and Daiva Gerbec.
Key contests with Northern Michigan and Wayne State loom big, but all signs point to a banner year for the Tech women.
The only problem now is where to hang said banner in the SDC. The wall is getting full.
When these predictions fall apart – you know, because it was a gimmick column thought up while shoveling – send all snarky remarks to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @michaelbleach.