Huntsville an ideal Carnival foe?/Paul Peterson
One of the disadvantages of growing old (besides the aches and pains) is that you tend to remember past events better than current ones.
That’s why I had to scratch my head when I glanced at the 2013-14 Michigan Tech hockey schedule and saw Alabama-Huntsville as the opponent for the upcoming Winter Carnival.
I can clearly recall past Winter Carnivals when teams like Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado College, Denver, etc. were regular visitors at the winter event.
The 1976 carnival series was a special one as a crowd of 4,600 made its way into the Student Development Ice Arena for a matchup between the University of Michigan and Tech. The atmosphere that evening was electric.
That’s still the all-time attendance record at Tech and won’t ever be duplicated because the fire marshals wouldn’t permit it.
That game came at the peak of the John MacInnes era when the Huskies always hosted home playoff series and often advanced to the Frozen Four.
To be perfectly honest, the fortunes of the MTU icers have taken a sharp reversal since the end of the MacInnes era in the early 1980s.
In fact, an entire generation has grown up watching MTU lose on the rink – just one winning season in 30 years.
I was more than a little surprised recently when a young person asked me if Michigan Tech had ever been good in hockey.
I told the young fan the Huskies had been very good and even won three national championships – drawing a look of disbelief.
That’s why it seemed strange to me that first-year WCHA member Alabama-Huntsville would be the foe for Winter Carnival.
The Chargers are struggling mightily this season with a record of 1-13 in the league and 1-23 overall. They are barely averaging one goal per game and have been shut out several times.
Just two short seasons ago, they played Division III Finlandia University in a home series.
Michigan Tech Athletic Director Suzanne Sanregret told me there was no particular formula for choosing an opponent for Winter Carnival.
“The schedule rotation called for Alabama-Huntsville to play here in early February,” she said. “That’s why they will be here for Winter Carnival.”
In a way, the presence of the last-place team in the league will have little or no effect. Near-capacity crowds will more than likely be on hand for the series because it is Winter Carnival and there will be lots of visitors in town.
And the Huskies, who are fighting for a home playoff berth, could use two wins to improve their chances.
Huskies’ coach Mel Pearson, a member of Tech’s last Final Four squad in 1981, has done a credible job of rebuilding the program. He knows that changing the culture surrounding the program is a big one.
If it wasn’t for a lack of offense, the Huskies would be in the upper regions of the league. Their goaltending has been stellar, just it was many of the seasons since the early 1980s.
But I have to believe, the excitement of Winter Carnival would be enchanced if a stronger opponent was coming to town …