Hangin’ with the Huskies

HOUGHTON – Michigan Technological University hockey fans of all ages got the chance to hang out, have fun and even take some shots on their favorite Husky goalies Saturday, at the team’s Spring Hockey Carnival at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

For the kids, there was floor hockey, stickhandling stations, chances to practice their shot on Tech net minders, video hockey on Tech’s overhead scoreboard, a water balloon splash tank, a bounce house, face painting, autographs from their favorite Huskies, or face time with mascot Blizzard T. Husky.

Joandra Mattila, 11, got in on some of the floor hockey, even though she doesn’t play hockey regularly in the winter. She also had the chance to soak a Husky in the water balloon splash, which works like a dunk tank except that the victim is splashed from above.

“It’s really fun,” Mattila said. “The best part is probably the water balloons.”

For the adults, there was a chance to mingle with friends and meet the team, free beer on tap and the last chance to buy Tech hockey season tickets at a discount. All ages had an equal chance to refuel with free hot dogs, sodas and fries.

“It’s about creating a new generation of Michigan Tech hockey fans,” said Tech Director of Media Relations Wes Frahm. “Hopefully they’ll become the season ticket holders of the future.”

“It’s good for our players to get involved with area youth,” added Tech hockey head coach Mel Pearson, who said all 22 of Tech’s players who are in town for the summer came out for the Carnival.

“By the looks of it, they’re having a lot of fun,” he said, noting that the goalies were getting a bit tired out wearing full pads in the 80 degree heat.

Pearson said his goal for the event was to give back to the community, not to scout the next generation of varsity talent.

That said, “I can tell there’ll really be some players here,” he added.

Frahm said Tech would be offering other opportunities for kids to get involved in Tech athletics this summer.

“There’s the hockey school in July, for five weeks, and tons of other camps where kids can work with Tech athletes,” he said. To learn more, go to michigantechrecreation.com.

Parent and Tech hockey fan Joe Pizzi said his entire family was enjoying the Carnival.

“They get to meet the players they watch all winter and hang out with them,” he said.

Casandra Mattila said her kids had been waiting for the Carnival ever since they heard about it, and that the event had lived up to expectations.

She said her family makes it to as many games as possible, and hopes that events like the Carnival help “get some fans in the seats.”

Melanie Gronlund was already friends with one Husky.

Goaltender Jamie Phillips helps out at her gymnastics and conditioning class, which made choosing a favorite part of the Carnival easy.

“Shooting pucks on Jamie,” she said.

Another Tech goalie, Matt Wintjes, took a break from tending his net and sweating through his socks to speak to answer questions. He said the event was a fun break from his summer class and five-day-a-week team workouts.

“The kids are enjoying themselves, and that’s all that matters,” he said. “We just want to take care of the fans and show our support. It’s good to give back as well.”

Husky team member Tyler Heinonen got soaked the other way, in the splash tank. “It’s always good to give the kids a good time, and it’s fun for us too,” he said.