Courtesy of MTU Athletics
HOUGHTON, Mich. — The 2011-12 iteration of Michigan Tech hockey surpassed all expectations by winning 16 games, finishing in eighth in the WCHA standings and advancing to the WCHA Final Five. The Huskies, who were unanimously picked to finish last in the league standings, had a chance to finish as high as fifth heading into the final weekend of the regular season after putting together their best season in five years.
First-year head coach Mel Pearson brought an up-tempo style to the team’s play, which resulted in the Huskies scoring one more goal per game and allowing 1.5 fewer than a year ago. Pearson earned WCHA Coach of the Year honors, becoming the fourth coach in school history to do so.
Tech opened the year on a hot streak, compiling a 6-3-1 record in its first 10 games. That stretch included a home sweep of No. 18-ranked Wisconsin and a three-point weekend vs. No. 2-ranked Denver. The Huskies entered the national rankings for the first time since 2007 following the win and tie vs. DU.
The squad cooled off in December, as it played six games against nationally-ranked opponents. Senior captain Brett Olson’s overtime goal at No. 2 Minnesota on Dec. 2 highlighted the month, giving the Black and Gold their first big road win.
The Huskies performed well at the 47th annual GLI tournament in Detroit, but came up empty with a 3-1 loss to No. 14 Michigan State and a 2-1 loss to No. 2 and eventual national champion Boston College.
January brought a 3-1-1 record, and the program made a big statement at No. 1 Minnesota Duluth Jan. 27-28. Trailing 4-0 late in the second period of the series opener, the Huskies rallied to earn a 4-all tie. In game two of the series, Tech poured in five goals and senior Josh Robinson earned his third shutout of the season in a 5-0 victory.
The Huskies earned at least a point in the WCHA standings every weekend down the stretch to put themselves in position to earn home ice for the first round of the WCHA Playoffs. They were swept in their regular season finale by Colorado College, setting up a rematch at World Arena the following weekend to start the postseason.
The result was much different the second time. Tech defeated the Tigers 3-1 in game one of the best-of-three series, then finished the series with a 4-3 overtime victory in game two. David Johnstone’s tip-in just 3:30 into OT sent the Huskies to the WCHA Final Five for the first time since 2007.
In the WCHA Final Five quarterfinal, Tech held a 2-1 lead deep into the third period before Denver knotted the game and sent it to overtime. The Huskies, who had compiled a 4-0-4 record in OT games entering the contest, fell to the Pioneers on a goal 2:18 into the extra session.
Michigan Tech’s final 2011-12 record was 16-19-4 overall and 11-13-4 in WCHA play. The 16 wins were more than the program had compiled the previous three seasons combined (15).
Six seniors rounded out their collegiate careers during the campaign. Five of the six earned team awards following the season led by Robinson, who earned the Merv Youngs Award as Michigan Tech’s most valuable player.
Robinson, the first goaltender to be named team MVP since David Weninger in 1998-99, started 35 games and turned in a 15-14-4 record. The three-time WCHA Defensive Player of the Week posted a 2.83 goals against average and .909 save percentage on the season. Robinson’s win total of 15 was the most by a Tech goalie since Jamie Ram (16) in 1992-93.
Olson earned the Gary Crosby Memorial Award as the squad’s leading scorer. The center amassed 30 points on 10 goals and 20 assists. He tallied game-winning goals vs. No. 18 Wisconsin, at No. 2 Minnesota and at No. 1 Minnesota Duluth during the year. Olson finished his career with 93 total points (42g, 51a) in 127 games.
The George McCarthy Performance Award for scholastic and athletic achievement went to Jordan Baker. The assistant captain had 10 goals and 18 assists during 2011-12 while maintaining a 3.35 grade point average in finance. Baker registered four multi-point games on the season including a four-point night vs. Alaska Anchorage Jan. 14 with a hat trick and an assist.
Senior Alex MacLeod was named the Harold Meese Sportsmanship Award recipient. The forward posted eight goals and 11 assists for 19 total points. He was the team’s top point producer over the final 10 games of the season with 4-3–7.
The Elov Seger Memorial Award for the team’s most improved player went to senior Bryce Reddick, who established himself as an offensive threat in the lineup. The left wing tallied four goals an three assists on the year after having just three total points in his previous three seasons with the Huskies.
The Gitzen-Loutit Memorial Award for outstanding defensive play went to junior Steven Seigo. The assistant captain tallied five goals and 17 assists for 22 total points during his third season in Houghton. He ranked among the WCHA’s leaders in power play points and points by defensemen.
Rookie David Johnstone, who finished second on the team in scoring with 11-18–29, earned the Norbert Matovich Memorial Award as the team’s outstanding freshman. The left winger scored a team-high seven power-play goals.
Sophomore defenseman Bradley Stebner was named the John MacInnes Slide Rule Award recipient because of his 4.0 grade point average in biological sciences. The WCHA Scholar-Athlete, who totaled 3-7–10 on the year with a team-best plus-minus rating of +12, also shared the Rick Yeo Unsung Hero Award with fellow sophomore Dennis Rix. Rix, a center, posted four goals and five assists in 38 games on the season.
Sophomore Ryan Furne led the team in goals with 12. Along with his 12 assists, the left winger finished tied for fourth in total points at 24.
Freshman Blake Pietila, the team’s lone NHL draft pick (New Jersey, 2011), also posted 24 points with 10 goals and 14 assists.
Freshman Tanner Kero (9-7–16) and sophomores Jacob Johnstone (9-8–17) and Milos Gordic (8-7–15) also contributed to Tech’s balanced scoring attack.
Michigan Tech was the only team in the nation to have more than eight players with at least eight goals on the season.
The 2011-12 season was the 91st in school history.
Posted by Jerry Taylor