Michigan Tech players celebrate a goal during the Huskies’ sweep of St. Thomas last weekend (photo: Michigan Tech Athletics).

In what their head coach called a “gutsy” effort, Michigan Tech’s victory over St. Thomas on Saturday night was as satisfying as they come.

“Gutsy effort by our guys. You like every win, but you like some more than others,” MTU coach Joe Shawhan said in his postgame comments after Tech survived for a 4-3 win and a series sweep in St. Paul. “And the ending of this one was exciting.”

The Huskies had taken a 3-0 lead in the first 10 minutes, but Michigan Tech saw the Tommies eat into that lead over the course of the game. Tech’s Arvid Caderoth was ejected just 12 minutes into the period because of a contact to the head game misconduct penalty, and St. Thomas scored twice on that extended power play to make it 3-2.

The Tommies eventually tied the game at 3-3 midway through the third period, but Ryland Mosley scored a dramastic shorthanded goal with just over two minutes to play to give the Huskies a 4-3 lead and, eventually, the win.

“It was a huge game for us. We have four tough games coming up with the top two teams in the league – three at home,” Shawhan said in the postgame. “We’re a little beat up right now for sure. A couple guys went down during the game, and a few played hurt, but it was a gutsy effort.”

This season, it seems as though “gutsy efforts” have been the Huskies’ calling card. After losing three of their top five scorers from last season, the Huskies were predicted to finish fifth in the eight-team conference. However, Michigan Tech has been defying those predictions thus far. They’re 8-3-2 overall and 4-2-2 in the CCHA, good enough for third place. However, big matchups with Minnesota State and Northern Michigan loom ahead the next two weekends.

Shawhan said during his radio show on Monday that he predicted Northern Michigan would win the league and Minnesota State would finish second. Currently, MSU is second, NMU is fourth and Bowling Green is first, although the Falcons have played 10 conference games already. Still, NMU, BGSU and MSU lead the league in scoring.

“The league is going just how you kind of figured it would go. The teams that have the best ability to score are up in the standings,” Shawhan said. “The fact that we have eight wins, I give our guys a ton of credit. It’s been a grind. We haven’t played great in some of them, but the guys have found ways to come out and win hockey games. Doing that, I know it’s been a source of pride for me to see how they’re competing and how they’re growing as hockey players. On paper we should be at the bottom of the league.”

Maybe that’s not strictly true. The Huskies did, after all, return Blake Pietila, who has continued to post elite numbers (his 1.90 GAA and .929 save percentage are both just outside the top 10 nationally, and only Bemidji State’s Mattias Sholl has better numbers in the conference). Mosley, a junior forward, is also having a breakout season, having already surpassed his points total from 2021-22 through just 13 games (he had 13 points last year and had 15 this campaign). He leads the team in both points and goals (seven).

But Shawhan called his team an “anomaly,” mostly because they haven’t quite scored as much as their peers in the top half of the league, and also because they don’t have standout offensive players to lean on like they did a season ago with Brian Halonen and Trenton Bliss.

Despite this, Tech has only lost three times – against Bemidji and Bowling Green and an early-season nonconference game against Ferris State. They are so far perfect in their four games against non-CCHA opponents (having swept both Alaska and St. Lawrence) and are No. 18 in the Pairwise.

“I think we’re the anomaly, because we’re winning some hockey games and I give our players a ton of credit for that,” Shawhan said. “It’s been a ton of experimentation, a lot of guys stepping up, emerging and doing things. It seems to be someone different every time, but we’ll take that because when everything starts clicking, you never know what could happen.”

The Huskies host Minnesota State this weekend in Houghton; the Mavericks are coming off a split with NMU. Tech has lost seven consecutive games to MSU, including going 0-4 against them last season. The last Huskies victory over the Mavericks was Dec. 6, 2020, in Houghton – a 3-1 win in which Pietila made 43 saves.

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