Michigan Tech season preview

By DJ Powers

The Michigan Tech University Huskies opened their 2005-06 regular season on Oct. 7, hosting defending Atlantic Hockey Champion Mercyhurst at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

MTU returns most of its players from last season’s squad but they’ll also be a predominantly young team. Of the 25 players on the Huskies active roster, 16 are underclassmen.

No offseason loss was more significant than that of West Second Team All-American Colin Murphy. The team’s captain and points leader from last season has graduated. Murphy led the Huskies with 53 points (11 goals, 42 assists) playing in all 36 games. His 42 assists led the nation. He was also named one of the ten finalists for the Hobey Baker award.

Without Murphy, MTU will be relying on their returning players to pick up the slack, most notably seniors Chris Conner and Brandon Schwartz.

Conner finished fourth on the team last season with 24 points (14 goals, 10 assists) in 36 games. His goals led the team. Conner saw his numbers drop last season after a stellar sophomore campaign where he led the team in scoring. This season, the Huskies are hoping that Conner will be able to put up similar numbers to that of two seasons ago.

Schwartz finished third on the team with 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists) in 36 games last season. Schwartz saw most of his offensive production on special teams. Of his ten goals, eight came on the power play and one came short-handed. He will serve as team captain this season.

One player that MTU will be expecting some offensive production from is sophomore Jordan Foote (NYR). The lone NHL prospect on the Huskies roster had his rookie season cut short due to injury back in November. He played in just 13 games, with a goal and an assist.

A player to keep an eye on this season is junior Mike Bantovanja. The diminutive winger has become the perennial thorn in the side of the opposition, often wreaking havoc whenever he’s on the ice. Bantovanja finished his sophomore campaign with ten points (two goals, eight assists) in 36 games. He also finished second on the team with 85 penalty minutes.

The Huskies will have four new additions to their forward lines this season. Among them is the high-scoring Alex Lord. He comes to MTU from Champlain College (QMJAAAHL), where he amassed 75 points (27 goals, 48 assists) in helping to the lead his team to a division championship.

A solid defense will be vital to the efforts of the Huskies to improve their last place finish from last season. Two players who’ll be counted are junior Lars Helminen and senior John Scott. The two defensemen are a contrast in both style of play and size.

Helminen, at 5’7/ 180 lbs, is one of the NCAA’s smallest defensemen. While he may be small in stature, his on-ice performance has been anything but that. He led all MTU defensemen last season in scoring with 32 points (eight goals, 24 assists) in 36 games. His 32 points also ranked sixth in the nation among defensemen. Helminen, the brother of New York Rangers prospect Dwight Helminen, earned numerous accolades last season, including a selection to the WCHA All-Conference Second team.

Scott, at 6’7/258 lbs. is one of the nation’s biggest players. Scott is a defensive defenseman who brings a tough, physical presence to the Huskies blue line. He had five points (two goals, three assists) in 35 appearances and led MTU with 101 penalty minutes.

In addition to the returning players, the Huskies will welcome a trio of newcomers to their defensive corps. Among them is Geoff Kinrade, who comes to MTU from Cowichan Valley (BCHL). He had 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) in 60 games last season. Kinrade is a converted defenseman who is noted for his puckmoving skills.

The most pressing issue coming into the season for MTU will be goaltending. Cam Ellsworth has graduated and Bryce Luker has left the team for unspecified reasons. Both served as MTU’s goaltending tandem last season.

With the losses, the Huskies will have a trio of relatively inexperienced goaltenders vying for playing time in sophomore Kevin Hachey and freshmen Michael-Lee Teslak and Rob Nolan. Hachey saw playing time in two games last season and posted no decisions. Both newcomers come to MTU with some impressive numbers.

Teslak comes to MTU from Prince George (BCHL), where he posted a 21-9-0 record that included one shutout. He also posted a 2.47 goals against average and a.931 save percentage.

Nolan comes to MTU from Ft. McMurray (AJHL), where he posted a 27-13-4 record that included five shutouts. He also posted a miniscule 1.75 goals against average and a .929 save percentage.

(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 1)

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