MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Currently standing fifth in the WCHA standings, Michigan Tech went a little off track from where they left in second place last year. With their last conference win and loss against Bemidji State, the Huskies are still hoping to make another run for the WCHA playoff championship.
Still, head coach, Joe Shawhan is blunt when it comes to rating himself during his first year in the new position.
"Average," Shawhan said. "I mean I think the thing to do is probably to ask others."
Taking the place of former head coach, Mel Pearson, Shawhan says their styles of play are very similar. His defensive structures have remained the same, except for minor tweaks here and there to match opponents.
Shawhan's players say the transition from having him as an assistant coach to a head coaching position, has been nothing but seamless.
"He's such a smart hockey coach," MTU senior, Brent Baltus said. "I mean he's very detail-oriented, he's always honest everyday in practice to kind of make sure we're paying attention to those little details and I think it's been been a real good transition."
Despite a rocky season, the Huskies remain hopeful at ending their season on a high note.
"It's a fun team to watch, and there's been some ups and downs this year, as expected I think," MTU's play-by-play announcer, Dirk Hembroff said. "I think a lot of people going in thought it was going to be ups and downs, but I think the sky is still the limit on this team. This is one of those, I think Coach Shawhan would say a team that can get beat by anybody and a team that can beat anybody; it really is that type of team right now."
Regardless of the team they face, the biggest rivalry the program has to date, is that with Northern Michigan. The two teams currently stand at 71-14-61, with NMU taking the lead. The two will face off this upcoming weekend, both in Houghton and Marquette, for the last time in the regular season.
"It's always great when we play them because, you can throw everything else out the window," Shawhan said. "It's always just a great rivalry type of game."
A rivalry like no other.
"The rinks are full, they're over full basically, sold out, and there's a buzz around town and you kind of look at your schedule as the season starts and say, 'Alright, there's that Northern weekend - when are we gonna play them?'" former MTU hockey player, Brent Peterson said.
For Yoopers in the Copper Country, the game of hockey is about much more than just a game. It's a chance to bond with friends and family. Win or lose, fans remain faithful. But ask Coach Shawhan what makes the Michigan Tech program so special to these Yoopers, and he says:
"It's not the hockey, it's the Copper Country. It's the people here," Shawhan said. "They love the sport, they love the winter activity, they love being outside, they love the hard work."
When fans go as far as shoveling Shawhan's driveway while he's away for games, it's not hard to see why the head coach feels that way.