During Joe Shawhan’s tenure as head coach with Michigan Tech, one of the questions that has cropped up more often than not is a simple one.
Who is starting in goal?
Shawhan, a former national champion goaltender with Lake Superior State, has a philosophy of starting the “hot hand” as opposed to riding one goaltender for better or worse.
It has often led to head scratching amongst the Huskies faithful in Houghton. However, that philosophy has been challenged this season by the efforts of senior Matt Jurusik.
After starting the first five games of the 2019-20 season, Jurusik looked shaky at best. After sitting out the next four games, where the Huskies went 1-3 with consecutive losses to North Dakota and Minnesota State, Jurusik returned to the Huskies’ goal on Nov. 15 and has played in all 10 games since.
“He earned it,” said Shawhan. “We went on a good run once he got in there. I think all of our goaltenders played well, and then he went in and he had a really good series I believe was against Lake State. We swept Lake State, he followed that up with a really good series against Northern (Michigan).
“So we kind of went back, I gave him a little bit of a chance to kind of get his game together. We left him at home for the North Dakota trip. It was just a single game, but I planned on using Robbie Beydoun in that game. So we left him all for that to practice and get ready. Since that time, he’s been very good.”
Since getting back between the pipes, Jurusik, a La Grange, Ill., native, has been very tough to beat, surrendering just 22 goals over that stretch. He has gone 8-2-1 with the two losses coming in games where he surrendered more than two goals in the contest.
Shawhan knows that he has two other goaltenders chomping at the bit to get back into the net as well, which makes him feel comfortable with where his goaltending is.
“Unless you have a guy that consistently, virtually every game, is giving you a consistent effort, you’re always looking, you’re always searching, while they’re developing their game,” Shawhan said. “I think that Matt, for the most part, has given us a fairly consistent effort for a pretty good run.
“Now we get back after Christmas, there’s a break, and hopefully it’ll be good competition again and whoever’s playing well, we’ll go with.”
The weekend of Nov. 15-16, Jurusik surrendered just three goals in a 4-2 win Friday and a 2-1 win Saturday against Northern Michigan. The second night, he made 34 saves, and Shawhan felt he was the difference in the contest. Jurusik then turned around the following weekend and made 24 saves in a 2-1 win on Friday over the Wildcats and followed that up with 33 saves on the road in Marquette.
Shawhan feels there are two aspects of Jurusik’s game that are working well during this recent stretch.
“He handles the puck well and he has the ability to steal a game,” Shawhan said. “He did that. I thought played extremely well in in one of the games at Lake State, (and he) played extremely well in the second game against Northern Michigan. He’s shown he has the ability, on any given night, to steal you a game and that’s important.”
Jurusik’s run has allowed a Michigan Tech team that has played seven freshmen and a further nine sophomores to settle into the college game after the team started the season 3-6 through its first nine games.
“I think the team has grown a lot of ways,” said Shawhan. “A lot of guys have really starting to settle into the college game. I think our freshmen are playing well. Our sophomores are certainly playing well, and I think our upperclassmen are playing well.
“Our puck management grew and grew as the as the first half went on, which is a big deal. We’re learning ways to accomplish different things instead of being a single dimensional team. I just think the whole team has come together in that in that time.”
Shawhan is quick to commend Jurusik for being a key cog in the Huskies’ game at the moment.
“He handles the puck pretty well back there and gives us a good opportunity and helps us on breakouts and things like that. He communicates well.
“Again, I would be comfortable playing any one of our goaltenders, for sure. I think they have all played well. We’ve just been kind of go with Matt because he’s given us a pretty good run.”
With a chance to matchup with another one of the top goaltenders in the nation in Clarkson’s Frank Marotte on Dec. 13-14, Jurusik, who sits 14th nationally in GAA (2.00) and 19th nationally in save percentage (.924), played well, but was just slightly outplayed by Marotte as the Huskies tied 2-2 Friday and lost 4-2 Saturday.
Shawhan felt that a couple of shots beat his senior netminder on the weekend, which might have been due to volume of action Jurusik has seen of late.
“I would say that, in that one (the Saturday loss), I think that Marotte probably got the got the upper hand on it simply because Matt hasn’t been been beaten by many shots this year,” said Shawhan. “I thought last weekend, some shots he did get beat directly. (They were) some shots that that I think normally he would save. It’s taken, side-to-side pucks and things like that to get by him really up until (that) weekend.
“The break probably came at a good time for him just to recharge a little bit (and) refocus. We’re hoping that whomever is in the net gives us a really good opportunity to have a really good second half.”
Falcons struggle with man advantage
In a 4-2 loss to Miami on Monday, No. 11 Bowling Green struggled on the man advantage, going 0 for 5.
To make matters worse, the Redhawks went 2 for 5 on the power play.
Ryan Savage got the Redhawks on the board with a power-play marker 16:23 into the first period, just 15 seconds into the advantage. Gordie Green, who assisted on Savage’s goal, scored one of his own 2:46 into the second on the tail end of a major as the Redhawks jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
Tough nonconference weekend
With No. 3 Minnesota State losing Saturday, Bemidji State and Lake Superior State losing both Saturday and Sunday, and Bowling Green and Ferris State losing Monday, the extended holiday weekend proved harsh on WCHA teams in nonconference action.
The Mavericks recovered Sunday with a 2-0 win over the Beavers to finish third in the Mariucci Classic. The other WCHA team in action, the Huskies, defeated No. 18 Michigan State 4-2 Monday in the Great Lakes Invitational semifinals.