Upstart Michigan Tech hockey faces tall task in NCAAs

Tony Paul, The Detroit News

When was the last time a Michigan Tech sports highlight went viral?

Before this weekend, who the heck knows.

But after stunning Bowling Green, 3-2, in double-overtime Saturday night, an overhead camera at MacInnes Student Ice Arena on the Houghton campus captured quite a hilarious scene.

Well, make that hilarious if you’re the Huskies. Not so much, or at all, if you’re the Falcons.

“Yeah, I first saw that before one of my classes, and I started laughing out loud,” junior defenseman Matt Roy (Canton) said of the GIF that was making the rounds on the Internet. “I couldn’t stop.”

The overhead shot captured the immediate aftermath of senior Shane Hanna’s winning goal that captured the Western Collegiate Hockey Association tournament title — and a surprise NCAA Tournament bid.

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Two Bowling Green players were laying flat, stomachs down on the ice, seemingly paralyzing by the crushing defeat.

Then, a mob of Michigan Tech players, in a surprisingly organized formation, skated slowly into the frame, and eventually right over the legs of one of the dejected Bowling Green players.

It wasn’t intentional, of course. But, still, it was good for a chuckle.

“Yeah,” said junior defenseman Mark Auk, of St. Clair Shores. “That was funny.”

Michigan Tech (23-14-7) is in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years, but also just the second time since 1981.

And its next task is a toughie, against Denver, the No. 1 overall seed in the 16-team field. The teams will play at 1 p.m. Saturday in Cincinnati, with the winner advancing to the Midwest Regional final Sunday against either Penn State or Union (N.Y.).

Michigan Tech has a coach with plenty of NCAA experience, in longtime Michigan assistant Mel Pearson.

But the current crop of Huskies is significantly less-seasoned, and perhaps even caught off-guard by where they’re going — in a season in which they started 1-5-2.

Around that time, Pearson decided to switch things up in net, making freshman Angus Redmond the starter.

“And we started winning some games,” said Roy, tied for second on the team with 26 points. “And we knew we could make a run and become a real good team.”

There was ups and downs along the way, like making the Great Lakes Invitational finals at Joe Louis Arena with a win over Michigan, but then losing in the championship game to Western Michigan — another NCAA team — in overtime.

But the confidence, clearly, was growing, and then Michigan Tech got a break.

Top-seeded Bemidji State was upset by Bowling Green in the semifinals. That was significant in a couple of ways. For starters, Bemidji State was 3-1 against Michigan Tech this year, including 2-0 in Bemidji, Minnesota. That also meant Michigan Tech would play the championship game at home, because Bowling Green was the lower seed.

And a jam-packed, capacity crowd of 4,466 showed up to cheer on the Huskies, eventually to a double-OT victory — which probably ended just in time, with several Michigan Tech players gutting through serious cramping.

“Probably the coolest atmosphere,” said Auk, “that I’ve ever been in.”

It could get cooler, of course, with a win over Denver.

That’s a win that nobody outside of Houghton is expecting, of course.

“I think it’s more relaxed than we were this weekend,” Roy said. “This weekend, it seemed we had a lot of pressure playing at home. Now it seems like, you know, we’re the underdogs. They’re the No. 1 seed, they’ve earned that.

“We’re going in looking to end their season.”

Can you imagine the GIF possibilities?

NCAA Hockey Tournament

Midwest Regional

No. 4 Michigan Tech vs. No. 1 Denver

Faceoff: 1 p.m. Saturday, U.S. Bank Arena, Cincinnati

Records: Michigan Tech 23-14-7, Denver 29-7-4

TV/radio: ESPN3/None

Outlook: Denver, a seven-time national champion and as recently as 2004 and 2005, is the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed. Denver has won 14 of its last 15 games, and all but two of those wins have been by at least a two-goal margin. ... This is Michigan Tech’s second NCAA Tournament appearance since 1981. ... At stake is a spot in Sunday’s 6 p.m. regional final, against Penn State or Union (N.Y.).