HOUGHTON — Any other year, under lesser circumstances, it’d be a more festive atmosphere.
But with the country still under the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan Tech begins its milestone 100th hockey season quietly.
The Huskies visit Lake Superior State for a Saturday-Sunday season opener.
The 2020-21 season was delayed by the pandemic after it had cut short the Huskies’ WCHA playoff run last season in March. Tech finished 21-15-3 last year.
The Huskies were originally scheduled to host the Michigan Wolverines in early October to kick off the centennial season.
If the pandemic continues to surge, it’s possible no fans will be allowed inside the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena. Michigan Tech said hockey attendance will be dependent on local and state guidelines.
After the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a three-week statewide lockdown a week ago, leading to the Michigan High School Athletic Association to suspend fall sports tournaments, it also prevents Michigan Tech and other Michigan college hockey schools from allowing reduced attendance at games.
The three-week lockdown means the public won’t be able to attend at least Tech’s first three home games. The Huskies’ home opener is Nov. 28 against Northern Michigan. Tech hosts Minnesota State on Dec. 4-5.
The Huskies are scheduled to play 28 games this season, a nine-game shortage from a season ago. Some of the games lost this season from last include the loss of what would have been the 56th annual Great Lakes Invitational, an opportunity for the Huskies to defend its GLI championship last season. It’s the first year since the tournament’s inception that it won’t be played.
The Huskies bring seven freshmen to the team, including a goalie, two defensemen and four forwards.
Carson Bantle has been the most talked about freshman on the Huskies. Bantle was selected in the fifth round 142nd selection in the NHL draft by the Arizona Coyotes. Bantle has a commanding presence for a forward, a 6-foot-5 offensive stalwart with strong scoring capability. Bantle scored 20 goals and 29 assists for 49 points in 49 games last year for the Madison Capitols of the USHL. Bantle, from Onalaska, Wisconsin, was named the WCHA Preseason Media Rookie of the Year.
Arvid Caderoth is another towering freshman forward with playmaking abilities. Also standing at 6-5, Caderoth scored eight goals and 25 assists in 32 games last season for Frolunda HC. He also played 28 games for Hanhals IF and scored eight goals and eight assists. Caderoth, from Gotehnburg, Sweden, scored an assist in three games with the Sweden U20 international team.
Nick Nardella is a 5-foot-10 forward with hockey lineage. His father Bob played at Ferris State and then played 14 professional seasons, now serving as an assistant coach with the Chicago Wolves in the AHL. His older brother Bobby played at Notre Dame and is now with the Hershey Bears. Nick played two years for the Janesville Jets. He scored 20 goals and 31 assists for 51 points in 52 games last season. Nardella, of Rosemont, Illinois, also played the 2017-18 season for the Green Bay Gamblers, coached by Tech alum Pat Mikesch. Nardella was teammates that season with MTU junior Trenton Bliss, and scored a goal and three assists.
Blais Richartz, of Menomonie, Wisconsin, is a 6-foot forward that played an injury shortened year last year with the Omaha Lancers and Lincoln Stars. He scored a combined one goal and two assists in 16 games. In 2018-19, Richartz scored 10 goals and 15 assists in 61 games with the Tri-City Storm and Omaha Lancers.
Brett Thorne is a 6-foot-2 defenseman that put up forward-like numbers last season at Carleton Place. Thorne, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, scored 27 goals and 47 assists for 74 points in 62 games. The previous two seasons, Thorne scored 17 goals and 62 assists for 79 points in 105 games.
Another Pietila wears a Huskies uniform. Five-foot-11 forward Jed Pietila, cousins with former Huskies John Paul, Phil Pietila, Aaron Pietila, Chad Pietila, Blake Pietila and Joel L’Esperance. He’s also cousins with Tech teammates Brian Halonen, Blake Pietila and Logan Pietila. Jed scored eight goals and 21 assists for the Austin Bruins in the NAHL last season.
Cayden Bailey is the lone goaltender joining Tech. The 6-foot netminder had a 20-5-2 record last year with the Lone Star Brahmas. He had a 1.32 goals-against average and .940 save percentage.
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