Two points in Wisconsin would have felt better if it came from a win instead of a pair of ties, but two road points is two road points, no matter how it comes. And despite a five-game losing streak earlier this year, and a five-game winless streak now, the Michigan Tech hockey team is actually right on track with last year.
If the Huskies sweep fifth-place North Dakota at home this weekend - admittedly a tall task - they'll be 5-6-3 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, equaling the 13 points they had last year at this time (6-7-1). Tech could actually find itself in position for home ice heading into Christmas.
"We're not that far off the mark," Tech coach Mel Pearson said. "With all the adversity and things going on, I think I'm pretty happy with where we are. If we can find a way to beat North Dakota twice, we're right where we were last year as far as points go and everything else, and we've had a much tougher schedule this year. The second half sets up pretty well for us."
Another area of comparison with last year should be encouraging to Tech fans: the emergence of a senior goaltender.
The most vivid memory of Kevin Genoe's season so far may be the three quick goals he allowed Nov. 30 against Minnesota Duluth, but that was his only loss in seven starts this season. On the other hand, Tech's freshman goaltenders have combined to win just one of their eight starts.
In his last three starts, Genoe has a .924 save percentage to pull his season percentage up to .909, to go with a 2.83 goals against average.
How's that compare with Josh Robinson last year? Identical. In starting 35 of 43 games last year, Robinson also had a .909 save percentage and a 2.83 goals against average.
"I remember Josh, I pulled him from a couple games early last year, too, and Kevin has had that, but he's starting to get some confidence, learning what it takes to prepare and having to play two games," Pearson said. "I think he's starting to put more money in the bank so to speak. He's starting to get more credit and he's doing a good job. It's making it easier to just obviously give him the next game."
Jamie Phillips proved himself, granted in a very small sample size, against Northern Michigan, and Pheonix Copley looked like he had claimed the job out of the gates this season, so Genoe will certainly be pushed, but he's certainly helped himself lately.
"I always play better when I play more, so I've been feeling more comfortable in between the pipes," Genoe said. "I'm just trusting myself, trusting my ability and trusting my teammates, too."
All he has to do is see what happened to Copley, though, to see how quickly the job could be lost.
"We have to battle each week to see who's going to play each game," Genoe said. "It's my last year, so I just want to take advantage of every opportunity."
He and his teammates have quite an opportunity to make a statement this weekend. For the second straight week they'll be taking on an opponent coming off a three-point weekend against league-leading Denver.
Tech should at least have better news on the injury front this time around, though, compared to the five players out against the Badgers.
Tanner Kero had an emergency appendectomy last Friday, but he had the surgery before his appendix burst. Monday, Pearson showed Kero an article about how Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericcson played (and scored) in the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals four days after an appendectomy.
When asked if playing North Dakota was on par with the Stanley Cup Finals, Pearson said, "You bet it is, especially when you get a little bit of a break after. I would be clawing and scratching and doing whatever I could to play, and I'm sure he will be, too."
Chad Pietila and Justin Fillion were full participants in Monday's practice, and David Johnstone was limited but active in practice. All are probable for this weekend. Dan Sova will likely be out until after Christmas with his broken wrist taking longer than expected to heal.
If Tech can get healthy, get good goaltending, get secondary scoring (like Malcolm Gould's first career goal vs. UW) and get key offensive contributors Blake Pietila and Jujhar Khaira to stop taking "selfish penalties," according to Pearson, Tech should get the results it wants this weekend.
"It's a big weekend, regardless of the opponent, but it just happens to be North Dakota, which should get our team's attention," Pearson said. "It'll be nice this week. We can work specifically on North Dakota. We don't have to worry about a mid-week game. We don't have anyone to worry about after. I think that'll be a real advantage."
Stephen Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/steander and interact throughout the week about Tech hockey with the #mtuhky hashtag.