Momentum is one of those crazy things in sports. It's easy to spot when a team has it, but when and how does a team acquire it? Could momentum in the Super Bowl have shifted because some guy at Buffalo Wild Wings was in cahoots with the Superdome electrician?
Speculate all you want, but for the Michigan Tech hockey team it's been pretty clear what serves as an in-game momentum catalyst, for good and bad: the first goal.
What started as an innocent coincidence in October became a noticeable trend by November. Now, the stats are too glaring to overlook.
The Huskies are 0-12-3 when an opponent scores first (see Friday in Omaha), but 8-1-1 when they score first (see Saturday in Omaha).
It's pretty easy to conclude that the way Tech starts a game is a strong indicator of how it will finish. What shouldn't be concluded from the stat, though, is that the first goal indicates how well Tech will play the rest of the game.
Even though the Huskies have never won when falling behind 1-0, they are actually the third-highest scoring team in the country when trailing, with 34 goals. They lead the nation with a team plus-minus of plus-18 when trailing.
Weird stat, I know, but it proves Tech's resiliency. Friday's loss was a perfect example. After getting down 2-0 to Nebraska Omaha, Tech made it 2-1. Down 3-1, they made it 3-2. Down 4-2, they made it 4-3.
"I like the resiliency of the team in that game," Tech coach Mel Pearson said. "We got off to a slow start Friday, but from the middle of the first period on I think we played real well for the whole weekend."
It definitely carried over into Saturday, where Tech actually showed yet another bizarre trend. Even though they've only lost once in 10 games where they've led 1-0, the Huskies have a team plus-minus of minus-15 when leading, in the bottom 10 nationally.
Again Saturday they lived up to that reputation, surrendering the lead, only to win in overtime (where Tech is 9-1-15 in its last 25 extra sessions).
Ultimately, the Huskies are pretty good at fighting to get momentum back, but not good at keeping it. The same can be said of the season at large.
They've won two games in a row on three separate occasions, but have never extended a win streak to three games. After the first two-game win streak came five straight losses. After the second two-game win streak came a seven-game winless streak. After the third two-game win streak came consecutive losses.
Granted, the timing of breaks have made keeping momentum a challenge (just ask the Baltimore Ravens), but looking at the schedule, it's clear there's no greater time to legitimately get on a roll than right now.
They're coming off a big overtime win over a ranked team, into a Winter Carnival series against the WCHA's last-place team (Alaska Anchorage), before getting a chance at rivalry revenge next Tuesday vs. Northern Michigan.
"We're coming off a good win, so now we have to make sure we play better and sustain our momentum," Pearson said. "We have to win some games and get on a roll, get some success, get some confidence, and that'll take care of itself and that momentum will pull us along."
In the eight games since Christmas, Tech has either won, tied or lost by just one goal, so the Huskies are oh so close to getting that elusive momentum. I doubt a stadium blackout would do the trick, but some lights-out hockey sure would.
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.