HOUGHTON - The way last Saturday's loss to Ferris State came about, with a host of untimely penalties, will leave a bad taste in the mouth of Michigan Tech hockey coach Mel Pearson.
But a split on the weekend with the (then) No. 6 team in the nation and the runaway leaders of the WCHA was more than enough to keep Tech afloat in the battle for playoff home ice.
Right now, the standings look ugly. The Huskies are tied for seventh with Lake Superior State and Alaska, just one point away from missing the playoffs altogether.
But Tech is also just five points out from the crucial fourth spot Alaska Anchorage currently holds and the Huskies have played two fewer games than both Anchorage and Bemidji State above them. There is plenty of room to maneuver with 10 conference games remaining.
"We have put ourselves in a little bit of a hole, we are at the bottom right now. But at the same time the standings are so close that a win here and there and we are right in the mix for home ice," Tech senior Daniel Holmberg said in a release.
"Obviously our goal is to get home ice in the playoffs."
Of course, the results must come each weekend for that goal to come to fruition.
This weekend will prove to be a weighty challenge with the Huskies traveling to Bowling Green, the No. 3 team in the WCHA and the highest scoring group in conference.
The Huskies believe they let three points slip away with the Falcons in Houghton in December, as a failure to capitalize on chances cost Tech in the series opener and some questionable penalties helped BGSU to a tie in the second game.
To prevent that from happening again, the Huskies want to keep the game a five-on-five affair, where they believe their superior depth matches up well with any team in the country.
"I think we are a great team five on five, that is the biggest asset of our team," Tech senior defenseman and captain Brad Stebner said after Saturday's game. "I think we need to use our depth, rolling four lines and six 'D,' because we can out-compete teams and out-battle."
It will be strength against strength in Ohio as Bowling Green as the No. 18 scoring offense in the nation and Tech boasts No. 15 defense.
The Falcons rely on a balanced attack, getting six or more goals from seven different skaters. Only Alex Petan, Tanner Kero and Ryan Furne have reached a half-dozen tallies this season for the Huskies.
"Road games are all about playing solid defensively and taking advantage of your scoring opportunities," Pearson said.
"They are all critical games from this point."