Bulldog hockey is finally getting a rest after finishing its second straight weekend in the Upper Peninsula after playing against Northern Michigan in Marquette.
The season has not been kind to the Bulldogs. They sit at 7-20-2 after a pair of 5-2 losses to Northern Michigan over this past weekend. They sit ninth in the WCHA standings, three points behind eighth place which would qualify them for the WCHA tournament. Things just haven’t come easy.
The travel schedule has been especially hard for the Bulldogs this season. Over the last month they have had to take three trips to campuses more than five hours away, combining for more than 3,200 miles of travel. That much travel time on a bus can take a toll on the team.
“It doesn’t really have an effect mentally, where it does have an effect is practice time,” Daniels said. “Going back to after Christmas, we had to take Wednesday off to go to Bemidji State. We got one 45-minute practice on Thursday, but it had to be a light skate due to the games on Friday and Saturday. After the games, we bussed through the night, and got back to campus on Sunday. We almost had to take Monday off because we didn’t get back home until late Sunday after driving through the night. So that was a short week of practice. It was the following week where we played UAF at home where we felt we had a full week of practice.”
That would be the only full week of practice, as the Bulldogs then had to travel to the Upper Peninsula the week after, once again seeing a short week of practice. This also leads to the physical wears of travel, as it’s not easy to sleep on a bus, something the Bulldogs have had to do often this season.
“When you sleep throughout the night on the bus, it’s not the same: you’re really groggy all day Sunday, all day Monday. You have to be really careful because you are really susceptible to injury. You can’t have physical contact,” Daniels said.
Sophomore forward Justin Michaelian was more upbeat when he commented on the physical effects of the travel.
“It does wear on you physically a little bit,” Michaelian said. “Usually we do get there a day before a game, so we have time to get better. It’s tough though when you have to spend the night sleeping on the bus, but I think everyone can prepare themselves. We have trainers that help us. Friday before the game we have a morning skate that really helps.”
Sophomore goalie Roni Salmenkangas agreed that the bus rides were tough physically.
“The next day you’re fine, but you’re going to be tired when you get there, especially after you’ve been travelling 5-6 hours on the bus. When we were at Michigan Tech, we skated that evening and you could tell that everyone was tired.”
Luckily, the season of long trips appears to be over for the time being, with only one more away game at Bowling Green. To make up for the loss of practice time, the Bulldogs will have a bye week to continue to hone their craft.
“We’re going to give the guys a day or two off so they can catch their breaths before the final stretch of the season. We’ll practice Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and we’ll weightlift Wednesday and Friday. In those days we’ll be working on skill development. Beyond that we’ll look at doing some things that we usually wouldn’t be able to work on such as pulling the goalie for and against.” Daniels said.
The extra practice will be useful as the Michigan Tech Huskies will be looking to avenge their recent loss to the Bulldogs when they come to Big Rapids Friday, Feb. 14, game at 7 p.m.