In his first season as a head coach in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association after a multi-year apprenticeship as an assistant, Sault Ste. Marie native Joe Shawhan has guided the Michigan Tech Huskies to a playoff championship.
Shawhan and the Huskies won an all-Upper Peninsula showdown on Saturday with a 2-0 road decision over the Northern Michigan Wildcats.
The 55-year old Shawhan was an assistant with Northern Michigan and his hometown Lake Superior State Lakers before going to Michigan Tech, first as an assistant, then as the bench boss.
The personable, likeable Shawhan had hoped to return to Lake Superior State — where he also spent his collegiate career as a goalie — four years ago but the Lakers instead opted to hire Damon Whitten as head coach.
As the Lakers have continued their losing ways under Whitten, Shawhan has re-defined his status as a top coach from back to when he had a spectacular decade-long run with the erstwhile Soo Indians of the North American Hockey League.
As for the WCHA championship title in which no. 5 seed Michigan Tech was able to shut down and upend no. 2 ranked Northern Michigan, Shawhan gave full credit to his players.
“You can’t say enough about these guys,” Shawhan relayed. “I’m just blessed to be around them and coach them. To play the way that they played is remarkable.”
With the win, Michigan Tech gets an automatic berth as WCHA champions into the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship tournament.