Scouting the Huskies and the Seawolves: a Winter Carnival Story

What happened last weekend?

On Friday night, the Michigan Tech Huskies spotted the Nebraska–Omaha Mavericks a pair of goals in the first period. Before the period ended, however, winger David Johnstone pulled the Huskies within one. Both teams traded goals from that point on, but despite drawing a power play in the final minute, the Huskies fell, 4–3. On Saturday, Johnstone again struck, this time 78 seconds into the second period. The Mavericks forced overtime, but winger Mikael Lickteig dialed up a wicked shot that won the game for the Huskies, 2–1. After dropping a pair of games to Wisconsin, the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves were looking for a better fate at home against the Colorado College Tigers. Trailing 2–1 late in the third period Friday, winger Scott Allen tied the game at 16:05. Goalie Chris Kamal shut the door from that point forward as the Seawolves earned the 2–2 tie. Saturday night, the Seawolves led 2–0 before the Tigers struck three times. Again trailing late, the Seawolves pulled Kamal and defenseman Scott Warner evened the score at 3–3 with 1:13 remaining. The teams again skated to a tie, giving Alaska Anchorage two points for the weekend.

Who’s this Mikael Lickteig character?

When asked earlier this season if the Huskies had a hidden gem among their rostered players similar to Bryce Reddick, who was a difference-maker for them down the stretch last season, head coach Mel Pearson felt no one had stepped up to be that player. Saturday night’s hero for the Huskies was Lickteig, a fifth-year senior playing in just his fourth game of the season, and he might have made his case for that role. Injured in the GLI Championship Game against Western Michigan, Lickteig showed little rust against the Mavericks all weekend. “I think if he had not hurt himself at the GLI there he probably would have played more,” said Pearson. “So he had that setback. We are looking for that candidate, whether it’s a Mikael Lickteig or a Blake Hietala or a Daniel Holmberg. We have a few candidates now.” Lickteig played in 23 games as a redshirt freshman, but has seen his playing time dwindle since. In 2010–11, he had his best season offensively with one goal and four points. This season, he has just one goal and one assist, but both have come on game-winning goals.

What is the state of the Huskies’ blueline?

Do not look now, but the Huskies have nine healthy defensemen for the first time since October. Sophomore Justin Fillion has played in each of the Huskies last four games while junior Daniel Sova has dressed for three of the last four as he returns from that wrist injury. Sova’s return to game shape allowed Pearson and his staff to make the decision Saturday night against the Mavericks to sit junior Bradley Stebner, whose play has fallen off a bit of late. “Stebner was a healthy scratch,” said Pearson. “He’s not playing up to his standards. Dan Sova looks more comfortable. Justin Fillion came in; his back seems to be fine. Everybody is healthy on the blueline…which is good because this is crunch time. It gives us as coaches an opportunity to play a lot of guys.”

What make David Johnstone so impressive?

With his three-point weekend against the Mavericks, Johnstone, a sophomore, moved into sole possession of second place among Huskies’ scorers this season with eight goals and 20 points, two better than freshman Jujhar Khaira. Known for his impressive set of hands, Johnstone is quietly becoming the Huskies’ top even-strength skater. “He’s a very good hockey player,” said Pearson. “He’s just scratching the surface. He got off a fairly slow start as far as goal-scoring, but he has really picked it up. I think his linemates are part of that too. David brings it every day.” The Grand Ledge, Mich., product scored 11 goals and 29 points last season, but it is his play without the puck this season that impresses, as he acts like a hawk around it when he does not have it. He has worked on his game in order to make life incredibly difficult for opposing defenders.

Scouting the Seawolves

While this is Winter Carnival weekend, Pearson has had the players more concerned with playing hockey than with checking out the entire ambiance that comes with this special weekend. The Huskies will play five games over the next nine days, including this weekend’s tilt with the Seawolves, whom the Huskies have not yet seen. The Seawolves are last in the WCHA, sporting a 1–15–6 record in league play. However, that has not stopped them from beating WCHA-leading St. Cloud State, and taking North Dakota, Minnesota, Bemidji State, St. Cloud State, Minnesota Stateand Colorado College all to overtime at least once. “They are a scrappy team,” said Pearson. “Obviously they are still playing hard. They haven’t given up even though they only have one win.” Freshman forward Blake Tatchell might be the best offensive player head coach Dave Shyiak has recruited since Tommy Grant. His 18 points through the first 26 games is more than any Seawolves skater scored last season. He has five points in his team’s last four games. Junior goaltender Chris Kamal loves playing against the Huskies. As a freshman back in 2010–11, he backstopped the Seawolves to a sweep of the Huskies at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena, and would love nothing more than to do it again.

What is the deal with this crazy schedule the Huskies have?

After Winter Carnival concludes, the Huskies have just two days to prep for a rematch with the Northern Michigan Wildcats on Tuesday night at the MacInnes. After that, they head out on the weekend to face the Minnesota State Mavericks for the first time this season. If ever there was a stretch where the Huskies could make up some ground, this would appear to be it. None of these games will be sure-things, but certainly they are games the Huskies can win if things fall into place for them.