Scouting the Huskies and North Dakota, WCHA Playoff-Style

What happened last weekend?

The Huskies jumped all over the visiting Colorado College Tigers on Friday night. Winger Milos Gordic gave the Huskies the lead 9:40 into the game. Center Tanner Kero played a great game, getting several scoring chances before finally securing the win for the Huskies at 19:39 of the third period. Saturday night, the Huskies spotted the Tigers the game’s first three goals before taking control of the game. Winger Alex Petan and Gordic both scored before the end of the second, and Kero struck just 54 seconds into the third, but the Huskies could not find a fourth goal, falling 4–3.

On Friday night, North Dakota trailed 1–0 after one period. Goals from Carter Rowney and Mark MacMillan gave them the lead, but Minnesota State tied the game just 17 seconds after MacMillan’s tally. Goals from Stephane Pattyn and Rocco Grimaldi lifted North Dakota to victory. Saturday night, Danny Kristo gave North Dakota the lead 1:03 in, but the Mavericks scored the remaining goals in the game. North Dakota fell, 2–1 in overtime.

Gordic scored twice last weekend; is he finally on track?

The Burnaby, British Columbia, native scored two key goals for the Huskies last weekend. His Friday night goal came off a pass from center Jujhar Khaira. Gordic drove around a Tigers defenseman before firing a shot on goal that bounced off another Tigers skater and in. Saturday’s goal was also impressive as Gordic spun and fired a backhand shot over Tigers goalie Joe Howe’s shoulder.

“This is the time of year where you need some of your upperclassmen, like Milos, to step forward,” said Huskies head coach Mel Pearson. “Especially in the playoffs. Hopefully he’ll continue to play well.”

The junior has scored three times in the last four games. After not scoring for 16 games, Gordic now has five goals since February 8 and seven total on the season. A big part of that success has been his chemistry with classmates Ryan Furne and Jacob Johnstone. After a tough weekend at Minnesota State, Gordic has found himself alongside Khaira and David Johnstone. While not instantaneous, chemistry has developed between the trio.

“He’s playing his best hockey,” said Pearson. “He’s got some confidence. It might be his linemates. We changed the lines, and he’s one guy that’s been inspired by the change.”

When last we saw North Dakota, they outscored Tech 10–2 over the weekend. How far have the Huskies come since then?

Back in December, the Huskies were in the midst of a five-game winless streak, the second such stretch the Huskies went through during the regular season. While this streak took place over an eight-day span, Pearson and his staff felt that was no excuse for the lack of success.

Senior goaltender Kevin Genoe, who had played very well the previous weekend at Wisconsin, struggled mightily at home, surrendering nine of the 10 goals North Dakota scored.

Genoe was not the only issue the Huskies had. Between December 4 and 15, the Huskies scored just one goal in four of the five games over that stretch.

Since then, the Huskies have been markedly better. They have gone 8–8–1 since that time. They have scored one goal or less twice during that stretch. Freshman Pheonix Copley posted three shutouts in goal and fellow freshman Jamie Phillips added one more.

“I like where we are at,” said Pearson. “I think our goaltending picture is clear as far what they can do and what they are capable of.”

As the goaltending situation righted itself, the Huskies’ defense improved.  A big part of that was the return of junior Daniel Sova to the lineup, giving the Huskies another veteran on the back end. Another was the emergence of freshman Walker Hyland. The youngster muscled sophomores Jimmy Davis and Justin Fillion out of the lineup, and found himself quarterbacking the second power play unit.

“Defensively we are playing much more solid in our own zone,” said Pearson. “We really missed Dan Sova. Walker is starting to come into his own. He’s making good plays, good reads. He’s really smart with the puck. I think that why our defensive game has picked up: the emergence of those two players.”

Scouting North Dakota

The overtime loss to the Mavericks Saturday night cost North Dakota a chance at a tie for the top spot in the WCHA during their final season in the league. Since sweeping the Huskies back in December, North Dakota has gone 9–5–4. Key losses to Colorado College, Denver and Minnesota State kept them from a better fate.

Offensively, senior forwards Kristo and Corban Knight tied for the team lead with 45 points. Kristo is the team’s leading goal scorer with 21, and their leader in power play goals (5) and game-winners (4).

“We have to take their time and space away,” said Pearson. “We have to play physical with them and we have to skate with them. We have to manage the puck.”

Grimaldi, a redshirt freshman, has been one of the league’s top rookies, scoring 13 goals and 31 points in 34 games.

Junior goaltender Clarke Saunders has played well, racking up a 12–6–4 record with a 2.30 goals against average with two shutouts. However, he has not proved unbeatable.

Daver Karnosky

Daver has been around Michigan Tech hockey since his family moved to Houghton in 1983. A 2007 graduate of Michigan Tech who completed his Master's Degree in Rhetoric and Technical Communication in 2010, he has covered the Huskies as an arena reporter for USCHO.com for the last eight seasons. Daver has also covered Huskies' games for outlets such as the Daily Mining Gazette, Minneapolis Star Tribune, St. Cloud Times, and the Michigan Tech Lode.