Scouting the Huskies and Falcons, WCHA Playoff Style

What happened last weekend?

The Michigan Tech Huskies traveled to Minnesota State with the possibility of home playoffs still within their grasp. On Friday night, sophomore goaltender Pheonix Copley was excellent, holding the Mavericks at bay for the better part of 56 minutes of play. Unfortunately, in a two-minute span, the Mavericks struck twice before adding one more into the empty net for a 3-0 victory. On Saturday, freshman Shane Hanna struck for the Huskies just 5:55 in. The Huskies held that lead until the third period, when the Mavericks were able to tie the game. Neither team could find a second goal to earn a victory.

The Bowling Green State Falcons needed a home sweep over the Bemidji State Beavers in order to leap frog the Huskies and claim the fourth home playoff spot. On Friday, the Beavers grabbed the early lead before a pair of goals from the Falcons in the first period. The Beavers tied the game early in the second, but three consecutive goals from the Falcons put the hosts in position to win. The Beavers jumped out to a 2-1 lead on Saturday, but they could not withstand a four-goal outburst over the final 35 minutes as the Falcons finished the sweep with a 5-2 victory.

Once more unto the breach

Three years into head coach Mel Pearson’s run at the helm has produced three straight road playoffs. The first year saw the Huskies march into Colorado College one week after getting swept in the same building and sweep the hosts. Last season, the Huskies forced a third game against the North Dakota Fighting Sioux.

It has been a season of ups and downs for the Huskies this season. There were several times this season that the Huskies could have earned that point they so desperately searched for against the Mavericks.

That being said, circumstances have conspired to allow the Huskies to face the Falcons as opposed to the Alaska Nanooks. This bodes very well for the road warriors, who took a pair of games in Bowling Green back in late January and early February.

The state of Huskies’ hockey at this time

When Pearson was hired as the Huskies’ head hockey coach, they were coming off a four-win campaign, the second such dismal output in 11 years. To make matters worse, the Huskies won just 11 times in two seasons prior to that four-win season.

In three seasons at the helm, Pearson has never failed to win less than 13 times. His squads have won a playoff series, a Great Lakes Invitational title, and earned key victories against teams such as Wisconsin, Denver, Minnesota, St. Cloud State, Michigan, Western Michigan, North Dakota, Ferris State, and even Bowling Green.

Junior Blake Pietila, a co-captain, leads the Huskies with eight goals and 27 points. Sophomore Alex Petan has 26 points. Junior Tanner Kero leads the team in goals with 15.

Where this team really shines, however, is in the play of its freshmen. Defenseman Shane Hanna leads the group with four goals and 22 points. Reid Sturos, who earned National Rookie of the Month honors in February, has seven goals and 20 points. Center Mike Neville has potted three goals and 14 points.

Hanna also leads a trio of excellent young defensemen. Together with Chris Leibinger and Cliff Watson, the trio have played all but one game and have made significant contributions all season long.

It is safe to say that the Huskies are continuing to build in the right direction.

A deeper look at the Falcons

The Falcons come into this weekend having won a key series at home against the Beavers to jump into fourth place in the WCHA standings. The Falcons are 10-5-2 at home this season, but have lost to the Huskies, Lake Superior State, Minnesota State and Alabama-Huntsville. The Huskies are the only squad to win twice at BGSU Ice Arena.

Junior Dan DeSalvo leads the team with 28 points. Sophomore Mark Cooper has a team-high 14 goals and 24 points. Three other Falcons have notched 20 points this season as well.

After struggling to find consistency for much of the season, the Falcons thought they would get shot in the arm over their last 12 games thanks to the return of junior Ryan Carpenter. Carpenter, who came into this season having scored 63 points over his first 85 games, notched six goals and 11 points. However, they have only gone 5-6-1 over that stretch.

Sophomore Tommy Burke will likely be the man between the pipes. In 25 games this season, Burke has gone 12-6-6 with a 2.48 goals against average and a 90.9% save percentage.

Game time Friday and Saturday night will be 7:07 p.m. If necessary, the teams will play a third game on Sunday.

 

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.