Huskies sweep LSSU, earn all six WCHA points
Mel Pearson wins 100th career victory Friday
Congrats to Head Coach Mel Pearson on his 100th career victory Friday.
Scoring gates open Friday
While the Huskies have shown they prefer Saturday nights, WCHA Rookie of the Week Gavin Gould (Fr., F - MTU) and the rest of the team opened up offensively on Friday. The first period started very slow, with neither team able to maintain puck control and hold the offensive zone for nearly the entire period. It wasn't until Sharks draftee Jake Jackson (So., F - MTU) and Saginaw native Chris Leibinger (Sr., D - MTU) scored 1:34 apart at the end of the period that the Huskies really felt the momentum swing, and the formerly ranked #20 Lakers showed signs of crumbling. Jackson and Gould would eventually net two goals each, but four different Huskies scored before the night was over.
Strong Saturday showing
The team looked stronger again Saturday, out-shooting the Lakers 47-20, nearly doubling their shot total over Friday's 25. Spending over a third of the final period on the PP (including 4 minutes of 5-on-3) certainly added to the total, but the Huskies started out of the gate a lot stronger than they did Friday. Tech ended the night Saturday 3/7 on the power play, with the first off the stick of Jake Lucchini (So., F - MTU) just 5:25 into the game. Tyler Heinonen (Sr., F- MTU) scored the eventual game winning goal on the PP at the end of the nearly seven-minute string of power play time that ended the second and started the third.
This long sequence of PP time started at the end of the second, when Jake Nenadal (So., F - LSSU) switched stick handedness from right to left, then put his elbow up towards Cliff Watson's (Sr., D - MTU) face. Watson put his stick up and Nenadal's elbow broke the shaft of Watson's stick. This resulted in a loud bang and Watson keeling over and eventually going back to the locker room. The officials decisions through this span went as follows:
19:56 of the 2nd - 5 minutes to Nenadal for interference with significant contact (this is a new penalty in the rulebook, per Greg Shepherd, WCHA Supervisor of Officials) agaisnt Watson, who Pearson reported was relatively uninjured. 2 additional minutes were assessed to Jake Nenadal at 19:56 in the 2nd for slashing. This is severed as a five-minute followed by a two-minute.
2:09 of the 3rd - 2 minutes to Aidan Wright (Jr., D - LSSU) at 2:09 of the 3rd for interference. 2 additional minutes were assessed to the bench, presumably on LSSU head coach Damon Whitten, to follow the completion of the penalty on Wright. Because no team can have fewer than 3 skaters on the ice by the rules, these penalties were served consecutively.
6:38 of the 3rd - Tyler Heinonen (Sr., F - MTU) finally breaks Gordon Defiel (Jr., G - LSSU) down and puts the puck in the back of the net, ending the advantage.
So, Tyler Heinonen's goal, at 6:38 in the 3rd, after the four minutes of 5-on-3 play, was solely during the second initial penalty to Nenadal. This whole sequence is officially scored as 1/4 PP, as each man down for LSSU counts as a PP opportunity for Tech. The Huskies had 21 third-period shots on LSSU goaltender Gordon Defiel (Jr., G - LSSU).
Home Sweet Home
Tech is 4-0-1-1 at home this season, compared to 2-6-1 away. The Huskies will have to find a way to win on the road, as MTU has seven remaining series away from the MacInnes, versus only four remaining in Houghton.
The Two Big Questions: Goaltending and Special Teams
Early in the season, there were two big questions this team needed to answer. Angus Redmond (Fr., G - MTU) has more than taken control of the crease since his first start, and subsequent shutout, at Northern Michigan. Redmond boasts the 5th-best goals against average (GAA) nationally at 1.61 GAA (he is #2 in the WCHA, behind Michael Bitzer). Redmond also ranks #3t in win percentage (5-1-0, 83.3%). While the freshman was relatively untested this past weekend, the team is formed from the net out, and consistency in the crease this weekend allowed the Huskies to focus on the offensive game.
The other question that Tech has faced this weekend is special teams. With the referees calling a tighter game this season, the Huskies found themselves killing penalties often in the early parts of the year. Interference as the opposing team is entering the zone has been the most common and obvious call. Where the defense used to be allowed to significantly slow and delay the entering forward, interference has been an area of emphasis of officiating in the 2016-2017 season.
This weekend, the Huskies went 11-for-11 on the PK, improving their overall PK to 70/85 (82.4%). While that is still only good enough to tie for the 38th best nationally, the improvements over prior weeks should be noted. On the other side of the ice, the Huskies enjoyed nearly five full minutes of 5-on-3 on Saturday courtesy of Josh Nenadal's (So., F - LSSU) slash to the face on Cliff Watson (Sr., D - MTU) and coincidental interference/bench minors on the Lakers shortly thereafter. Tyler Heinonen (Sr., F- MTU) scored the PPG, but not until after the 5 on 3. Overall, the Huskies went 3/10 on the power play, and continue to boast the nationally 12th-ranked power play (61 for 71, 22.5%).
THG Three Stars of the Week
- Gavin Gould (for his 2G, 1A, as well as for blocking shots and several breakaway attempts which didn't result in goals).
- Joel L'Esperance (2G, 1A)
- Jake Jackson (2G)
Honorable Mention: The Huskies defense blocked every shot for the first 12:08 of Saturday's game, keeping LSSU from getting the puck on goal.
Huskies in the Rankings
The Huskies are back on the USCHO.com Division 1 Men's Poll radar, earning 4 votes. Tech moved up significantly to #29 in the Pairwise Rankings. The Black and Gold are now in 2nd in points in the WCHA Standings at 21 points. Coincidentally, Tech is #2 in the first THG Web Media Poll of the year. Gavin Gould was named WCHA Rookie of the Week while Joel L'Esperance (Jr., F - MTU) and Shane Hanna gained Honorable Mention in WCHA offensive and defensive players of the week, respectively.