Huskies Fall in OT on Friday, Score Five in Regulation Win Saturday
Special Teams Tested (Again)
Two of the big questions the Huskies have been working out this season are the goal-tending situation, and special teams consistency. With freshman Angus "Beef" Redmond appearing to be stepping up quite comfortably in net, special teams concerns have come to the forefront. While Head Coach Mel Pearson has commented with confidence that special teams will return to top-10 nationally, the Huskies currently rank near the bottom of the NCAA in PK at 79.7%. Friday, MTU gave up two power-play goals on two shots, including the game-winner off the stick of Michigan State points leader and Winnipeg draftee Mason Appleton (So., F) 1:22 into OT.
While the Husky PK on Friday left a lot to be desired, Tech went 3-for-7 on the power play over the weekend and is currently ranked #14 in the nation at 21.0%. Overall, the Huskies have worked themselves back to a special teams net of 0, meaning that Tech has scored as many power-play goals as they have given up. Tech is fourth in the WCHA in this regard, and is chasing the league-leading Bemidji State Beavers at a +8. It is important to note that the power play for MTU has featured many freshmen this year, including Mitch Reinke and Alex Smith, who both received power-play assists on Saturday. Alex Smith was awarded honorable mention as WCHA Rookie of the week for his two assists on the weekend.
Huskies Secure Themselves as a Saturday Team
MTU has shown over the first six weeks of this season that they compete much better on the second night of a two-night series. Perhaps it has been the heavy road schedule early in the season causing some need to settle in (only 3 of the Huskies 12 games this season have been at the Mac); perhaps it is the team finding itself, learning from mistakes and making minor changes to the Friday game plan (Tech is 26/35 on the PK (74.3%) Friday compared to 35/41 (85.4%) on Saturday). Regardless, the last few weeks have set Tech up as a Saturday team. This past Saturday in East Lansing, five different Huskies scored goals including Reid Sturos' (Sr., F - MTU) team-leading fifth of the year. Sturos and was awarded honorable mention WCHA Offensive Player of the week for his two points on the weekend.
Huskies in the National Polls
Reid Sturos, Mark Auk and Alex Smith were honorable mentions for WCHA Offensive, Defensive and Rookie of the Week, respectively. MTU is no longer on the watch lists for either the USCHO.com D1 Men's Poll or the USA Today/ US Hockey Magazine D1 Men's Poll. Tech also sits at well outside the field of 16 at #37t in the PWR.
Around the WCHA
#2 Minnesota State at #4 Lake Superior State
Friday: 1-5, Saturday: 2-1
MTU's next opponent, Lake Superior State, has come out of the gate strong in 2016, leading all NCAA teams offensively with 4.48 GPG and finding themselves at #20 in the USCHO.com poll and #21 in the PWR. Many consider the Lakers to lack the depth to keep the pace all season, but LSSU found the back of the net five more times this past weekend than MTU did in Week 2 against the still highly-ranked Minnesota State (#11 USCHO.com, #13 PWR). Gage Torrell (So., F - LSSU) and Diego Cuglietta (So., F - LSSU) are both at the top of the WCHA in goal scoring this season with five goals each on the year.
Good News for Huskies Fans: Of the two games LSSU has lost this year, both are on Saturday. MTU appears to be a better Saturday team this season.
Bad News for Huskies Fans: Of the 19 WCHA scorers with four or more goals this season, six are LSSU skaters. For comparison, MTU only has one (Reid Sturos).
#1 Bemidji State at #7 Alaska
Friday: 6-2, Saturday: 3-1
The WCHA-leading BSU Beavers continued to roll in league play, taking all six conference points from the Alaska Nanooks. Team scoring leader Gerry Fitzgerald (Jr., F - BSU) scored 3 points on the weekend (2G, 1A) for a total of 10 points on the year. His brother Leo Fitzgerald (Jr., F - BSU) contributed another point. On the other side of the ice, Michael Bitzer (Jr., G - BSU) continued his formidable season, stopping 37 of 40 shots (92.5%). Bitzer is the WCHA leader in GAA (1.40) and SV% (93.8%), and has been a significant contributor to the Beavers' WCHA-leading GAA and PK% (91.3%).
Good News for Huskies Fans: Bemidji State has taken an early lead in the WCHA standings. Don't think for a moment that Coach Pearson isn't targeting the Beavers going down the stretch.
Bad News for Huskies Fans: The Beavers are allowing 1.40 GAA; that is nearly a full point per game lower than MTU. The team leads the league in almost every team category and will be a very formidable force when BSU travels to Houghton the first weekend in December.