Weekend Wrap Up: Week 25: WCHA Final Five 2016

WCHA Final Five Wrap Up

Huskies Weighed Down by Ferris State Defense

Friday: 1-0 FSU

Michigan Tech fell to the Ferris State University Bulldogs in Friday's WCHA Final Five semi-final match up. The Huskies were unable to get through the FSU defense and put one behind goaltender Darren Smith (G, Fr. - FSU). Smith stopped all 30 MTU shots on goal for the shutout. The game ended the season for MTU, who were unable to secure an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

The Huskies had offensive zone troubles due to successful Bulldog penalty killing and a defense which routinely collapsed on rushing Tech forwards. While MTU had the advantage in skill and speed. the game plan for Ferris countered well. Consisting of keeping Tech out of the offensive zone, attempting long outlet passes for breakaways and taking advantage of limited opportunities, the Bulldog plan worked. The Huskies were worn down on more than one occasion, giving up grade-A chances more frequently than they are used to.

The Huskies lost the battle in the face off circle, going 25-39. Mike Neville and Jake Lucchini went a combined 11-25 in face offs. The only goal of the game, a bomb from the point by Kenny Babinski (F, Sr. - FSU), came halfway through the third period shortly after a face off win in front of Jamie Phillips.

When you don’t score, you’re not going to win many hockey games
— Mel Pearson, Post Game Comments (Mar. 19th, 2016)

The Huskies, for their effort, stuck to their game plan. However, puck luck didn't quite go their way. MTU went 5/5 on the penalty kill, including one 5-on-3 kill late in the first and into the second periods. "I think we do some good shot blocking," Cliff Watson said while discussing the MTU PK. "We're in passing lanes a lot; I think that's the key to our success." MTU finished the season with a PK% of 83.6.

Jamie Phillips (G, Sr - MTU) stopped 32 of 33 shots faced on Friday. Photo courtesy Ryan Johnson (Nov. 22nd 2015)

Jamie Phillips (G, Sr - MTU) stopped 32 of 33 shots faced on Friday. Photo courtesy Ryan Johnson (Nov. 22nd 2015)

After the Ferris goal, MTU started to put up a flurry of shots on Smith, but the FSU prevent defense was very difficult to overcome. Tech ended the night with four skaters having six or more attempted shots. Alex Petan and Malcolm Gould each ended their careers in a Huskies sweater with four shots getting through to Smith. Perhaps the best look of the game, though, came off the stick of Joel L'Esperance, who had a wide open net off a rebound. The puck was bouncing slightly and L'Esperance was unable to find the handle for the goal.

THG Three Stars of the Game:

  1. MTU's PK Lines (5-5 on the PK, including one 5-on-3 kill)
  2. Jamie Phillips (32/33 saves, 97.0 SV%)
  3. Brent Baltus (4 SOG, 6 shot attempts)

Stick Taps:

  • Our thoughts and prayers to linesman Oliver "Butch" Mousseaux and his family. Mousseaux "sustained head injuries stemming from a fall to the ice during warm-ups," according to a WCHA statement. He remains in a medically-induced coma at Mercy Health St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Rapids, MI.
  • Thanks to the numerous MTU fans who traveled to Grand Rapids for the game. Michigan Tech fans outnumbered Ferris State fans, despite the 450 mile extra travel. Michigan Tech fans came out to cheer all season, and the support has been noted by the team and players. 

WCHA Final Five Wrap Up

WCHA Semi-Final Game

Bowling Green State University vs Minnesota State University

Friday: 1-2 MSU

The early game on Friday was also a defensive battle. Minnesota State entered the Final Five semi-finals with the league leading team defense and penalty kill, and a well-known ability to give up few shots on goaltender Cole Huggins (G, Jr - MSU). Huggins had a relatively easy night, only having to face 24 BGSU shots. Both the Minnesota State and Bowling Green scorers were relatively quiet during the game as well, with only a couple of each team's big playmakers making the score sheet. Winnipeg draftee C.J. Franklin (F, So. - MSU) and Mark Cooper (F, Sr - BGSU) each registered an assist during the game.  

WCHA Final Five Championship Game:

Ferris State University vs Minnesota State University

Saturday: 2-1 FSU

Thanks to an abundance of MTU fans at Friday's games, attendance was listed at 5044 for the first night of the tournament. That number dwindled to 4048 on Saturday, regardless of the fact that the local Ferris State Bulldogs were in the championship game. Ferris was able to put more shots on net than the Mavericks were hoping and tested Huggins 29 times. Huggins, for his part, stopped 27 of those 29. If Friday was a night that big scorers were quiet, Saturday saw big names make the score sheet. All three of the goals came on special teams, with the eventual game winner coming off of a penalty shot by Gerald Mayhew (F, Jr. - FSU) at 19:34 of the second. Mayhew ended the WCHA season with 36pts (14G, 22A).

Ferris State would hold on for the win using a similar strategy used against the Huskies on Friday to take home the Broadmoor Trophy and the NCAA Tournament autobid. Ferris will be in the West Regional bracket March 26-27th and their first round opponent will be #2 overall seed St. Cloud State.