Series Preview: Michigan Tech @ Alabama-Huntsville

Michigan Tech (15-9-6) begins a two-week road trip with a pair of games in Huntsville against the UAH Chargers (7-17-2). Michigan Tech had a strange home stand, with three consecutive games going past regulation before picking up a victory on Saturday against Minnesota State. While they are undefeated in their last five games (at least as far as the NCAA’s treatment of overtime is concerned), MTU is likely disappointed in leaving so many WCHA points on the table. They can build off a strong offensive showing last weekend when they had 8 goals in two games, leaving hope for a run to the WCHA autobid.

Meanwhile, Alabama-Huntsville is in the midst of a terrible stretch. They are winless in 2017 and have lost six straight contests. That said, the Chargers will be highly motivated to break out of their rut. They reside in the final playoff spot, just four points ahead of both Northern Michigan and Alaska-Anchorage. With both of those teams idle this weekend, UAH has an opportunity to stretch that lead and put some pressure on two teams that have struggled to win games this season.

Scouting Report

Michigan Tech has a lot to be confident about following their win and tie against Minnesota State. For only the second time this season, the Huskies scored more than three goals in both games on a weekend (Nov. 11-12 vs. LSSU). Seven of the eight goals were scored by forwards, something this team desperately needs more of moving forward. MTU also showed positive signs in the discipline department, taking only three minor penalties each night. If Tech can continue to show improvement in these facets of their game, they will become a team that no one wants to play against.

Also impressive was the Huskies’s third-period comeback on Friday. They surrendered three straight goals early in the third, turning a one-goal lead into a two-score deficit before storming back with two quick goals to send the game beyond the scheduled 60 minutes. For once the offense carried Angus Redmond on a rare off day for him and he repaid the debt with a shutout the next night.

Photo from the Nov. 18 game at UAA (Photo credit: Ryan Johnson).

Photo from the Nov. 18 game at UAA (Photo credit: Ryan Johnson).

One thing to look for this weekend is whether MTU plays down to their opponent’s level or sticks to their game and takes over against an inferior team. They have had a tendency to copy the opposition, which was good when they were quite competitive with Western Michigan and Notre Dame, but excruciating to watch against Alaska-Anchorage.

UAH is not terribly different from UAA, as both teams have similarly woeful offenses; Anchorage is still last in the nation, but the Chargers are not far behind with the 8th worst offense scoring at a 2.17 goals per game clip. The difference lies in defense, where Alabama-Huntsville is far worse.

Senior netminder Carmine Guerriero had been a staple for this squad, finding ways to keep his team in games as the starter since his freshman year. He has been horrible this year, winless in seven starts with a shocking .865 save percentage. This performance has given the opportunity for junior Jordan Uhelski to seize the starting role. For the most part he has done just that, keeping the Chargers afloat and earning the team five of their seven wins. While he was lifted from last weekend’s game against Lake State after two ineffective periods in favor of Guerriero, I would still expect him to start Friday’s game against MTU. He was the star in UAH’s 1-1 draw with Michigan Tech in October, so it would be logical if a Charger team desperate for points tries to recreate that magic.

Alabama-Huntsville has no players with double-digit goal totals, but they do have a couple guys that know how to score. Junior forward Josh Kestner leads the team with 8 goals and 19 points. They also have received strong contributions from the blue line, with sophomore Kurt Gosselin tallying eight goals and sophomore Cam Knight picking up 13 assists so far.

Keys to the Game

  1. They need to play their game. Tech had a strong weekend, finally scoring consistently across two nights. If they can establish their game plan and not let their weekend be dictated by their opponent, they should leave the Bible Belt with six points.
  2. Dominate special teams like the numbers suggest they should. For as frustrating as the Huskies’s power play has been, UAH’s has been even worse. They score at just over 11% which is 6th-worst in the country. Beyond that, they have the conference’s worst penalty kill at a porous 78%. This is the perfect team for the Michigan Tech man advantage to feast on.
  3. Score consistently against a bad team. Tech has played five weekend series against teams in the bottom half of their conference and in each case, they have had at least one game where they scored two or fewer goals. A huge reason they trail Bemidji is because they have given away points to lesser teams simply because they could not score. It is high time the Huskies bury a team.

My prediction

All logic points to an easy sweep for the Huskies, but that was the case two weekends ago with UAA and that resulted in two ties. That, plus the fact that this series is on the road, leaves me wary of predicting a six-point weekend. Still, Saturday’s huge win over a team MTU has struggled to beat for years has me back to drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid. At risk of jinxing the Huskies yet again, I think Michigan Tech sweeps in convincing fashion, 4-1 and 6-0. Both games are 8:07 p.m Eastern.