Huskies Split with Ferris State, Win MacInnes Cup
After dropping a game to Ferris on Friday 3-2, Michigan Tech earned a big win on Saturday to clinch the MacInnes Cup, the cup awarded to the winner of the annual Winter Carnival series. Tech won on the second decider, goals scored, with a 5-3 victory Saturday night. The Huskies seemed to hit another brick wall of a goalie Friday, only sneaking two of 41 total shots past FSU freshman Kapelmaster (Fr., G - FSU). Satuday the MTU offense was able to get going, and Tech took a two goal first period lead which they did not relent.
Shot Differential Has Many Asking, "Where's the Beef?"
It was a battle of two much-hyped Freshmen goalies over the weekend when Justin Kapelmaster (Fr., G - FSU) came into the house of Angus Redmond (Fr., G - MTU). Redmond has been credited with turning around the Huskies season single-handedly; his GAA has been top in the nation, and now sits at 1.77, #2 nationally. Kapelmaster has been making similar waves at Ferris State and now boasts the third-best save percentage nationally at 93.7%. Kapelmaster seemed to take the show on Friday, stopping 39 of 41 Michigan Tech shots on goal. Redmond allowed two goals on 6 shots in the first period, but then settled in, allowing just one more goal on the remaining 13 shots he faced.
Alex Smith (Fr., F - MTU) was the first Husky to find a way past Kapelmaster while on the PP early in the 2nd with the Huskies already down 2-0. Smith was fed the puck in the slot from fellow freshman Gavin Gould (F - MTU). The two are tied as highest point-scoring freshmen forwards this season, each with 15 points (6G, 9A for Smith; 5G, 10A for Gould).
Offense Breaks Three Game Losing Streak
The Huskies went into Saturday's game on a three-game losing streak, their longest of the season. In fact, Tech had not won a game since the 5-2 victory January 27th at Alabama-Huntsville. Saturday's contest started well for the MTU offense, Thomas Beretta (Fr., F) opened scoring at 6:10 in the first. His goal was a blooper lob from near the red line, undoubtedly intended to cause a whistle or a rebound (watch at the 0:25 mark, below). It would not be the only long distance shot MTU would find a way to score on Kapelmaster, nor would Tech give this lead up for the remainder of the game.
After Chris Leibinger (Sr., D) scored the empty-net insurance (and MacInnes Cup winning) goal for Tech with 1:05 remaining in the third, Kapelmaster was put back in. Immediately after, Mike Neville (Sr., F) intercepted a pass and bounced it to Reid Sturos (Sr., F). Sturos skated up to the top of the right circle and launched one final goal past Kapelmaster. Sturos now has eight goals on the season, second most on the team.
Puck control and shot differential were much more even on Saturday than on Friday. This shows two things: one, that the Huskies, who often outshoot opponents significantly, were able to play proper defense with the lead, and two, that MTU's shot attempts were successful. Friday the Huskies goal-per-shot percentage was less than 5%, Saturday they nearly quadrupled to 18.5%.
Perhaps it was figuring out the Ferris defensive structure, or their freshman goaltender. Regardless, the Huskies made changes for Saturday which led to scoring opportunities. Tech will need a strong offense in March when the WCHA Playoffs start. The Huskies are averaging 3.82 GPG in their 17 victories, whereas they are only averaging 1.25 GPG over their 12 losses this season.
THG Three Stars of the Weekend:
- Reid Sturos (Sr., F) - Sturos had 2G in Saturday's victory, including the final nail in the coffin with :55 remaining in the game. Sturos had a team-high 8 SOG on the weekend and was named MVP of the Winter Carnival series.
- Alex Smith (Fr., F) - Smith opened scoring for MTU on the PP in Friday's contest. The freshman has 15 points in 34 games and is looking like he'll have a good career in a Huskies sweater.
- Matt Roy (Jr., D) - Roy had one assist and five SOG from the blue line this weekend. Roy has amassed more points than any other Husky this year (5G, 14A = 19pts). The LA Kings draftee also leads the Huskies in penalty minutes this season, averaging over 2 minutes per game. Over the weekend, he only received one penalty.
Huskies in the National Rankings
With the three game losing streak, the Huskies dropped in the USCHO.com Division I Men's Poll to Honorable Mention with 7 poll points. Tech is #30 in the Pairwise Ranking System, down slightly. Tech fans shouldn't be looking too closely at the PWR toward the end of the 2016-2017 season and instead should be focused on WCHA standings for playoff seeding and opponents. The Huskies are #2 in the THG WCHA Web Media Poll, as well as the WCHA Standings. MTU is nine conference points above the MSU Mavericks while the Mavericks have two games in hand on MTU.
Per usual, the bottom half of the WCHA is very tight again this season, with rankings 5-9 separated by only two conference points. MTU fans should pay particular attention to the LSSU@Alaska series this weekend, which may help to clear the standings picture to determine who the Huskies will host in the first round of the WCHA Playoffs.