What happened last weekend?
The Michigan Tech Huskies used their week off in order to heal some wounds and participate in an intrasquad game at the Dee Stadium. Much fun was had by all who attended the game, but as head coach Mel Pearson stated this morning, “I think we got something out of it, but having said that, it doesn’t seem liked we’ve played in forever.”
The Nebraska–Omaha Mavericks traveled to Bemidji, Minn., to face their arch-nemesis, the Beavers. After dropping three of a four possible points to the Beavers in Omaha earlier this season, the Mavericks jumped all over the Beavers, winning Friday night, 5–3, on the strength of two goals and two assists from Matt White. Saturday, the Mavericks again trailed 1–0 early, but rattled off a pair of goals to complete the sweep.
How far have the Huskies come at this point in the season?
Points in the WCHA are big, and right now they come at a premium. The Huskies had a chance to sweep the Beavers at home two weeks ago, and that Saturday night tie still stings.
“I really liked our Friday game,” said Pearson. “Saturday was okay. Points are big. You’d like to get four [points], but I feel that was a good reward for our players.”
One player who has really stepped up his game, both offensively and defensively, is winger Blake Pietila. Coming off the World Junior Tournament, where Team U.S.A.’s coaching staff had him in a defensive role, he has carried that experience into his play with the Huskies.
“I think he appreciates defense more,” said Pearson. “We let him play offense. He’s becoming one of the league’s top all-around players. If he can be more consistent in all those areas, he will be one of the premier players in the league.”
Freshman center Jujhar Khaira has grown by leaps and bounds this season. Tied with sophomore David Johnstone for second on the team in scoring with 17 points, it is the physical aspect of the game that Khaira has begun to embrace as he has become more comfortable on the ice, but that journey is far from over.“He plays with such an edge and emotion,” said Pearson. “Sometimes he gets frustrated and acts out his frustrations. You have to pick your spots. You have to understand the game situation. He needs to understand that and not ge
“He plays with such an edge and emotion,” said Pearson. “Sometimes he gets frustrated and acts out his frustrations. You have to pick your spots. You have to understand the game situation. He needs to understand that and not get roped into those penalties.”
What is to be made of that group of underachieving junior forwards?
Winger Ryan Furne leads this group with 10 points, but three have come in the last three games. His confidence is beginning to build, and his effort has not gone unnoticed.
“I think he has more confidence,” said Pearson. “You can see it in practice. He’s skating harder. He’s working harder. He’s so good around the net.”
While he has just four assists on the season, Jacob Johnstone has really benefited from skating alongside Furne.
“Putting Ryan back with Jake Johnstone seemed to spark both of them,” said Pearson. “Jake has looked really good. His skating, his compete level, and just his puck movement now. He’s still stuck looking for that first goal, but that’s okay. They are going to come.”
Milos Gordic may have had his best game of the season Friday night against Bemidji, but a blocked shot off his foot kept him out of the lineup on Saturday. Pearson and his staff expect that he will be ready to go Friday night against the Mavericks.
Scouting the Mavericks
The Mavericks are in the chase for the WCHA regular season title. With a record of 11–5–2 in league games, the Mavericks sit in a tie with Minnesota for second place, just one point behind St. Cloud State.
“They are playing very well,” said Pearson. “They are a scrappy team. Number one, they work hard. They have some skill to go along with it, so it makes a very dangerous squad. They are playing very well and they are playing very confidently.”
Junior forward Ryan Walters leads the charge for the Mavericks with 15 goals and 39 points. He is currently in the midst of a 10-game point streak, having scored 15 points over that span. Twice this season, he has racked up four points in a game, Dec. 7 at St. Cloud State, and Jan. 4 against Colorado College.
Junior forward Matt White and sophomore forward Josh Archibald have each tallied 14 goals and 25 points. White missed the Mavericks’ trip to Houghton earlier this season due to a team suspension.
After lighting up the Huskies for two goals in each of the two games in Houghton earlier this season, junior forward Zahn Raubenheimer is probably looking forward to facing the Huskies again. He has scored just three goals since that weekend.