What happened last weekend?
The Michigan Tech Huskies returned home to face another nonconference opponent in the Michigan State Spartans. The Huskies completely outplayed the Spartans on Friday. David Johnstone, Tanner Kero, and Alex Petan all scored in a 3-0 win. On Saturday night, the Huskies looked even better in the first period and Brent Baltus scored his first career goal. After Kero’s second goal of the weekend, the Huskies led 2-1. The Spartans tied the game in the third before Petan struck in overtime to give the Huskies the sweep.
Trailing 1-0 Friday night to Alaska, the host Lake Superior State Lakers got a pair of goals from Alex Globke and one each from Eric Drapluk and Andrew Dommett to win 4-1. On Saturday, the Lakers twice tied the game, but the effort was not enough as the Nanooks scored in overtime to earn the split. The Lakers were outshot both nights, 30-25 and 40-29.
Your top players have to be your top players
When discussing his team’s 1-6-1 start, head coach Mel Pearson challenged his top line to be better. After the Michigan weekend, Pearson’s staff put Pietila, Kero, and Petan back together in practice. Working together, the trio got things together and the results were immediately felt Friday night.
Kero and Petan both scored. Pietila added two assists. Kero added an assist as well.
“They did a lot of things other than score,” said Pearson. “We matched them up against Wolfe and Reimer and their top line as much as we could on the weekend and I thought they did a good job of shutting them down.”
On Saturday, Kero scored a power play goal off a well-placed pass from Pietila. Petan scored in overtime off another pass from Pietila. Petan and Kero also added assists.
“Overall I thought it was a good weekend [for them],” said Pearson. “They rose to the challenge.”
Forecheck, backcheck, and all strategies in between
After facing all of the top-end talent the Huskies have on the road thus far, their returns home have been outstanding, as they are now 3-0 within the friendly confines of the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
What might be even more impressive has been the way the Huskies have won those games. They are averaging 3.3 goals per game for while holding opponents to 17.7 shots against. The Huskies have executed their game plan of swarming opposing defenses and blocking shots very well at home.
“If we can limit teams to less than 20 shots at home and keep the attempted shots down and limit the Grade A scoring opportunities, that enhances our chances of winning,” said Pearson. “We’ve been really good about doing that so far.”
Five weeks into the season, the Huskies’ strategy without the puck is taking shape.
“I give the guys credit, they’ve been ready to play,” said Pearson. “Which is important. We’ve had good starts at home which have carried us through the weekends.”
You can never have enough depth
With an assist on Baltus’ goal, freshman defenseman Cliff Watson became the 19th Huskies’ skater to record a point already this season. With that many Huskies reaching the score sheet, they are proving Pearson’s staff was right to believe that they have real depth this season.
“We have been able to plug guys in and usually when they come in they respond,” said Pearson. “They add something immediately to the team. That’s what you are looking for.”
That depth will continue to be challenged this weekend, however, with junior winger David Johnstone not available this weekend.
“Right now we feel we have 15-16 forwards that any one of them can come in and play,” said Pearson. “We are going to need that depth as we go along. We are getting a little banged up.”
The inside scoop: a look at the Lakers
Ranked No. 14, the Lakers come into this weekend with a record of 5-2-1 overall and a 1-1-0 record in Western Collegiate Hockey Association play. After sweeping Robert Morris and Union, the Lakers have lost games to Wisconsin and Alaska.
Globke, a freshman, leads the Lakers in scoring with five goals and 11 points. Senior Dan Radke has enjoyed having the youngster around, as he has started his final season with one goal and nine points. After the top line, however, the Lakers are relatively young up front.
“Globke is off to a real good start,” said Pearson. “Obviously [they] have one line going.”
Two strengths of the Lakers are their veteran blueline and goaltending. Three seniors and a junior patrol the defensive zone, and two more seniors tend goal. The leadership they all provide give the younger forwards the push they have needed to get off to a the start they have.
“They are a good, solid team,” said Pearson. “They are playing good, fundamental hockey. We are going to have to be patient and work our way through that.”
Both games this weekend will start at 7:07 p.m.