What happened last weekend?
The Michigan Tech Huskies began last weekend looking to extend their home winning streak. The No. 15 Lake Superior State Lakers had other ideas on Friday night, scoring four consecutive goals to overcome the Huskies’ two-goal lead after one period. The game would end 5-3 in favor of the Lakers. The Huskies responded on Saturday by physically pounding on the Lakers, outshooting the Lakers, 47-22, and outscoring them, 2-1.
The Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves played a pair of games on the road at Bemidji State. After grabbing a 1-0 on a goal from Blake Tatchell on Friday, the Beavers struck four times to come away with a 4-1 win. Saturday, Scott Allen got the Seawolves got the lead early, but the Beavers struck three times to before the visitors could get back on the board again. Allen’s second and third of the night along with a goal from Matt Bailey helped the Seawolves regain the lead, but the Beavers evened the game one last time, for a 4-4 tie.
Welcome back, Jamie
After losing 7-3 to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish back on Oct. 20, sophomore goaltender Jamie Phillips has had to sit back and watch classmate Pheonix Copley post some of the best numbers in the country in save percentage and goals against average.
After Copley struggled in giving up four goals on Friday, head coach Mel Pearson and his staff decided to come back with Phillips on Saturday, and he did not disappoint, stopping 21 of 22 Lakers’ shots.
“Pheonix has had a good shot here,” said Pearson. “He’s played well. I didn’t like a couple of the goals [Friday night]. When we needed a save here or there, we just didn’t seem to get it. I thought this was a good opportunity to get Jamie in.”
While his career may not be where he hoped it would be by this point, it is clear that Phillips has done a tremendous job of making the most of his opportunities.
“When you sit out for three or four weeks, it’s not easy to come back in,” said Phillips. “I felt the team really battled hard in front of me and made my life a lot easier.”
Depth on the blue line, finally, the Huskies has it
With the return of senior Daniel Sova from offseason surgery to action on Saturday, the Huskies finally have the ability to rest or sit players and begin to get their blue line back in order. While the veteran had only one shot on goal and finished a +1, he impacted the game in less measurable ways, which was more than his coach could have expected.
“You never know, when a player that has missed as much time as Dan, has how he is going to react and how he is going to play,” said Pearson. “I was worried about the speed of the game and the conditioning factor, but I thought he held up very well.”
It might have been expected that the return of a veteran would signal the end of the Huskies’ need to start three freshman blueliners. Instead, Pearson and his staff chose not to dress co-captain Brad Stebner, proving that no skater’s job is truly safe at this point.
“That was a coach’s decision,” said Pearson. “Even though he’s one of our captains, it’s important that we put the best team on the ice every night. Brad knows there are some areas of his game that have to get better.”
Patience is a virtue
While the Huskies’ power play still leaves plenty to be desired at five-for-64, or 7.8%, another potential issue appears to be raising its head. The Huskies’ offense appears to be lacking some patience.
The Huskies struck twice in less than two minutes Friday night. The fast start broke down as the Lakers began to push back. After the Lakers jumped ahead, the Huskies had trouble reestablishing their forecheck, which had worked so well in the opening minutes of the game.
On Saturday, the Huskies were able to rattle off 47 shots, but the majority of those chances came from the outside. Ideally, Pearson’s staff would like the Huskies to take the time necessary to allow their forecheck to wear down opposing defenses.
“We talk about getting a good start, a strong middle, and a great finish,” said Pearson. “That’s how we present it to the team.”
A deeper look at the Seawolves
After eight seasons under Dave Shyiak which included several basement finishes in the old Western Collegiate Hockey Association, new head coach Matt Thomas has helmed the new-look Seawolves to a 5-4-1 record in his first ten games. For comparison’s sake, that is one more win than the Seawolves had all last season.
“This is an important road swing for us,” said Pearson. “We have not won on the road yet. We have to prove to ourselves, first and foremost, that we can go into a rink and win.”
The Seawolves have stung Quinnipiac, Air Force, and Denver already this season. With his hat trick on Saturday, Allen, a junior, and Bailey, a senior, are now tied for the team lead in goals with seven. Five of the top six scorers are upperclassmen, giving the Seawolves plenty of experience up front.
Senior Rob Gunderson and sophomore Michael Matyas are splitting duties between the pipes at this point in the season. Gunderson has been the better of the duo, posting a 2.05 goals against average and a 91.3% save percentage while racking up a 3-3-0 record.
“The biggest thing about going on Alaska trips is getting acclimated to their time zone,” said Pearson. “We’ll have enough time to get acclimated, we’re there for 11 days.”
Both games this weekend start at 11:00 p.m.