What happened last weekend?
In their only meetings of the year against the Bemidji State Beavers, the Michigan Tech Huskies hoped to build off the loss of top Beavers’ goaltender Andrew Walsh. Instead, freshman Jesse Wilkins stepped up, making 75 saves on 79 Huskies’ shots en route to a pair of 2-2 ties. Friday night, the Huskies battled back from a 1-0 deficit to score twice early in the third thanks to goals from senior Daniel Holmberg and sophomore C.J. Eick. On Saturday, the Huskies twice had one-goal leads after assistant captain Tanner Kero scored in the first and co-captain Brad Stebner scored in the third.
Western Collegiate Hockey Association newcomers, the Bowling Green State Falcons, scored a goal in each period to defeat the visiting Alabama-Huntsville Chargers Friday night. The Falcons also outshot the Chargers, 43-18. On Saturday, the Falcons surrendered a power play goal in the first, a short-handed goal in the second, and an overtime goal to give the Chargers their first win of the season.
After starting the season with just one win in their first eight games, the Huskies have righted the ship. Since that start, which included losses to Minnesota-Duluth, Notre Dame, and Michigan as nationally-ranked opponents, the Huskies have quietly rattled off a 5-2-3 record over their last 10 games.
The Huskies have amassed a 4-3-3 record in WCHA play. Their 11 points puts them in a tie for fourth with the Falcons.
Part of the difference has been the opportunity to play at home.
“I think you are a lot more confident at home,” said head coach Mel Pearson earlier this season. “I think the crowd really makes a difference.”
The Huskies have used that home crowd to their advantage most nights, posting a 4-1-2 record at home. More importantly, however, is the defensive prowess the Huskies display with a home. They have only surrendered three or more goals once at home.
Eick, Eick, Baby
With three goals and eight points on the season, Eick has moved into a tie for fourth on the team in scoring. Since being moved onto a line with freshman Mike Neville and sophomore Alex Petan, he has erupted for five points over the last four games.
Pearson attributes his success to the fact that Eick, Neville, and Petan seem to get along very well, both on and off the ice. While this is true, what makes the trio even more impressive is their innate sense of where the others are heading before their linemates get there.
Throughout the weekend against the Beavers, the trio held the puck for long stretches by moving it around between them and keeping possession away from the Beavers’ defense. The strategy allowed the Huskies to keep the puck in the offensive zone for long stretches, which allowed the team to make line changes and continue to force pressure on the Beavers’ defense.
Several of those possessions came off of turnovers created by Eick, who is playing his most inspired hockey. Eick has shown his blazing speed offensively all season, but this subtle change to improve his defense has helped the Huskies gain the upper hand on both the Beavers and the Alaska Nanooks the weekend before.
How can the faceoff affect what comes after?
The Huskies went a combined 0-for-12 on the power play against the Beavers last weekend. While on Friday night they tended to stand around attempting to make the perfect pass, Saturday, they had several shots, but still no luck.
The problems started before puck possession, however. On Friday night, the Huskies went 32-for-78 on faceoffs. Several of those came during man advantages as the Huskies earned 12 minutes of power play time. The lost faceoffs affected how the Huskies set up each attempt as they often found themselves chasing down pucks rather than setting up offensive plays.
On Saturday, the Huskies were slightly better, going 40-for-72. While this shows improvement, it is still a far cry from where Pearson and his staff would like that number to be.
A deeper look at the Falcons
The Falcons enter this weekend with a 5-6-1 record in WCHA play. Despite surrendering the Chargers’ first win of the season, the Falcons have beaten both Minnesota State and Alaska-Anchorage twice. They have also defeated Colgate and Ohio State in nonconference play.
Senior Bryce Williamson leads the way for the Falcons with seven goals and 15 points in 18 games this season. Three other Falcons have also scored seven goals: sophomores Mark Cooper, Brent Tate, and Ben Murphy.
The Falcons have been goaltending by committee to start the season with sophomore Tommy Burke and freshman Tomas Sholl splitting time. Burke has had the better luck of the pair, going 5-1-3 on the season to Sholl’s 2-7-0. Sholl’s no pushover, however, both of his wins have come via shutout.
Both games this weekend will start at 7:07 p.m. at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.