With the Michigan Tech Huskies (4-4-1) needing to reset after a tough weekend in Mankato, the Bowling Green Falcons (3-3-1) visit Houghton with an important six points on the line. This weekend will feature two very different teams with very different roster constructions, so it will be a fascinating matchup. Of course, the last time these teams faced off was in one of the best games of the year across all of college hockey: the double overtime WCHA championship game. Now with a claim on second place in the WCHA on the line, there is a lot to be excited about this weekend as a fan of the Huskies.
Michigan Tech is best off trying to forget about getting swept on the road at the hands of one of the best teams in the country, even if it was one of their main rivals. Instead, learning from mistakes and looking forward is a good way to end this three-game losing streak.
There were some silver linings from the weekend that might point to good things to come. First, junior forward Jake Jackson had his best game of the year Saturday with two goals and an assist. He brings the kind of secondary scoring the Huskies needs to win games against good teams. He is a key part of the power play and plays on a line with leading scorer Joel L’Esperance, so his presence needs to continue to be felt.
Senior defenseman Mark Auk continues to really impress as well, with nine points but (even more importantly) no penalty minutes. One of the leaders of the team, his ability to make an impact and stay out of the box (huge considering MTU’s inability to kill penalties) is invaluable. He is one of the main keys to success for this team.
On the other side of the ice, the Bowling Green Falcons are likely disappointed by not sweeping the Alaska Nanooks last weekend, coming away with only four of six points. The story of the Falcons season has been a lack of scoring—on both ends of the ice. The good news for them is that they have replaced the departed Chris Nell in net with great success. They are currently using a timeshare of freshman Eric Dop and sophomore Ryan Bednard. The team is allowing only 2.29 goals per game, over a goal better than the Huskies and in the top 15 in the nation. They have been splitting time all season and that will likely continue.
Offensively, however, their efforts have often been fruitless. They have scored more than two goals only twice this season, both times at home. Part of this lack of scoring is a result of an extremely young roster—unlike MTU, most of their scoring is coming from freshmen and sophomores. The team’s leading scorer is freshman forward Cameron Wright (3-4-7). Their top scoring senior is Mitchell McLain, who led BGSU last year in scoring but has yet to establish much so far in 2017-18.
This weekend’s game will be a battle of differing teams: The Falcons bring a young team that struggles to score and strong goaltending. The Huskies host with a veteran-laden team capable of putting up goals at any time, but severe goaltending concerns. The Falcons kill penalties extremely well, they have an 86% success rate, but do not score much when up a man—less than 17% of the time. The Huskies, as you know, are the opposite. Their 25% power play is elite but they surrender goals over 30% of the time on the kill—a horrendous number. This should be a fascinating series.
Keys to the Game
- Get the home crowd into the game. The youth of BGSU, especially the goaltending, leaves them susceptible to being rattled. Considering that the Falcons have very little experience on the road this season, only two of their seven games away from BGSU Ice Arena, the Houghton crowd could be disturbing.
- Focus on defending. The best chance to get the goaltending right is against one of the lowest scoring teams in the country. It seems like Head Coach Joe Shawhan is going to let Packy Munson figure it out or die trying. He is capable of being a true number one goaltender, so now is a great time for him to start building that confidence in himself and the team.
- Stay out of the box. The Huskies look really good on offense and when they possess the puck, but watching them kill a penalty is extremely painful. I have no doubt that it will be the focal point of practices for quite a while, but until it starts to look better, the only way to prevent their opponents from scoring so many man advantage goals is to not lose a man at all.
These teams are so different that it is hard to compare the two. I have less of an idea of the outcome of this series than any other up to this point in the year. Both teams are .500 but MTU has played a far tougher schedule and I like the home ice advantage here. There is a strong chance this is a split, but I’m picking the Huskies to sweep because I trust their offense can do enough. Huskies win 5-4, 3-2.
Cover photo credit Bob Gilreath.