The Michigan Tech Huskies (8-7-4) finish out an inconsistent, and often disappointing, 2017 with a home series against Lake Superior State (4-11-3). MTU has won three of its last four, thanks in large part to an offensive outburst; they have averaged over four goals per game in that stretch. LSSU is coming off a rough weekend where league-leading Minnesota State demolished them in a 5-1, 7-0 sweep. Both teams will be off until their respective New Years weekend tournaments—the Three Rivers Classic for the Lakers and the Great Lakes Invitational for the Huskies.
Michigan Tech has had their best offensive stretch of the season lately, taking advantage of suspect goaltending in Alaska and roughing up a solid Ferris State netminder corps. Last weekend they showcased their depth with eight goals scored by seven different players—Jake Jackson had a goal each night. Jackson’s four-point weekend pushed him into the team lead for points (14) and goals (8). The line of Jackson, Alex Smith and Brent Baltus has proven to be very consistent lately and will look to be effective against LSSU.
While the offense has been consistent and trustworthy of late, the goaltending has been anything but. Packy Munson struggled in Friday’s loss, allowing four goals on 28 shots. With his counterpart Justin Kapelmaster stopping 45 shots, Munson’s shortcomings that night were pronounced. Freshman Robbie Beydoun played on Saturday and earned his first collegiate win, playing quite well in doing so. He still has the look of a freshman learning the college game, as his rebound control and puck tracking still leave something to be desired. Beydoun battles hard, however, and plays with a desperation to keep the puck out of the net. He is fun to watch and could certainly be given another start this weekend. This is a very fluid goaltending situation and no one can say with real certainty who will be in net against the Lakers.
This is a Lake State team that really struggles to score. They average 2.22 goals per game, sixth worst in the country. Like the Huskies, they have no double-digit goal scorers but they come in with far less scoring depth. Their leading goal scorer is sophomore Max Humitz, who has eight. Only five other players have more than two goals on the year. For comparison, the Huskies have 11 such players.
Much of this team’s damage is done on the power play. 16 of their 40 goals have come from the man advantage, leading to a 20% power play that is top 25 in the nation. Senior forward J.T. Henke, who leads the team in points (5-15-20), has four power play goals. He will be the man to watch when the Huskies are killing a penalty.
The Lakers’ goaltending situation has been as bad or worse than the Huskies’. They have tried to use both freshman Mareks Mitens and senior Nick Kossoff, but neither has played all that well. It appears that Kossoff is the starter, although he got torched in their last game against MSU. When these teams faced each other in October, each goalie played once, with Mitens playing one of his best games of the year in a 2-2 draw. That success could suggest that Mitens plays against the Huskies again. Either way, MTU can reasonably believe that they will not have the weaker goaltending.
This is the second of two matchups between these teams, with the Huskies winning the first game and tying the second. Amazingly, MTU has not lost to the Lakers since January 2014. In that time, they have won 11 times and tied twice. This one-sided rivalry has serious WCHA playoff implications as the Huskies try to push towards home ice advantage in the playoffs and the Lakers, sitting in ninth place, desperately need points to avoid being eliminated before the postseason even begins.
Keys to the Game
- Stay out of the box. The only way LSSU wins this weekend is if they are given numerous powerplay opportunities. The Huskies are fast and skilled enough to avoid having to take penalties. This will come down to discipline.
- Win the goaltending battle. While the Lakers’ goalies have struggled, Mareks Mitens earned this year’s tie essentially on his own when he made 51 saves. If the Huskies goalies outplay the Lakers goalies, this will not be a close weekend.
- Finish strong. There is nothing to look towards next weekend. The Huskies do not play again until New Years Day, so anything less than a sweep will be something they have to think about and regret for two full weeks.
This feels like the kind of weekend that the Huskies should win so easily that everything is a struggle (looking at you, UAA weekend). While I think they do indeed sweep, it will not be done with the ease that Minnesota State did last week. Huskies sweep, 3-2, 5-4.
Cover photo credit Ryan Johnson.