The Michigan Tech Huskies (13-9-5) finish January with a road series against the Ferris State Bulldogs (10-17-1). The Huskies finished off a season sweep of Alaska last weekend to stay in the hunt for home ice in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. Ferris State needs points to hold off the bottom of the conference to even make the playoffs. With a tough February upcoming, Tech desperately needs six more points this weekend.
MTU had one of their strongest weekends of the year against Alaska, outplaying the Nanooks in just about every facet of the game. Friday night was an especially strong performance, scoring early and never trailing in the game before piling on in the third period to pull away from UAF. Freshman defenseman Mitch Meek had the first multi-goal game of his career and goaltender Devin Kero made 29 saves in the first of two victories on the weekend for him.
Saturday’s game was a bit more of a struggle with Tech finding it hard to generate shots (only 24) but a late goal by Joel L’Esperance saved the day for the Huskies—the kind of goal they have seemed to not be able to find so often this year. There was quite a bit of resiliency shown this weekend by MTU, which, hopefully, is a sign of good things to come as the competition becomes stronger.
If there was one negative this weekend, it would be a renewed penalty problem. The Huskies took ten minor penalties and Mitch Reinke was ejected in the first period for checking from behind (a five-minute major and a game misconduct). Alaska capitalized on that penalty and most good teams will do so as well. The Huskies need to play more disciplined in the coming month if they are to make a comeback in the WCHA standings.
Ferris State finishes a two-weekend homestand against Tech after losing both of the first two games to Bemidji State, scoring just one goal in the process. Their goaltending was a mixed bag, with Darren Smith stopping 44 of 46 shots to keep FSU in Friday’s 2-0 loss. Justin Kapelmaster played the following night, allowing three goals on 29 shots, two of which came on the power play. Both goaltenders are capable of either posting a shutout and getting pulled in the first period, so there is no way to predict Ferris’ Jekyll-and-Hyde goaltending situation.
On the offensive side, Ferris State is led by senior forward Mitch Maloney. He has 12 goals and 19 points in his best season to date. The Bulldogs have a poor power play, scoring less than 15% of the time, which limits their ability to take advantage of Michigan Tech’s propensity to take penalties. With a lack of scoring depth, FSU is in the bottom ten nationally in goals per game.
This has been an incredibly even matchup over the last few years, with MTU and FSU splitting the last 16 games evenly. They split a series already this year in early December in Houghton.
Keys to the Game
- Limit Mitch Maloney. Maloney went pointless against Bemidji, something that I think contributed greatly to the Beavers’ success last weekend. If Tech can contain him, they should find Ferris State struggling to score.
- Draw penalties. The Bulldogs have been nearly as bad as the Huskies on the penalty kill this year, so the easiest way to win might be to pop in a few power play goals. That was Bemidji’s blueprint last week, and it is hard not to suggest following exactly what they did when they outscored Ferris 6-1 in two games.
- Control the pace. It seems that MTU has struggled against some weaker teams this year (UAA, Arizona State) because of their inability to dictate the flow of the game. If they can do that against Ferris State, their edge in talent should deliver six points.
Michigan Tech played well last weekend and are fully aware of just how important getting these six points is for their future in the WCHA playoffs. I think they get the job done, albeit with more of a struggle than Bemidji State. Tech sweeps, 2-1, 4-2.
Cover photo credit Bob Gilreath.