The Michigan Tech Huskies (15-13-5) get a week off from WCHA play when they host the Arizona State Sun Devils (7-18-5) in non-conference play. MTU just won their own Winter Carnival with a decisive win over Bemidji State on Saturday while ASU comes in after a pair of tough overtime losses to Yale.
This weekend can only be seen as a tune-up series for the final weekend of WCHA games and the subsequent tournament. The Huskies have a chance to put together a nice stretch of games before the playoffs, so strong showing against Arizona State could build plenty of confidence. Plus, the Huskies have revenge in mind: The Sun Devils defeated them in Las Vegas earlier this year.
MTU struggled to generate shots against a stingy BSU defense last week, something that contributed to their inability to come from behind to win on Friday night. Saturday, they got ahead and stayed there off the back of a pair of power play goals in the second period. This weekend, they should have more time with the puck, more scoring opportunities, and more power plays to work with. If the Huskies carry through what they did on Saturday, this weekend will not be a problem.
Junior forward Jake Lucchini continued to stay hot by picking up a goal and an assist on the weekend, stretching his scoring streak to four games. Even more notably, senior Joel L’Esperance, who has been one of the bigger disappointments this year, tallied three points, all assists. He has five points in the last three games, and him getting hot down the stretch and into the playoffs makes the Tech lineup so much scarier. While he did not match the expectations from the beginning of the year, everyone would forget that if he goes on a tear in February and into March.
On the other end of the ice, well, there is not much left to say. After dominating against Bowling Green, freshman goalie Robbie Beydoun did not play well in Friday’s game. Junior Devin Kero played Saturday and played so well that he won the Winter Carnival MVP even though he appeared in just one game. At this point, Head Coach Joe Shawhan is better off rolling an actual die to pick his starting netminder than trying to figure out who is going to play well any given night. I am done trying to make suggestions in net as well. It has been a frustrating year between the pipes to say the least.
Pivoting for a minute, MTU is going to face a team who has played much better than their current five-game losing streak would suggest. Three of those games were decided by one goal, including the two in overtime last week. ASU struggles to score more than anything: their defense and goaltending have been quite serviceable. Sophomore Joey Daccord has had a solid season, and was the winning goalie against MTU in January. Expect him in net this weekend.
The Sun Devils have few offensive weapons, but the aptly named Johnny Walker does have double digit goals and is a definite threat on the power play. While their special teams are not great, their penalty kill does enough to keep them in many games. This team is not one of the better teams MTU has faced this year, but we have seen enough to know that Tech often struggles against lesser competition and Arizona State knows how to beat MTU. This may not be as simple a weekend as it seems.
Keys to the Game
- Take the weekend and ASU seriously. In all honesty, the results of this weekend mean nothing. Tech is not in the hunt for an at-large bid, so the most important games are taking place in Bemidji this weekend. For Tech to avoid embarrassment this weekend, they need to find a way to get up for these games.
- Stop listening to me about the goaltending. Trying to figure out the goalies is like trying to predict the end of the world: everyone does it and we all look dumb. It’s blind luck at this point.
- Do whatever possible to be prepared for next week with Northern. No stupid penalties resulting in suspensions, hope that major injuries can be avoided, and get everyone’s confidence up in preparation for the end of the season.
I think Michigan Tech comes ready to play this weekend even while keeping one eye on the out of town scoreboard. With the talent disparity and Tech feeling good about their game right now, they should dominate the flow of the game which is always fun for the players. As long as they can avoid getting frustrated by ASU, they should be fine. Tech sweeps, 5-2, 4-3.
Cover photo credit Ryan Johnson.