The prolonged off-week wait is soon to be over with this upcoming weekend series between our Michigan Tech Huskies (0-2-0) and the UW Madison Badgers (3-1-0). The Badgers come off of an away single-game split, losing to Clarkston and then coming back to win against St. Lawrence. Michigan Tech is just wrapping up an off week after previously dropping both games vs. Minnesota-Duluth. Tech saw three goals over two games coming from junior Gavin Gould, freshman Andrew Bellant and sophomore Cooper Watson. The Huskies look to turn things around after showing an impressive start in Friday’s game while running out of gas on Saturday.
The Badgers are coming off of a mixed road trip where they were contained by Clarkson’s experienced defense which comprised only 2 freshmen. They connected for two goals on 28 shots while Clarkson was able to score four goals on 25 shots. Saturday’s game against St. Lawrence was a different story: the Badgers flexed some muscle, scoring seven goals on 46 shots while only allowing St. Lawrence one goal on 21 shots. Goaltenders Jack Berry and Daniel Lebedeff split the weekend games, respectively, with the switch most likely due to the initial loss. Wisconsin has a high-octane offense which has seen 19 goals in just four games played so far. Sophomore Sean Dhooghe leads the team and is tied for first in the NCAA with five goals.
Tech has their work cut out for them. The Badgers are going to be bringing the heat this weekend. Defense is going to be key to keeping shots down and containing the offensive power that Wisconsin brings to the table. Tech looks to be up to the task as seen in game one and the first period of game two against Duluth. Another wild card is who is going to be in net for the Huskies. Junior Matt Jurusik is now eligible and I wouldn’t be surprised if he were to get the start. He brings prior experience from being within the Badgers program in addition to playing in one of the largest college hockey rinks, the Kohl Center. We’ll have to see what Coach Shawhan wants to do in net. However, this series is going to boil down to whether the defense can play a full 120 minutes of shut-down hockey or if they’ll end up buckling.
Keys to the Game
- Lockdown defense. Tech has a very young defensive core, with guys having at most one year of college hockey experience under their belt. Players like Seamus Donohue, Keegan Ford, Mitch Meek, and Cooper Watson need to step up and set the tone for the what the Huskies want their defense to be this year.
- Special teams. The Badgers may be incredibly talented this season with a high offensive ceiling, but they are by no means perfect. They take penalties and that is where Tech will most likely have to strike. The Huskies need to show that they can score on the power play, and it should be an easier task than what they faced against UMD.
- Establishing a net presence. This game should give a better idea of how the Huskies perform offensively against the NCAA as a whole. The Badgers have a more similar defensive core to Tech with only two upperclassmen, not to mention they aren’t coming off of a national title. This should be the chance for the Huskies offense to let loose and see what they are capable of.
I would have to give the edge to the Badgers due to their offense alone, but after watching how Tech did against UMD in the first game I say that they end up splitting the series. Friday sees a hungry Husky team playing with the urgency they need, while Saturday sees the Badgers coming back. MTU wins 5-3, Wisconsin wins 4-1
How to Watch
Friday night’s game will be available on Fox Sports North Plus in Wisconsin and Minnesota. If you have DirecTV or Dish with a package that includes your regional sports network it is likely you’ll also be able to watch (DirecTV 668-2/Dish 412-38, 9573). Both games are also available on btn2go.com which has a paywall and finally Saturday’s game is on flohockey.tv which also has a paywall but its the same service that provides all WCHA home games so now is a great time to sign up.
Featured image courtesy of Ryan Johnson.