The Michigan Tech Huskies (3-3-0)—coming off of a series sweep against the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers (0-10-0)—are looking to continue their winning streak this upcoming weekend in Big Rapids against the Ferris State Bulldogs (4-4-0). This series will put the Huskies in just their second WCHA series of the season and push them over the halfway mark of this four-series, eight-game road trip.
The Bulldogs find themselves at .500 so far this season after recently splitting with the Michigan State Spartans (4-2-0). Ferris has seen their fair share of difficulties to start the year, with junior goaltender Justin Kapelmaster minding the net in all four losses while posting a 4.44 GAA and .877 save percentage. Kapelmaster has not seen the success of his previous two seasons. While in game one against the Spartans Kapelmaster had to leave due to a lower-body injury. However, the Bulldog freshman Roni Salmenkangas (4-0) has seen a fantastic start to his collegiate career with 1.8 GAA and .927 save percentage. This includes the win over the Spartans, who have found themselves on the upswing from the past couple of seasons. This Ferris State team has experience with only five freshmen joining their efforts this year, making them a threat every night they take the ice both in physical presence and on the score sheet.
Tech is coming off of a strong series against the Chargers where they won both games, finishing 2-1 and 4-1, respectively. Junior goaltender Matt Jurusik only allowed two goals on 40 shots, improving to 3-1 with a 2.50 GAA and .907 save percentage. On the offensive side, Tech was able to net six goals on 69 shots while going two-for-nine on the powerplay (28.57%, 7th in the nation). This was a particularly good series for senior Jake Lucchini who saw a three-point night on Saturday with two goals and an assist. Additionally, the Huskies’ defense gave a strong showing and even got better as the weekend progressed. They allowed only one power play goal in six chances, improving their penalty kill (70.83%, 54th in the nation). This was a good step in the right direction and hopefully marks the turning point for this group of young defensemen.
Keys to the Game
- Instability. Ferris is going to be one of the best measurements of how the Huskies will perform against the WCHA as a whole. That being said, the Bulldogs have seen some inconsistency and unpredictability in their defense and goaltending. Tech will have to capitalize on this, especially if sophomore goaltender Cullen Barber finds himself guarding the net for his first collegiate start.
- Special Teams. This is beginning to sound like a broken record this season, but the Bulldogs play a physical game. They take penalties and, as a result, Tech will have to take advantage and strike on Salmekangas if they aren’t able to make anything happen during five-on-five play. However, special teams include the Huskies’ penalty kill units this week. With one of the lowest PK% in the NCAA, it will be crucial to continue and improve upon last weekend’s efforts and not allow Ferris any ground.
- Momentum. The Huskies will need to carry their success from Huntsville into Big Rapids. The offense saw a big gain on Saturday while the defense looked to have gained much-needed stamina and confidence. Finally, after last weekend’s performance, Jurusik looks to be the starter Tech needs and will most likely get the starts unless Coach Shawhan sees otherwise.
This will be one of the best measuring sticks the Huskies will have to see how they stack up to a majority of the WHCA teams. I see Tech sweeping the series, but it’ll be closer and more physical than we’ll like. MTU wins 3-2, MTU wins 4-3.
How to Watch
Both games are available through Mix 93.5 for audio featuring Dirk Hembroff (Free), and via flohockey.tv for video feating Harrlson Watt (Paywall).