It’s been exactly 210 days or 30 weeks since the Huskies had their last game of 2018-19 season. After what felt like an eternity Huskies Hockey is finally back! Tech starts its 99th season on the road in Moon Township, Penn. facing the Robert Morris University (RMU) Colonials for the first time in program history. The Colonials themselves are coming off a 16-22-2 season of mixed results which saw their season ending in the semifinals of the Atlantic Hockey playoffs in an overtime loss to American International College (AIC).
The Colonials are finding themselves in a similar position as Huskies going into this season. A majority of the team is comprised of underclassmen with the added factor of the uncertainty of who is the starting netminder. Former starting goaltender Frank Marotte has transferred to Clarkson for his senior year leaving RMU with a hole between the pipes to start the season. This leaves the Colonials with Junior Dyallan Lubbesmeyer (0-0-0, 2.42 GAA, .933 SV%), Sophomore Reid Cooper (0-1-0, 6.29 GAA, .821 SV%) and newly acquired transfer Justin Kapelmaster (1-8-1, 3.52 GAA, .903 SV%) (formerly of Ferris State). The addition of Kapelmaster fills the void left by Marotte and the change in venue might be just what he needs to return to his previous performance level seen in his freshman and sophomore campaign.
Things aren’t all bleak for the Colonials, however. They have a solid core of returning veterans to bridge the gap left from losing six players due to graduation and/or transfer. Captain Luke Lynch returns for his senior year after placing second on the team in points (31 pts). In addition, returning up top are junior Nick Prkusic (23 pts), senior Daniel Manenuto (23 pts) and sophomore Nick Lalone (16 pts). They should keep the Huskies blue line busy for the entire weekend. As far as RMU’s blue line, the big-name returning player is senior Alex Robert (10 pts). Robert, senior Sean Giles (9 pts) and Junior Nick Jenny (4 pts) are the lone upperclassmen. This is very similar to Tech’s blue line in terms of composition and it will be interesting to see how the two compare as the series progresses.
Over this past week we have familiarized ourselves with this new Huskies team. There isn’t too much in the way of changeover on the blue line or in the crease but where we do find it is in the forward core. As it stands right now we can take a guess at what the lines might look like. As for the forwards look for a blend between incoming and returning players. To my knowledge, there was no intrasquad game this year so the lines are going to be up in the air until the line sheet is released on game day. On the blue line, look for Tech to have Donohue and Ford to get significant time on ice, with a mix of returning and incoming players to see what works. I would be surprised if we didn’t see differing rosters between Saturday and Sunday testing out different combinations of players and giving everyone a chance to make a name for themselves, depending on just how much of the roster traveled to Pennsylvania.
In net, my gut jumps to Jurusik. As it stands right now it is his spot to lose. However, there might be something coach Shawhan sees that I don’t, so it’s possible we see either Beydoun or Pietila in the crease. No matter who is in net this weekend, just know that the Huskies are in good hands and have the advantage compared to the Colonials.
Keys to the Game
- Start strong. This is a pivotal moment for both programs, the Huskies are going to need to start the season off strong to shake off the disappointment from last season and carry the momentum throughout this season. That being said be ready for an exciting game with a lot on the line.
- Special Teams. RMU’s top four players in terms of PIM (a total of 195 between them) all return from last season, so the Huskies’ power play needs to take advantage of this.
- Snow Ball. The Colonials are in a tough spot in terms of goaltending. Kapelmaster is definitely an upgrade over Lubbesmeyer and Cooper (they have just 11 games of combined collegiate experience). If Tech can get the ball rolling they will need to maintain or even increase the number of shots, putting pressure on RMU’s netminders.
Both teams are very similar in terms of team composition and class distribution. In the end, it really boils down to the discrepancies in net. Tech has the advantage in terms of skill and experience. If RMU wins it will be because of Kapelmaster stealing a game, otherwise I see Tech taking the sweep. MTU wins 4-2, MTU wins 2-1.
How to Watch
Both games are available through Mix 93.5 for audio featuring Dirk Hembroff (free), and via flohockey.tv* (paywall) for video. Game 1 will be Saturday at 7:05 Est and game 2 will be Sunday at 3:05 Est.
*Flohockey.tv is also the source of all games played in WCHA buildings this season so don’t be afraid to sign up for a month or the year for flohockey. Flo Sports now has apps for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku.
Featured Image courtesy of Bob Gilreath