After a much needed week off the Michigan Tech Huskies (2-2-0) find themselves in Bowling Green, Ohio facing off against the Bowling Green State University Falcons (3-2-0). Tech last played the University of Alaska Fairbanks (3-3-0) where they were no match for the Nanooks resulting in a sweep. The Falcons find themselves in their first conference match up after sweeping the Western Michigan Broncos (1-2-1).
This is the Falcons first season after losing head coach Chris Bergeron to the Miami RedHawks (1-3-1). Taking over the program is former assistant coach Ty Eigner, who coached under Bergeron from 2010-2019. The Falcons have found themselves in a position of uncertainty when it comes to their playing consistency so far this season. After taking a decisive 7-4 victory against Miami, they fell to both the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) (3-1-0) and Western Michigan while hosting this year’s annual Ice Breaker Tournament in nearby Toledo. The following weekend saw a rematch against the Broncos where the Falcons regained their composure and took both games. One thing looks to be certain for the Falcons: they are almost guaranteed to get two goals a game. They have done exactly that in four out of the five games played this season with the single Miami game being the only exception.
Adjusting our analysis to their personnel we notice that the Falcons lost 6 seniors to graduation in addition to losing two very key players to the ECHL and AHL. Both Ryan Bednard (Greenville Swamp Rabbits) and Lukas Craggs (Milwaukee Admirals) have forgone their senior seasons leaving the Falcons with big holes to fill. Lucky though, the Falcons have the answer to at least the loss of Bednard with junior net minder Eric Dop (3-2-0, 2.61 GAA, .898 SV%). Though his first two seasons he has shown that if not for Bednard’s rise to prominence he would have held the starting job for the Falcons. Due to the season just starting we have a limited sample size of data on Dop. Three of the five games have been against one opponent and he has yet to play any teams in the WCHA. He will look to carry his non-conference performance over to conference play where the Huskies will be his first test.
Looking to last year’s results we find that against WCHA teams Dop holds a 5-2-1 record were four games were shutouts. Narrowing our focus to games he played against Tech we find one played last January where he allowed two goals on 36 shots for a 3-2 win against the Huskies. Which is comparable to what was seen the past weekend where he only surrendered two goals to the Broncos all weekend on a combined total of 60 shots over both games.
The Falcons do find themselves in a precarious position however, five of their seven top scorers have returned combining for a staggering total of 164 pts (taking the same statistic yields 87 pts for the Huskies). They are led by junior forwards Max Johnson (44 pts 18’-19’, 3 pts 19’-20’), Brandon Kruse (40 pts 18’-19’, 1 pt 19’-20’), Connor Ford (33 pts 18’-19’, 3 pts 19’-20’), and Cameron Wright (20 pts 18’-19’, 5 pts 19’-20’); with senior Alec Rauhauser (26 pts 18’-19’, 6 pts 19’-20’) rounding out the group. Comparing this year to last year we find a significant drop in points were five games in yielded a 5.2 goal per game average compared to a 3 goals per game average for this current season.
Moving to special teams the Falcons own a 15.4 PP% (T-25th) and a 90.0 PK% (16th) through their first five games. However, when looking at how the Falcons have been playing things trend toward a worse picture. This is because out of the five games the Falcons hold 30 penalties leading to an average of six per game (again applying this same statistic Huskies given four games played results in 22 penalties which averages to 5.5 a game). This upcoming series will say a lot regarding special teams and as to whether or not penalties will become a bigger issue later this season for either team.
Finally, we must address one final topic in that this will be the first time former Huskies Gavin Gould’s new team will play the Huskies. There isn’t much known at this time regarding his eligibility to play in this series, and we won’t know for sure until game time this weekend, but it’s unlikely he plays for BGSU this season. One thing is for sure though, if he is in the lineup for the Falcons, look for number 12 on the ice to follow how he performs with his new team.
The Huskies are coming off a bye week after being swept by the Nanooks. The Huskies found themselves to be no match for UAF as their puck trapping foiled Tech’s dump and chase when trying to enter the offensive zone. The weekend saw very little in terms of puck control for the Huskies in addition to no success on the power despite the Nanooks taking 16 penalties for a total of 43 minutes of time in the penalty box over both games. Thankfully, as each game progressed the Huskies looked to settle down and regain their composure. Sadly, it was too late for them to come back to try and steal a game out from under the Nanooks.
Transitioning to some positives from the series, freshman Logan Pietila led the team in scoring over the weekend with a goal (shorthanded) and an assist while sophomores Tommy Parrottino and Brian Halonen both had goals. Freshman Parker Saretsky continued his hot start by tallying his 5th point of the season joined by sophomores Colin Swoyer and Trenton Bliss all collecting a point each (via assist).
Moving into the crease we saw Matt Jurusik start both games, but only finished Friday’s game after being replaced by Robbie Beydoun in the second period of Saturday’s game. Both Jurusik and Beydoun performed well keeping the Huskies in each game. However, due to Tech’s poor showing in the offensive zone, their performances were in vain. Moving forward expect either of them to get the start with a higher chance Coach Shawhan goes back to Jurusik due to his numbers in the first four games.
This season is still very young just like this Huskies team so there is still time for them to grow and show that they are ready for the challenges that lay ahead as the season doesn’t get any easier. If we see the same Huskies of two weeks ago against Bowling Green and North Dakota for the Hall of Fame Game, then this season may start to look really long and unpleasant.
Keys to the Game
- Offensive Rhythm. The Falcon’s main prerogative is to keep Tech under two goals per game this weekend. Their last four games have seen 2 goals per game for Bowling Green, so if Tech wants to have any chance at taking at least one game then they will need to manage 3 or more goals in each contest.
- Special Teams. Though Tech has played relatively clean hockey so far this season they should see this series as a chance to capitalize on the Falcon’s physicality and mistakes. The Huskies currently own a PP% of 13.6 (T-30) and a PK% of 94.7 (7th). Don’t let that PK% number confuse you though as Robert Morris and Alaska don’t have the highest power-play numbers at 14.8% (29th) and 3.1% (49th).
- Puck Control. The Huskies will need to manage the puck better in the defensive zone, but more importantly the offensive zone to find any success for the rest of this season. Their zone penetration was countered almost perfectly by the Nanooks. They need to be able to change and adapt their play style on the fly to hopefully not be as easily contained.
This is going to be a tough matchup for the Huskies. Bowling Green appears to have lost some offensive effectiveness even though most of their offensive potential is still there. However, that could change this weekend and Tech will have to be up to the challenge. Dop is also a very good net minder and can easily steal a game regardless if the Falcons can score. Personally I see anything less than a split as unacceptable if Tech wants to prove that they can play good hockey this season. As a result, I’m choosing just that, if the Huskies can manage at least one game were they can dictate the pacing then there’s a gleam of hope for the rest of this 2019-2020 season. MTU wins 3-1, BGSU 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 Friday at 7:07 Est and game 2 will be Saturday at 7:07 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.