In what was a not so great outcome in Grand Forks against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks (5-1-1), the Michigan Tech Huskies (3-4-0) find themselves at home against their toughest opponents yet: The Minnesota State Mavericks (5-1-1). The Mavericks are coming off of a home series split against the Bowling Green Falcons (5-4-0).
The Mavericks find themselves in a very good spot this season. Their main core of players are currently in their junior or senior years with the team. However, the Mavericks have managed to have several underclassmen slot in with their older counterparts resulting in scary offensive potential. The leaders are a mix of all class years with freshman Lucas Sowder and senior Marc Michaelis tied 9 pts to top the team. They mimic a lot of what the Huskies saw in North Dakota in that they have a very deep team offensive with 10 players having five or more points (The Huskies have only three). The main difference between the Mavericks and the Fighting Hawks is offensive volume. They have more points and their power play has been very effective with a 23.5 PP% (16th).
In addition to offensive, the Mavericks are managing a very strong blue line. They have a good distribution of classes with Junior Connor Mackey and senior Ian Scheid leading defensemen with 6 points. The Mavericks have been slightly less effective on the PK than UND with a 93.5 PK% (9th). They deviate from UND when it comes to shots allowed on goal with 189 (25th), the Huskies have actually a (slightly) better result with 180 (T-21st). Though this doesn’t seem to be an issue with Sophomore Dryden McKay (5-1-1, 1.54 GAA, .937 SV%) in the crease.
Mckay has been arguably the strongest player on the Mavericks this season. He has allowed more than one goal only twice this season after seven games played, resulting in a loss and a tie against Bowling Green and North Dakota, respectively. This is very consistent with how the Mavericks played last year, giving very little up to the opponent while running up the score. As far as who starts, I would look to Mckay to begin the weekend and depending how Friday goes we might see freshman Jaxson Stauber (1-0-0, 1.00 GAA, .933 SV%). Stauber saw action against Alabama-Huntsville (0-8-0) in game two as Coach Mike Hastings was most likely trying to rest Mckay while giving Stauber some experience.
Moving over to our Huskies, we find them coming home from a mixed weekend in North Dakota. This game saw a change in personnel with juniors Mitch Meek and Marcus Russell slotted in. Senior Matt Jurusik did not traveling with Coach Shawhan opting for junior Robbie Beydoun to start with freshman Blake Pietila as the backup. The Huskies managed to start the scoring with junior Justin Misak notching his first goal of the season assisted by senior Alex Smith (4 pts) and sophomore Brian Halonen (4 pts). Unfortunately, this was the only offense that the Huskies would see the entire game.
Tech found its defense being tested all night due to taking penalties. This lead to UND having a big advantage in offensive zone time over the Huskies. Luckily the Huskies were up to the challenge for most of the night not giving up a single power play point in five chances. Tech’s blue line finally found itself outmatched in the third period surrendering a 4-on-4 goal. This ended up being all that was needed due to Tech’s inability to get much in the way of offensive pressure, being limited to 15 shots for the night. Beydoun patrolled the crease and looked very strong. He surrendered two goals on 23 shots while making some impress saves during UND’s extended stay in their offensive zone.
The biggest take away from this single game series would be that the Huskies are on the edge of being able to compete with any team in the NCAA. They are starting to have the defensive ability to lock down teams when needed, but the one factor keeping these Huskies from being a winning team is their lack of offense.
The Huskies currently have a PP% of 15.2 (34th) and a PK% of 86.7 (T-21st).
Keys to the Game
Wait to strike. In both games where the Mavericks gave up two or more goals, those chances came later in the game. If Tech wants a chance, it’s going to come in the second or third period.
Stay out of the box. This is going to be a key issue this series. Tech has been a physical team this season (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) but they can’t afford to give Minnesota State the chances on the power play.
Any offensive is better than no offensive. Watching their last game against UND, Tech was out-classed in the offensive zone. They need to be able to maintain pressure and try to stick to the basics. The more attempts they can generate, the better the chance of something slipping through Mckay.
I am not going to sugar coat this, I think we are going to get swept by the Mavericks. After watching the Huskies this season we have definitely been making progress, but I don’t think we are at a level where we can compete with a top five team in the NCAA. Mankato wins 3-0, Mankato 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 6:07 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.