After being swept by the now #1 ranked Minnesota State Mavericks (8-1-1), the Michigan Tech Huskies (3-6-0) find themselves on the road in Sault Ste. Marie playing the Lake Superior State Lakers (4-8-0). The Lakers are coming off of a tough road trip, being swept by the Bemidji State Beavers (3-3-2)
This Lakers team is not the same Tech saw last year. They have had several key departures and have yet to fill the holes these players have left. These holes come in the way of five seniors; Forwards Diego Cuglietta (41 pts), Anthony Nellis (33 pts), Gage Torrel (25 pts), Defenseman Steven Ruggiero (11 pts), and net minder Nick Kossoff (17-8-2, 2.42 GAA, .918 SV%). Despite only losing five players, the Lakers find themselves a shell of their former selves. At surface level they look to have the exact opposite problem that the Huskies are having season. LSSU is all offense while having little to no defense and/or goaltending.
Looking at NCAA overall stats we find that LSSU is 9th in the country with 34 goals, but leads the NCAA in goals allowed with 50 in only 12 games (4.2 allowed goals per game average). In addition, their special teams haven’t been anything to write home about with a 11.9 PP% (46th) and 79.1 PK% (40th). They own a healthy shooting percentage of 10.5% (37th) and a very troubling 350 shots allowed on goal (4th).
In order to understand the causes behind these issues, we must first dive into LSSU’s personnel. The Lakers appear to have a top heavy top 6 with forwards Hampus Eriksson (Jr. 12 pts), Max Humitz (Sr. 11 pts), Ashton Calder (So. 11pts), Louis Boudon (Fr. 8 pts), Yuki Miura (Jr. 7 pts), and Pierre-Luc Veillette (So. 7 pts) owning 60% of the teams 95 total points. Pay close attention to these players when/if LSSU makes it on the scoreboard this weekend.
Transitioning to the blue line, we find a similar situation as Tech in that they had almost every player return with the addition of a few freshmen. Their big players so far this season are Collin Saccoman (Sr. 9 pts), William Reidell (Jr. 4 pts), and Lukas Kaelble (Jr. 4 pts). However, when it comes to defensive statistics this Laker blue line just isn’t cutting it. This is quite troubling as this is essentially the same defensive core which only allowed 93 goals just a season ago.
In net this season has been Juniors Mareks Mitens (4-6-0, 3.60 GAA, .874 SV%) and Roman Bengert (0-2-0, 6.15 GAA, .806 SV%). The most surprising result so far is Mitens’ regression compared to last season’s 6-5-0, 2.31 GAA, .919 SV%. It is hard to tell the reason behind the slumping season with the possibilities ranging from poor defensive performance to less offensive zone time as compared to last season. However, I wouldn’t necessarily put all the blame on either net minder as there are a lot of factors that we won’t know until we see them face off this weekend.
As for the Huskies, we saw a carbon copy of what happened in North Dakota. They had a hard time trying to keep up with the Mavericks in both zones. Tech’s defense continued to show that they are up to handle any team in the NCAA, while their offense continued to show the exact opposite. The mantra for this season has appeared to be a dump and chase for the Huskies offense and as of now it isn’t working. Tech doesn’t seem to have the ability to transition the puck from the neutral zone to the offense zone without making a foot race of the endeavor. This can work if our players can win the race, but as was seen for most of the weekend we could not.
The Huskies were able to keep up with the Mavericks in shots both games, but unlike the Mavericks, Techs weren’t going in. The only goal of the series was scored by Seamus Donohue who was able to find the back of the net on a weird bounce that a Maverick defenseman missed. The Huskies power play continued its struggles as well going 0/7 and now finds itself at 12.5% (44th) for the year. As far as penalty kill Tech remains in the middle of the pack giving up one goal on the weekend and has an 85.3 PK% (T-23rd) on the year.
Moving to the net we saw that Robbie Beydoun got the start Friday, but was chased out after a misplay behind the net resulted in goal #3 for the Mavericks. The result of the series would see freshman Blake Pietila get his first chance between the pipes in his college career. In Friday’s game, he would stop all 6 shots his way for the remainder of the game and as for Saturday he saw 20 shots and stopped 18 of them giving up two goals.
Keys to the Game
Offensive, Offensive, Offensive. This LSSU team gives up a lot of goals. If Tech doesn’t capitalize and prove that they are getting better than this season might as well be as good as finished.
Don’t race. Tech has had the habit of not controlling the puck and instead opting to dump it into the offensive zone. This hasn’t worked well thus far. This series should give coaches and players a chance to try other methods if so decide.
Don’t relax. Tech is the better team coming into this weekend. They have a better goal differential (19-19 vs 34-50) and better defense and goal tending. The Huskies need to stay focused and not let their guard down.
If the Huskies come out of this weekend with anything less than a sweep it is a failure. By the metrics they should at least average 3-4 goals a game. I am going to give they the benefit of the doubt due to the previous 3 opponents played in Bowling Green, North Dakota, and Minnesota State. MTU wins 4-2, MTU wins 4-1.
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 7:00 Est and game 2 will be Saturday at 7:00 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.