After a sweep of rival Northern Michigan (7-5-2), our Michigan Tech Huskies (7-6-0) find themselves up in Fairbanks, Alaska this thanksgiving for a rematch against the University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks (8-8-0). The Nanooks are coming off of a home series that resulted in a split with the Ferris State Bulldogs (4-9-0).
The Nanooks have surprised a lot of people with their performance so far this season. Since sweeping the Huskies in week two of play they have found themselves splitting with every team they have played regardless of rank or position in the standings. This is very impressive, but carries a bit of skepticism of how good these Nanooks actually are. Splitting with teams like Penn State (10-3-0) and Arizona State (6-4-0) show that they have promise, but then splitting with Alaska-Anchorage (2-8-2) and Ferris States gives the impression that maybe this Alaska team isn’t as consistent as everyone thinks.
Moving to personnel, we see that a majority of the production has been coming from upperclassmen: Max Newton (Jr. 10 pts), Colton Leiter (Sr. 8 pts), and Justin Young (Jr. 8 pts). The exception to this is Sophomore Chris Jandric leading underclass by a wide margin with 7 points (Freshman Filip Fornåå Svensson comes in second with 3 points). Over these last six weeks, the Nanooks have been winning on the back of their older players while the younger ones seem to simply be along for the ride. Look for the top lines consisting of Newton, Leiter, Young, and the Jandric brothers to be producing most of the offense.
The blue line looks to have continued where the left off since Tech played them last. They are very physical team leading the NCAA in penalties with 108 (6.75 per game). They are also a slower team which results in opponents getting a lot of shots on goal with 423 (9th). However, both goaltenders, Anton Martinsson (Sr, 5-4-0, 2.36 GAA, .923 SV%) and Gustavs Grigals (So, 3-4-0, 2.64 GAA, .881 SV%), have been up to the task of keeping the Nanooks in each game.
One final thing to note about Alaska is that they are on the cusp of being very good offensively. They are 11th in the nation with 423 shots on goal, but these shots are not going in the net resulting a 7.1% (53rd) shooting percentage. In addition, their special teams aren’t great with an 8.3 PP% (56th) and 83.6 PK% (T-23rd).
The Huskies found themselves sweeping the Wildcats by a score of 3-2 both games. Game one saw a comeback win with Parker Saretsky, Colin Swoyer, and Brian Halonen each notching a goal. Game two saw a continuation of the end of game one with the Huskies taking an early lead and never giving it up. Scoring for the Huskies were Raymond Brice, Alec Broetzman, and Eric Gotz. Those with assists on the weekend were Alec Broetzman, Parker Saretsky (x2), Alex Smith, Eric Gotz, Seamus Donohue (x2), Greyson Reitmeier, Logan Pietila, and Brian Halonen.
Matt Jurusik started both nights and stood strong in game one to give the Huskies a chance to comeback. In game two, he essentially repeated the previous performance against LSSU stealing the game against a Wildcat team pressuring throughout the 3rd period. The Wildcats were visually frustrated by Tech’s defense and Jurusik’s performance.
Tempers finally bowled over with Sophomore Griffin Loughran starting a line brawl with 1.2 seconds left resulting in 17 penalties. Loughran also tried to start the Wildcat’s foray into D-I diving after a few questionable falls. This resulted in an official review looking for a penalty after the second Wildcat goal. Lucky for the Huskies, nothing came from this, but their next match up in February will be interesting.
The Huskies have a 14.3 PP% (T-42) and an 88.6 PK%(T-9th)
Keys to the Game
- Special Teams. The Nanooks still take a lot of penalties. Tech will get some power play time and they will need to capitalize on it. So far this season, a good amount of goals against the Nanooks have come from special teams (24%).
- Split the Difference. The odds that Tech split with the Nanooks is very high. Either both games are going to be close (see Ferris, Northern, and Tech series) or one game is going to be lopsided with the other one being a close game with the opposite result (see ASU, Bemidji, UAA, Penn State, and Denver series).
- 120 Minutes of Play. The Huskies need to play a full two games worth of hockey. In addition, they need to be better when playing with a lead. As seen with game two against both LSSU and NMU, they don’t look comfortable maintaining a lead. They need to be able to settle down and stay composed.
This is going to be a tough series for the Huskies. This weekend, Tech has to deal with the most difficult away trip journey college hockey has to offer. In addition, the Nanooks will be well rested after playing Ferris at home. Lucky, the Olympic ice looks to be a non-factor after seeing how Tech performed at the Berry Events Center. This is going to be a battle of defense between these two teams with Tech having an edge on paper. That being said, it could just as easily end in a split due to how Alaska has played thus far. I think the Huskies have learned their lesson from their last meet up and will not make the same mistakes. MTU wins 4-2, MTU wins 3-2.
The guys on our Chasing MacNaughton Podcast also made predictions this weekend for MTU @ Alaska, along with two big WCHA non-conference series, BGSU vs Notre Dame and Minnesota State @ UMD. Check it out below or for more info on the episode including when the predictions start, go to our episode liner notes.
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 11:07 Est and game 2 will be Saturday at 11:07 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.