The Huskies (13-11-3) find themselves in a new season low. After only managing one conference point for the second straight weekend they are now do or die. They currently stand in 6th place with 26 points a full seven points behind Northern Michigan (13-8-3) who currently holds the last home ice playoff spot. In the national lens they are at 22nd in the pairwise with a very unlikely chance of qualifying for an at large bid. This weekend they face off against the Ferris State Bulldogs (6-17-2) who are looking to take control of the last available playoff spot from Alaska-Anchorage (4-14-4) currently four points ahead of them.
We have already seen Ferris in action this season via GLI, but not against the Huskies. They are not seeing the same success that found them in the early to mid-2010s under head coach Bob Daniels. Since 2016 there has been a steady decline in performance. Looking to the current team we find no exception to this trend as they trail the Huskies on all fronts. The most worrisome issue is the lack of offensive production by the underclassmen and the team as a whole.
Currently the Bulldogs have seven players with double digit point totals (Tech has nine). Out of the seven players there are only two underclassmen in Jake Willet (Fr. D, 18 pts) and Blake Evennou (Fr. D, 13 pts). Oddly enough four of seven players are defensemen. This would explain the other issue the Bulldogs have in that they aren’t scoring much. They are averaging 2.28 goals per game while allowing 3.64 goals with a defensive core that is more offensively oriented. When looking at special teams we see almost identical stats to Tech with a 16.3 PP% (T-41st) and 80.4 PK% (37th) compared to the Huskies’ 17.5 PP% (34th) & 80.7 PK% (T-33rd).
Goaltending has changed much since GLI with the Bulldogs opting for a three-man rotation with Austin Shaw (Sr. 3-6-1, 2.74 GAA, .902 SV%), Carter McPhail (Fr. 1-6-1, 3.74 GAA, .886 SV%), and Roni Salmenkangas (So. 2-5-0, 4.01 GAA, .867 SV%). Shaw has seen the most playing time with 12 games followed by McPhail and Salmenkangas tied with 9 games. I would expect Shaw to get the nod for this series as he has the most success, but expect for his leash to be short if he starts to slip up.
Meanwhile the Huskies find themselves trying to figure out what already appeared to be solved problem in taking more than one point in league play. Luckily they have one last chance with their hardest opponent being Northern in the season finale. This coming Friday should be the beginning of an eight game winning streak with anything less than that being considered a failure.
Against Bemidji we saw a regression from our normal offensive output with only two goals being scored, both by Alec Broetzman. Notching assists on the weekend were Alex Smith, Colin Swoyer, Tyler Rockwell, and Logan Ganie. The offensive production will have to turn around if the Huskies want to have any chance at winning in the games to come.
For goaltending the weekend opened with Blake Pietila who was chased out in game one after giving up three goals on 17 shots. Matt Jurusik would find himself in net the remainder of the weekend allowing two goals on 30 shots. I would expect to see him starting this weekend.
Keys to the Game
- High Intensity. The Huskies need to start putting pressure on their opponents earlier in games. They have been just scraping by for the past two weeks and need to keep the stakes high and not let up. As Coach Shawhan mentions regular, pressuring the opponent and making them uncomfortable is important.
- Power Forward. The Bulldogs give up a lot of goals. Currently they have a 3.64 goals against per game average. If Tech takes the lead they need to keep challenging the Bulldog’s defense and goaltending no matter how far ahead they are.
- Adapt. After watching the last four games the Huskies have found themselves slow to adapt to the play style of their opponent. They’re dump and chase mentality seems to be a thing of the past. However, currently they appear to have a pass first mentality now that is just as frustrating to watch. They need to be able to make the needed changes so that they can keep their opponents off balance.
This should be an easier weekend. The Huskies are the favorites, and the Bulldogs shouldn’t put much of a fight up, though don’t be surprised if Tech does collapse. After hearing what Coach Shawhan had to say about the recent performances I think the Huskies have learned their lesson. MTU wins 4-2, MTU wins 4-2.
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. Flo Sports now has apps for iOS, Android (with Chromecast support), Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Roku.