As they enter into the final stretch before the start of the WCHA playoffs, the Michigan Tech Huskies (16-14-3) find themselves on the road. They play the Ferris State Bulldogs (7-20-2) for a series before their season finale against the Northern Michigan Wildcats (16-10-4).
Not much has changed in the two weeks since the Huskies last saw Ferris. The Bulldogs found themselves with a bye week after losing both games to the Wildcats by a score of 5-2. Due to this, there isn’t much in the way of new information besides what we saw against the Huskies and how they did against NMU. That being said, for this preview we are going to look at something a bit different focusing more on Tech’s play over the last few weeks instead of their opponent.
To begin, let’s look back at the month of January and February as a whole. In this time span, the Huskies are 4-6-2. They have an average goals against of 2.75 and an average goals for of 2.25. This is the cause behind their recent woes regarding winning games. So let’s try to make some sense of this. The first item on the list in special teams, here we’ll look at how Tech has been on the power play and penalty kill.
The Huskies have had 48 PP opportunities since their series against Arizona State (20-9-3). Out of those 48 chances, they have five goals resulting in a conversion percentage of 10.4%. When comparing this to where they were pre-ASU, they had a PP% of 17.6%. If they managed to maintain what they had going into the new year, they would have had only 3.5 more goals which would have likely resulted in a few more wins as they tied twice and lost by one goal three different times. As far as the PK is concerned, out of 36 chances, opponents have 5 goals for a PK conversion of 86.1% where before they had a PK% of 85.2%. Collectively, Tech as a PK% of 82.4 % (T-20th) and a PP% of 15.9% (44th).
Next is goaltending. Over this new year Matt Jurusik has been the default starter up until this weekend where he was pulled after allowing two goals on seven shots to the Lakers (9-20-3). Through 11 games, he had a GAA of 1.90 making an average of 18.18 saves a game. Next is Blake Pietila who saw four games, but did not play a full 60 minutes being relieved or coming up to relieve Jurusik. Over the four games played he had a GAA of 2 averaging 10.5 saves per game. Finally, is Robbie Beydoun. He has only played one game since last starting against Minnesota State (26-4-2). He started game two of winter carnival making 39 saves while allowing three goals for the win. What all three goalie have in common is that they have been spectacular and I would make the argument that the Huskies have the best goaltending squad in the NCAA given that all three could be number one starters in their own right.
Tying all of this together gives us an explanation that you probably already knew before starting this article; The Huskies can’t score. This problem has been very consistent throughout the season. Their offensive woes have been negated a number of times by being bailed out by the netminder, but they can only do so much. The cut and dry issue is the Huskies need more offense. Everything else is there, whether it be goaltending, defense, or penalty kill.
The only exception to this trend has been this most recent showing against the Lakers where they scored 10 goals on the weekend. There was a systematic defense break down while the offense performed slightly better than average getting seven goals on the weekend. As it stands right now, it is tough to predict anything with this Huskies team. From how many goals to who will be in the net after witnessing this past weekend. All stats point to Jurusik for who should start, but after some heated exchanges between him and Coach Shawhan, I don’t know if he sees the crease again for the remainder of his time with the Huskies.
Scoring for the Huskies were Alec Broetzman (2G, 2A), Brian Halonen (2G, 2A), Colin Swoyer (1G, 1A), Logan Pietila (1G), Alex Smith (1G, 3A), Trenton Bliss (2A), Seamus Donohue (1A), Eric Gotz (1A), Parker Saretsky (1A), and Logan Ganie (1A).
Keys to the Game
- Offense First. Coach Shawhan is a defense oriented coach and there is nothing wrong with that. Goaltending and the defense is rock solid and I hope they keep up the good work, however, it has become very apparent that our offensive skills are not improving. They need to use this weekend to fix it. Regardless of if it is because of the coaching or due to the players, the time for complaining and throwing blame has long past. We don’t care who is at fault, just fix it.
- Sixty Minutes. Throughout this season another issue has been the team’s ability to keep the same amount of effort through all three periods. A lot of the time the 2nd period will see Tech struggle and cause them to fight even harder to try to pull out a win. This could be for a number of different reasons from conditioning, to players coasting. Regardless of what the reason is, let’s hope they have enough gas in the tank.
- Top Lines. The Bulldogs get most of their protection from their top line. If the Huskies can keep them in check they should be in a good spot. In addition, game 2 of carnival weekend saw Tech’s top line do most of the heavy lifting, hopefully they won’t need to have a repeat performance this weekend.
After the game one against the Lakers, I didn’t expect the Huskies to win another game for the remainder of the season. After game two my worries were amplified with barely winning in overtime. Against a weak Ferries Team that already beat us once, I see a repeat coming resulting in a split this weekend. MTU wins 3-2, FSU 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. Flo Sports now has apps for iOS, Android (with Chromecast support), Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Roku.