In a very familiar ending to last year’s season the Michigan Tech Huskies (19-15-3) find themselves again as the 6th seed playing against the 3rd seed team. However, unlike last season, the 3rd seed team is none other than Northern Michigan (18-14-4). This leads to a very rare non-home-and-home series between the two UP rivals.
In their meeting this last week, we saw both teams spoil senior night for each other. On Friday night, Tech blow open the Wildcats winning 8-4. NMU returned the favor on Saturday night with a late goal in the third period after Logan Pietila was unable to score on a great chance with the Wildcats net minder out of position. Darien Craighead would score on a 2 on 1 rush that would beat Huskies goaltender Matt Jurusik.
This past weekend saw the Huskies lose a chance at home ice in the playoffs given the results of the Bowling Green (19-13-4) vs Alabama-Huntsville (2-26-6) and the Alaska (16-13-5) vs Alaska-Anchorage (4-23-7). Even if Tech swept, they would still be on the road. Instead of facing Northern, they would have faced Bowling Green, which would have made for harder travel to a rink where they haven’t had much success in recent years.
Given all possible postseason outcomes short of playing at the MacInnes, playing a series at Northern looks to be one of the best scenarios for the Huskies, as their performance at the Berry Events center this season has been good. In addition, if we look at the Huskies’ record, at home home they are 5-9-2 while their record on the road and at neutral sites is 12-6-1. This leads to a reasonable claim that it might be a good thing that the Huskies are going to be playing on the road. All season long, they have performed significantly better on the larger Olympic sheet of ice, so look for Northern’s sheet to be more helpful instead of a hindrance. They are currently 3-1 on the Olympic ice, with the one loss coming from Alaska. On the flip side, the Wildcats are 9-8-1 at home.
Given the circumstances that the Huskies face for this coming weekend, I see them having a good chance at taking the series, though it will be tough.
Keys to the Game
- Clean Play. There are differing opinions on whether or not Ford should have gotten a major penalty during Saturday’s game. Regardless of who is right, Tech needs to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
- Space. Part of the Huskies’ success during Friday’s game was how the Wildcats gave up a lot of ice. This allowed the Huskies to make passes, take shots, and make plays. If they can manage to do this again, Tech should see a similar level of success.
- Momentum. Tech is going to need to set the pace of series and keep throughout the entire weekend. This will make or break the Huskies as when they lose control of the pace they normally lose control of the game as well
I think Tech is still the favorite to win the series. However, we shouldn’t take NMU for granted as they can win games. Kent will most likely be in net again, but it’s unclear which version we’ll see. I see the series going to three games with Tech taking it. MTU wins 3-2, NMU wins 4-1, MTU wins 4-2.
How to Watch
All 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, game 2 will be Saturday at 6:07 EST, and game 3 (if necessary) will be Sunday 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.