Editor’s Note: Our apologies for the delay in publishing this piece. Series Preview articles are intended to be published the day a series begins before puck drop. Tech Hockey Guide is a volunteer run effort and our editorial staff was unable to review this article before puck drop last night.
After an unplanned bye week due to an unexpected Covid-19 outbreak at Northern Michigan (0-0-0), the Michigan Tech Huskies (0-1-1) look to turn around a disappointing season opener against the Lakers (3-0-1) by playing the Minnesota State Mavericks (1-0-0) in the Huskies’ 2020 home opener. The Mavericks find themselves on the tail end of a Covid-19 shut down where in they had only played one game winning 5-0 against the Bemidji State Beavers (0-1-0).
Out of the gates the Mavericks were picked to finish 1st in the WCHA and it’s hard to disagree. They hold one of the best offenses in the entire NCAA with the likes of Lucas Sowder (31 pts in 2019), Nathan Smith (27 pts in 2019) and Dallas Gerads (25 pts in 2019). The scariest part about this team is that in their first game this season none of their returning top 3 scored a goal showing how truly deep this team is. However, there is a silver lining for us non-Maverick fans with the departure of their senior class: the loss of a 159 pts or ~37%. With the loss of Marc Michaelis (44 pts), Parker Tuomie (37 pts), Charlie Gerard (30 pts), Ian Scheid (22pts), Nicholas Rivera (13 pts) and Edwin Hookenson (13 pts). This class in particular has ravaged the WCHA for the past four years and I think opposing teams and fans are happy to see them take the next step in their careers.
However, the Mavericks still hold onto in my opinion one of the best (if not the best) player in all of college hockey with Jr. Goaltender Dryden Mckay (30-4-2, 1.31 GAA, .942 SV% last season). He continues to embarrass teams regardless of what conference they are in. Whether or not the Huskies have a shot at winning a game this weekend will depend on how they can attack the net and try to get past him.
Meanwhile, the Huskies found themselves disappointing a lot of fans two weeks ago, tying game one and losing game two. Both games were close with game two seeing an empty netter to inflate the score a bit. The Huskies were able to maintain a good defensive presence in front of Mark Sinclair all weekend only allowing only 42 shots all weekend. Sadly, when we look to their offensive performance, we see why they end up being the losers. The Huskies managed to put 49 shots on netminder Mareks Mitens and Seth Eisele throughout the entire weekend. Only one managed to go in with Eric Gotz scoring on the power play from Trenton Bliss and Brenden Datema. Other than that, the Huskies offense was nowhere to be found.
The Lakers we just better in almost every single facet. They played harder, seemed to be coach better, and just flat out had more effort on both end of the ice. The team that wanted it more took it and, in this match up, it just happened to be the Lakers. This isn’t to say the Huskies can’t turn things around or won’t, but it does raise some concerns about whether or not these incredibly talented group of players want to win.
Keys to the Game
- Conditioning. The one major upside the Huskies have that the Mavericks don’t is conditioning. During their Covid-19 lockdown the Mavericks where prevented from practicing and had lost games due to cancelations or rescheduling. The Huskies on the other hand have been able to practice the entire two weeks since their last match up.
- 5 on 5. All five goals scored for the Mavericks this season were even strength. This forces Tech to have to be up to snuff matching or exceeding the effort put forth by the Mavericks.
- Buying into the system. These Huskies players need to play with urgency and determination. It will be up to Coach Shawhan to pull this out of his players.
Given the current situation, I honestly give Tech the lead when it comes to game one due to their condition and the ability to practice for the past two weeks. What turned into a for sure sweep for the Mavericks will likely turn into a split. MTU wins 3-2, Mankato wins 2-0.
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 Sunday at 6:07 EST and game 2 will be Monday at 5:07 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.