Every season there are one or two teams that I take the time and effort to give you a glance into why I think they are overrated. Last season it was Clarkson (9-6-3) and the year before it was NMU. This season’s candidate is Bowling Green so sit back and relax as I tell you my reasoning as to why the Falcons aren’t as good as everyone says.
After a weekend of writing one preview and getting a totally different series we find the Michigan Tech Huskies (8-3-1) in Bowling Green Ohio to face the Falcons (12-4-0). The Huskies are coming off a non-conference sweep of the Northern Michigan Wildcats (2-10-0), while the Falcons are back at home after getting sweep on the road at Bemidji State (5-4-2).
The Falcons find themselves in a great place this season. They have a strong senior forward core lead by the likes of Brandon Kruse (F, 21 pts), Cameron Wright (F, 19 pts), Connor Ford (F, 17 points), Max Johnson (F, 14pts), and Gavin Gould (F, 11pts). On the blueline we see a mix of juniors and seniors led Will Cullen (Jr. D, 16pts). In net both sophomore Zack Rose (6-1-0, 1.44 GAA, .935 SV%) and senior Eric Dop (8-3-0, 2.01 GAA, .934 SV%) have been what Blake Pietila and Mark Sinclair have been to the Huskies: astounding.
Now its time to pull the preverbal curtain away and see how the Falcons are doing so well. This lies within their schedule. The Falcon’s opponents so far have a combined record of 34-39-7, on its surface one would think that they have a played a good mix of opponents, but I would argue given the lack of cross conference games and reduced number of games the Falcons have found themselves in the perfect storm. For example, they have played Ferris State (0-10-0) four times already this season and (2-10-0) NMU two times. Now one might point to the wins against Robert Morris (11-5-0) and Quinnipiac (10-5-3) as good indicators that they are a good team, and to that I would say you are half right.
Due to the lack of cross conference play teams like RMU and Quinnipiac have been stuck in a similar situation to our own WCHA in playing a ton of conference games that are labeled non-conference. On to that you add the conference opponents that they face and they, too, start to look inflated. RMU’s opponents hold a combined record of 24-35-8, removing BGSU results in 12-31-8. Doing the same for Quinnipiac we find a combined record of 46-25-8, again removing BGSU gives us 34-21-8. So while RMU’s record is inflated, I would argue Quinnipiac is a good representation of how good they are.
The next thing that needs to be addressed is whether or not our Michigan Tech Huskies are guilty of the same record inflation given we have played a team like NMU four times now. To this I would say yes, but not to the same degree as Bowling Green. That being said our record inflation will definitely increase as our season continues due to our future series against Ferris, UAH and NMU. However, it will be balanced out with the likes of Minnesota State (9-1-1) and Bemidji State, while the Falcons’ only remaining “tough” series will be with Minnesota State. All things considered, I would put Bowling Green on the same level as the Huskies and as a result I would expect this week’s set of games to reflect that.
Finally, moving over to our Huskies we saw another weekend of stellar performances on several fronts against the Wildcats. The Huskies offense still finds itself at a point of contention among fans, with our Old Dog covering it in depth. I do agree with much of what he said on the subject, and I think that as long as our defensive core and goaltending can result in low scoring games it isn’t as big as an issue as long as we get the necessary number of goals to win. The main issue the Huskies will need to content with this weekend will be the lack of game shape and stamina they showed this previous weekend against the Wildcats. If they are able to play a full 60 minutes of hockey each night then I think we will be in good shape.
Keys to the Game
Special Teams. The Huskies’ penalty kill has finally shown us it’s human giving one goal on the weekend. Looking at the previous games the Falcons have played, their 18.4% powerplay seems to be very sporadic either being very effective or non-existent. The Huskies will need to keep on their toes to make sure it doesn’t factor in to this weekend.
Defense First. This weekend will be the first true test for the Huskies’ defense and whether or not it alone can win them games. The Falcons chances of getting a shut out are slim to none this season, as a result the Huskies blue line will have to make due with what lead they do get. If the game is boring to watch while the Huskies are up, that means they are doing their job.
Do Your Homework. Huskies players and coaching staff need to look back to the Falcons-Beavers series last week in order to replicate its results. I tend to lean on the side that the Huskies have the better blue line and goaltenders than the Beavers so hopefully they are able to implement they strategy with ease this weekend.
I think this series will be close and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Huskies’ winning streak is ended. This match-up is best analogized as an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. The end result will be an exciting series for the fans. May the best team win. MTU wins 2-1, BGSU wins 3-2.
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 7:07 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.
Cover photo courtesy J Baumann Photography.