The Michigan Tech Huskies (14-5-1) are in the final sprint of the season. They have just won their first winter carnival series since 2018, sweeping the Ferris State Bulldogs (0-17-1). This week, they find themselves playing an other awkward Tuesday and Tuesday series with the Lake Superior State Lakers (7-4-3) with a weekend series against the Bemidji State Beavers (7-6-3) in between.
This preview will being covering game 1 of the Huskies-Laker series, with two addition previews for this weekend and next Tuesday’s game coming out later this week into next week. So with out further ado, lets get started!
The Lakers are coming off of an impressive week, turning heads after sweeping the Bowling Green Falcons (14-8-0). This comes at a bit of surprise due to some of the Lakers’ previous games, which saw a tie with Alabama-Huntsville (2-9-1) and a loss to the Northern Michigan Wildcats (7-11-0). That being said, they have shown they are able to keep up with the best teams in the the WCHA. What remains to be seen is whether or not the Huskies are good enough to be included in that grouping.
The biggest story line for the Lakers this season is hands down the performance of senior netminder Mareks Mitens (4-3-3, 1.85 GAA, .936 SV%). He has put managed to put up numbers similar to Tech’s own Blake Pietila (11-3-0, 1.53 GAA, .944 SV%), playing the same caliber of teams in Minnesota State (13-2-1) and Bowling Green. Other than Mitens’ performance, the rest of the Lakers’ line up is more or less average when compared with other NCAA teams, lining up very closely with Tech.
Leading the way for the Lakers is junior forward Ashton Calder (17 pts) who is mirroring Tech’s own junior Trenten Bliss (20 pts) averaging 1.06 and 1.05 points per game, respectively. As we go down the roster for both teams, we find that William Riedell (D, Sr., 12 pts) and Pete Veillette (F, Jr., 12 pts) are LSSU’s version of Tech’s Alec Broetzman (F, Jr., 16 pts) and Arvid Caderoth (F, Fr., 14 pts) in terms of points per game. This trend goes all the way down the line, but does begin to deviate. This is going to be important, because the Lakers have eight players at 0.50 points per game or higher, while the Huskies have nine players at the same mark. If we bump up the cut off too 0.60 points per game, the Lakers drop to four players while Tech has seven. Long story short, the Huskies should be better off in scoring depth.
Focusing just on the Huskies now, they have seemed to have struck gold with the current offensive lines and D pairings. The blue line continues to be the stable rock workhorse that we have grown to expect while the offense has started showing up, scoring three or more goals all but once since being swept by Bowling Green. This week/weekend will begin a stretch to see if the past six wins were all for nothing. The Huskies will be leaving the WCHA basement and start to climb the stairs with the Lakers being the first step. This will be the best defensive team they have seen since Bowling Green, or even Bemidji State back in December.
Mitens has more than enough skill to steal this game and while Tech might be slightly better on paper, after a close few games with the Bulldogs the Huskies need to be on their A-game.
Keys to the Game
Coach Your Heart out. I don’t know if Coach Shawhan reads my previews, but if he happens to take the time out of his busy day to see this one, I would tell him to wear this series on his sleeve. In their last meeting, Lakers Head Coach Damon Whitten read the Huskies’ system like a book. I would expect a similar thing to happen this Tuesday. It will be up to the Coaches behind the bench to make sure this doesn’t happen.
Special Teams. The Huskies’ special teams have been fantastic so far this season with a 22.6% PP%, tied for 11th in the nation and a 87.5% PK, good enough for 9th. The Lakers, on the other hand, haven’t had the best powerplay, with a 9.7% (47th in the nation) and competent PK at 85.7% (T-11). The Huskies will need to stay out of the box, but if they can’t it shouldn’t be the end of the world.
The Perfect Road Record vs. The Almost perfect Home record. The Lakers are a perfect 4-0-0 on the road while the Huskies are 7-1-0 at home, with the only lose coming at the hands of Minnesota State. Hopefully the Huskies can spoil this trend for the Lakers.
The TL;DR for this one game preview is that the Huskies are the slightly better team on paper, but expect a very close game. This is going to be a very big test as the Huskies enter the home stretch. They will need coaches to be on the top of the their game and counter what ever Head coach Damon Whitten has up his sleeve. I’m choosing Tech for this Tuesday game, and we’ll be reassessing for the Bemidji Series and LSSU Game two next Tuesday. MTU wins 3-2.
How to Watch
Both games are available through Mix 93.5 for audio featuring Dirk Hembroff (free), and via flohockey.tv* (paywall) for video. Tuesday’s Game will at 2:07 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.