The Michigan Tech Huskies (14-6-1) are looking to yet again begin a new win streak after dropping game 1 of their Tuesday & Tuesday series with the Lake Superior State Lakers (8-4-3). This weekend, they find themselves squaring off against another defensively prominent team in the Bemidji State Beavers (7-6-3) in their second meeting of this season. The Beavers are finding themselves on the losing end of a sweep against the Northern Michigan Wildcats (8-12-0).
The Beavers have seen their share of ups and downs this season. If you were to compare their schedule to that of most of the other top WCHA teams, you would see the Beavers have had it much rougher than most. They’ve only played four games against the bottom teams. However, this is where things get confusing. The Beavers before playing the Ferris State Bulldogs (0-17-1) and the Wildcats found themselves keeping up with the likes of Bowling Green (14-8-0) and Minnesota State (13-2-1). This all changed at the start of February, seeing the Beavers going 1-2-1 against the WCHA basement.
This could be due to a number of reasons, but the one that sticks out most to my untrained eye is the lack of scoring while also not showing off their normally high defensive skill. Instead, the Beavers have been finding themselves struggling against teams with adequate offense like that seen on the Bulldogs and Wildcats, while not being able to capitalize on those teams’ defensive woes. Head coach Tom Serratore will probably look to mimic the style of play the Lakers showed to great effect this last Tuesday, which paid off greatly against a Huskies team playing a trap style game while behind. I would fully expect that if the Beaver where to take the lead at any point, they will grind the game to a halt providing fans with some of the most boring hockey they will ever see.
Moving over to the Huskies, we saw this very strategy against the Lakers where they would have two players sitting behind their net just waiting for the Huskies to reluctantly forecheck to try and get the the puck. In addition, the Lakers were able to set three players on their blue line while having two forecheck which all but shut down the Huskies’ zone entry. Finally, the nail in coffin was the Lakers taking a 2-0 lead in the beginning of the 2nd period. The Huskies weren’t able to adjust the play style LSSU was implementing, which resulted in some very frustrated hockey to watch. The Huskies would enter the offensive zone, put some shots on Mitens, get chased out of the zone, the Lakers would kill as much time as possible, rinse and repeat. One might make the argument that their was just no puck luck this game and to that I would agree, but when that happens it’s up to the players and the coaching staff to make their own.
Instead, we saw the Huskies take shot after shot, but more often than not they weren’t anywhere close enough to go in. Instead what we saw is that if you aren’t a team like Bowling Green who can just keep the score high, this is how you beat the Huskies.
Keys to the Game
- Learn From your Mistakes. This is more directed toward the coaching staff rather than the players. Most of the players did will given the system they were using, but it is up to the coaching staff to make the changes to their system to ensure this doesn’t happen. The only player I saw that I hope turns things around Freshman Brett Throne who looked to be off all game either missing passes or not showing his usual level of hustle.
- Special Teams. The Beavers have the second best PK in the nation at 93.3% I would fully expect that percentage to stay close to that all weekend. Don’t expect much from the Huskies’ power play this weekend.
- Forecheck, Backcheck, Paycheck. The Huskies need to be more aggressive. They need to pressure their opponents regardless of the score or what zone they are in. They were unable to set the pace against the Lakers, and I’m afraid it will be the same thing against the Beavers.
The Beavers are as good if not a better defensive team than the Lakers are. The Huskies will need to show that they can play against that style of hockey rather than blaming puck luck while putting a high number of non-threating shots. Beaver’s netminder Zach Driscoll does seem to be off his game as of late and hopefully the Huskies will be able to capitalize on this. I really hope after this weekend, people can go back to this preview and say I’m wrong and I don’t know what I’m talking about. Please prove me wrong, you Husky dogs. BSU wins 3-1, BSU 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. 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.