So here we are, the Covid-riddled season is officially over. The Michigan Tech Huskies (17-10-1) ended their season being swept by the Minnesota State Mavericks (18-3-1) in two close one goal games. They are now 5th in the conference play and find themselves on the road against the Bemidji State Beavers (13-8-3) who are 3-1 in the month of March, splitting with the Lakers (15-6-3) and sweeping the Chargers (3-16-1).
The Beavers are probably tied with the Mavericks for the worst opponent the Huskies could end up with. Head coaches Tom Serratore and Mike Hastings have both been able to field teams that successfully counter head coach’s Joe Shawhan’s systems. The reason I bring this to the forefront is that on paper Tech is the “Better” team. The Huskies have more players with higher point totals, Blake Pietila’s 14-7-0, 1.74 GAA, .937 SV% is just plain better than Zach Driscoll’s 12-8-3, 2.30 GAA, .922 SV% despite what the WCHA wants to think. The fact of the matter is this Huskies team is as good, if not better, than their Beaver opponents.
This entire series is going to rely on the coaching and the systems they use. Despite the amount of hockey I watch (both NCAA and NHL), I am in no way qualified to try and understand or explain to our readers whose system is best or what counters what most effectively. Instead, I’ll leave you with this; our Huskies are a good team and had a pretty easy schedule up until mid February. That being said, what’s different from previous seasons is that we swept the teams we were expected to beat. I am imagining this series to look a lot like their last meeting were Driscoll was able to stop 80/82 shots, but whether or not he can do it again may simply come down to the puck luck of the Huskies. All that aside, I fully expect this series to be a fun one to watch and expect a close 2-3 games.
Keys to the Game
- Make Your Own Luck. The last time these teams faced off the Huskies had some pretty bad luck on the ice. This time around, they will need to try and stack the deck in their favor and hope pucks manage to go in the net.
- Take the Shot. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I will scream at the TV or mutter in the press box to shoot the puck. The Huskies have few guys that like to hold onto the puck a bit too long before shooting. This not only allows the goalie to better position himself, but also can either make or break any chance at having a shooting lane to begin with.
- Systems. This one is for the both the players and the coaching staff. If what you are doing is working against the Beavers, then great, keep it up! However, if it isn’t working, don’t expect the same actions to produce a different result.
This is going to be a fun series and is the Huskies’ last Quarter Final in the WCHA. Despite the advantage on paper, the Huskies are the underdogs. However, much like in seasons prior, it doesn’t seem to be bothering them much. Game one will be the most telling to see whether or not they are able to compete this weekend. I expect them to take at least one game (hopefully). If they play a strong game one and win, I would almost guaranty they take the series, if they play a strong game one and lose then I think they will at least be competitive. Only time will give us the answer. MTU wins 2-1, BSU wins 3-2, MTU win 3-1.
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 8:07 EST, game 2 will be Saturday at 7:07 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
Photo credit: Shane Cruthers