For the first time since 1974 the Michigan Tech Huskies (2-0-0) have swept the Wisconsin Badgers (2-0-0) in Wisconsin. This marks the beginning of a bright season for the Huskies as they are set to play a one game series against Notre Dame (1-0-0) who is making their way up the John McInnies Student Ice arena for the first time since 1975. The Fighting Irish find themselves in the UP doing a split with the Huskies and Wildcats (2-0-0) this weekend after beating Long Island University (0-1-0) in a one game series last weekend.
Notre Dame finds themselves in a much different spot since the Huskies last saw them in 2018 in the NCAA regional. They ended their 20-21 Covid season just a game over .500 while still making the NCAA tournament due to the lack of pairwise requirements for that season. As is typical with season previews, let’s see who left the program and then who joined.
First we have nine players who left:
With 11 players joining:
The first thing of note is that the Fighting Irish lost ~30% of their total point production and have replaced it with only 20 NCAA-level points (through Karashik and Blackmun). This leaves ~21% left to be made up which should be an easy feat after looking at the resumes of some of their incoming Freshman most notably Justin Janicke and Hunter Strand. However, the keen eyed of you will notice one huge name on this list. That is goaltender Matthew Galajda, who transferred after not playing last season due to Cornell not having a season. He has been one of the only netminders to come close to the performance of Maverick’s goaltender Dryden Mckay in recent years though it should be noted the ECAC isn’t known to be the toughest conference. He will no doubt be the starter this season and has already played one game but gave up two goals on only 15 shots.
This Notre Dame line up is definitely a better offensive team than what the Huskies saw from the Badgers and will be the first real test of the Huskies’ new and improved defence.
Our Huskies are coming off an excellent sweep of the Badgers generating 10 goals on the weekend from seven different players. The biggest storylines of the weekend are without a doubt team depth, the return of Logan Pietila, and player improvement.
Let’s begin with team depth. The Huskies fielded 4 very successful offensive lines taking advantage of every defensive pairing on the Badgers with no one pairing doing better than the other. Tech managed to sustain a shooting percentage of roughly 20% on the weekend showing that the shots being taken were of high quality. The only downside of the weekend offensively for Tech was the lack of production from a few players in Triston Ashbrook, Arvid Caderoth and Ryan Mosely. That’s not to say that these players didn’t play well; all three logged high minutes with the Ashbrook-Bronte-Mosely line being one of the most impactful lines on the weekend. Look for these three to be in the hunt this weekend for their first point of many this season.
March 7th 2020. That as many know is the date Tech beat Northern to advance to the semi finals after triple overtime. For Logan Pietila though, it was the last time he scored a goal before last weekend. The 20-21 season was a bust for Pietila playing 28 games with only four points as a centre. However, with the incoming improvements up the middle for the Huskies with the additions of Bronte & Quercia results in Pietila moving to the wing where it looks like he has found a new home. He had a monstrous weekend and looks to have returned to his Freshman scoring form.
Finally, we have other player improvements with a few I would like to touch on. To begin is Tyrell Buckley who after a breakout 20-21 season is a mainstay in this Huskies D core. He has picked up right where he left off last year and looks to have improved even more earning himself into the Huskies top four on my list. Whether it’s a big penalty kill situation or an offensive zone faceoff you can’t go wrong having him on the ice. Other notable improvements include the play of Parker Saretsky, Brian Halonen, and Nick Nardella who all made huge impacts on the score sheet.
One final addition to go over is the U-18 team. I won’t go into depth about this team due to the fact it’s an exhibition, but I will link the roster so you can see for yourself who is going to be on the ice for them. Most of the players are B1G commitments so make of that what you will. I think it will be a fun show match and allow more Huskies to take the ice to try and earn a spot in the starting line up.
Keys to the Game
- Keep the wheels rolling. The Huskies are my favorite on paper. They have a better defense with a comparable offence to the Fighting Irish. However, given how Norte Dame gave up two goals on 15 shots to a still wet behind the ears LIU program. I think the Huskies have a good shot at lighting up the score sheet.
- Holding the lead. With such an offensive oriented team that the Fighting Irish are, if the Huskies manage to take the lead they will need to be able to stall the game out like they did in Madison. If they can replicate that success they should be able to take home a win.
- History repeats itself. One may have noticed something in the beginning of this preview in how the Huskies sweep the Badger at home for the first time since 1974 and Notre Dame is making an appearance in the Keweenaw for the first time since 1975. I know it is early in the season but what we have seen so far is indicative of that era of Tech Hockey’s success. Only time will tell if they have what it takes, but as of now all signs point to yes.
I think this game will be a lot more evenly matched than last weekend’s games for both teams. Tech is the better rounded team in my eyes while Notre Dame has improved through player acquisitions. It is all going to come down to goaltending and whether Blake Pietila can keep up with or exceed the performance from Matthew Galajda. I would tend to conclude that he can due to our outstanding defensive prowess. In the end if our offense depth can be maintained then this game should be winnable otherwise look for the Fighting Irish to leave with a win. MTU wins 3-2.
As for the exhibition, this Tech Team should easily win due to the age and skill difference. However, putting a score on it will be too tough due to who might dress for the game.
Cover photo courtesy Michigan Tech Athletics.
How to Watch
Both games are available through Mix 93.5 for audio featuring Dirk Hembroff (free), via flohockey.tv (paywall) for video. Game 1 will be Friday at 7:07 EDT and game 2 will be Saturday at 6:07 EDT.