The Michigan Tech Huskies (8-7-0) are one series away from entering their holiday break. Though their 8-7-0 record is a bit deceiving, looking at their pairwise record they sit at 8-3-0 (0-4) or a .653 winning percentage. They face off against the St. Thomas Tommies (1-17-0) for the first time in program history. The Tommies have had a rough go at their first season in Division I college hockey, though expected given their jump. Though the waters are rough now, they will no doubt get better in the future.
This Tommies team is composed of both players from last year’s DIII team as well as DI transfers, so I will be sorting out each player so we can see how Head Coach Rico Blasi’s team is composed.
The Tommies are composed of a mix of DI DIII players with a sprinkle of other leagues in the mix. The most notable players being the likes of Peter Thome, Jacob Berger, Sam Renlund, Grant Loven and Nolan Sawchuk. They all had either a major role or were on very good teams just a season prior. Additionally, though Christiano Versich didn’t play last season, he spent the 3 years prior at Colorado College logging 45 points in 106 games.
Next up, we’ll be reducing this above chart into the Tommies top players addition showing this years production:
The top players aren’t much of a surprise comparing the previous top player from the overall roster, what is surprising is the amount of regression seen from player like Peter Thome who doubled is GAA, no doubt proving the team in front of the goalie matters.
These stats and 1-17 record leaves the assumption that they are probably near the bottom of the NCAA and that would be correct, with St. Thomas last in the league in save percentage (.854), goals against (89), 57th in PK % (61.5), and 43rd in PP% (14.4). However, there is a bit of silver lining in that St. Thomas isn’t last in pairwise. in fact, they are in front of two longstanding DI teams in Maine (1-11-3) and dead last Yale (2-7-0). Despite these two teams being composed of all DI talent, they are still behind the mixed roster of St. Thomas which is impressive in all the wrong ways.
Transitioning to our Huskies, we saw a close but expected result in the hard-fought Minnesota State (14-4-0) series with an OT loss Friday and a regulation loss Saturday. The Huskies looked well both nights with the odd bounces and puck luck leading to each loss. As predicted, it was the Mavericks top lines that did it in for the Huskies with Nathan Smith leading the charge. Dryden McKay was his normal self as well, which didn’t do any favors for the spotty Tech offense. Though the Huskies managed to get one point in the CCHA standings and stay at 12th in the pairwise, they showed they are able to take the play to Mankato and show that they do belong with the top teams in the NCAA.
This leaves us with what should the Huskies do against the Tommies this weekend? I have seen comments in our own THG discord proposing that they should give other players a chance to play. I can understand where these comments are coming from, but I would tend to disagree at this point in time. Joe Shawhan’s earn it mentality and system has been working. Additionally, after this week the Huskies don’t play another game until December 29th in the Pep Band-less fake “GLI”, so there is plenty of time for the regulars to rest. Barring some sort of injury, I would expect a full Mankato-like roster with the exception of maybe playing Cayden Bailey or trying to get Marcus Pedersen some play time. Other than those two expectations, if I was the coaching staff I’d welcome the Tommies to Houghton with the full roster.
That leaves the last main point to touch on, this series must be a blow out. Sure a win is a win and the pairwise doesn’t differentiate a 2-1 win from a 5-1 win, but this is essentially a DIII/4th line DI team and the Huskies can not under any circumstance lose. There is no excuse in the world this team can give for a loss and if the Huskies want any chance to prove they are a national tournament perennial now they need to prove it right here and now.
Keys to the Game
- Special Teams. St. Thomas is 14th in the NCAA in PIMs. With a 61.5 PK% this is not a good combination. Tech should have a fun night on the power play if all goes well.
- Foot on the gas. This isn’t a series to take lightly. Tech needs to keep their pressure on until they are up by at least 3-4 goals then they can start easing up. If we even see anything remotely close to what was seen in period one of game one against Ferris there will be big issues come the second half of the season
- Pad the stats. This is a perfect opportunity for the Huskies to get their stats up to match teams like Mankato and Bemidji who have both already had that luxury with the Tommies. This team needs to show they are more than just Brian Halonen offensively and this is the perfect time to do so.
This is a must win for the Huskies. At this point they are a team looking at an at-large bid rather than winning the CCHA tournament and Joe Shawhan has alluded to as much focusing on the pairwise in previous interviews. The Huskies currently sit at 12th and that’s where they’ll be sitting after this weekend after the sweep (barring some other team blowing up). MTU wins 5-0, MTU wins 6-1.
Cover photo courtesy Michigan Tech Athletics.
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 CCHA 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.