After an unplanned bye week, the Michigan Tech Huskies (12-8-1, 11-3-1 (1-5) pairwise) are at home in the second matchup of the season against the Bemidji State Beavers (13-13-0, 12-12-0 (1-1) pairwise). The Beavers find themselves reeling from being swept at home by the Ferris State Bulldogs (9-17-0, 7-16-0 (2-1) pairwise).
The Beavers find themselves in a bit of free fall as they make their way into Houghton. They have lost their last three games; two against Ferris and one against Bowling Green. The main reasoning behind these troubles appears to be issues with scoring. Concluding their 5-3 win against BGSU in game one on January 14th, the Beavers haven’t managed to score more than two goals a night. Additionally, this Beavers team looks to need roughly four goals a night in order to almost guarantee a win. Here is a list of games they have played since they last played the Huskies on November 20th, 2021:
Over their last 14 games, the Beavers have managed a 6-8 record. Of course, there is a bit more nuance here, like almost everything in life. We see that the Beavers played their host of tough teams in Minnesota State and St. Cloud State, while also taking advantage of the bottom teams in the CCHA in sweeping St. Thomas and Lake State. However, they then put themselves in a tough spot with splitting against 12-9-3 Bowling Green and 15-12-0 Arizona State, both of whom were not playing their best hockey when the Beavers skated against them. Finally, they dropped both games to a Ferris State team that has found new life with mid-season netminder Noah Giesbrecht, who we’ll definitely get to see when Tech plays at Ferris in two week’s time.
In these 14 games the Beavers record when scoring 4 or more goals is an astounding 6-1-0, but their record scoring 3 or less goals is an abysmal 1-6-1. Comparing teams with similar defensive numbers as the Huskies shows that the Beavers will most likely average between one and two goals a game. With the games following results against Minnesota State and St. Cloud who have similar Shots allowed stat and special teams stats.
Looking at the Beavers top players, we see the same familiar players anyone who’s played against the Beavers would recognize:
The “Big Three” in Owen Sillinger, Lukas Sillinger and Alex Ierullo make up a major part of the BSU offense with 40% of total point production. They are what makes this Beavers team the very definition of top heavy and going down the roaster sees point totals drop significantly. The moral of the story here is if Tech can do what Ferris did in shutting down this top line, the Beavers fall apart on the scoring front.
Looking at goaltending, we see the loss of Zach Driscoll is still haunting the Beavers with freshman netminder Mattias Sholl trying to plug the holes. Needless to say, Bemidji and head coach Tom Serratore still don’t have a direct replacement and as of right now it is seemingly Sholl’s net to lose with Enright picking up the slack.
Meanwhile, our Huskies find themselves leaving the Soo with a sweep of the Lakers proving me partly wrong in last week’s preview. Their defense and special teams are the main stories of the weekend. The Huskies only allowed 31 shots to reach Blake Pietila all weekend while managing to have 57 of their own reach Ethan Langenegger. This resulted in six goals and a shooting percentage of 10.5% which is a welcome change from their most recent series against St. Thomas, Michigan, and Michigan State. Additionally, their special teams sealed the deal with a total of four power play goals. In fact, there wasn’t a single 5 on 5 goal scored the entire weekend with one 4-on-4 and one empty net 6-on-5 goal.
We also saw some players step up, with the likes of Brett Thorne and Justin Misiak both having big weekends on the score sheets. This not only helps the Huskies depth scoring numbers but also gives them more outlets for production when your top guys aren’t having a good night. Finally, I would like to give some credit that isn’t found in the score lines to both Arvid Caderoth and, in a surprising fashion, Logan Ganie. Both players had a great weekend with Caderoth dominating the dot on faceoffs, going 19-8 on the weekend and Ganie was able to step up on both defense and faceoffs, especially in game 2. Ganie has earned my vote for who should be in the lineup this weekend.
Keys to the Game
- Shut Down Defense. This series is going to revolve around BSU’s top line and whether or not Tech’s defense is up to the challenge. This is a call to D-men like Michael Karow, Tyrell Buckley, Eric Gotz, and Chris Lipe who make up Tech’s block of defensive defensemen. They will be key to shutting down the Big Three.
- 5 on 5 scoring. The Huskies were able to win their last series without this, but last series is an exception, not the norm. They are going to need to be able score 5 on 5 or else they will not make the “Big Skate” as the Old Dog calls it.
- Shake off the Rust. The Huskies have only played two games since December 30th. They managed to sweep Lake State, but from here on out it’s go time and the games are going to start to pile up with 10 total games in the month of February.
The magic number this weekend is four with this Bemidji team as of late. If the Huskies can keep them under four goals, they have a good chance at winning, but that’s only if the coaching staff can coax some 5 on 5 offense out of this team. Realistically, if Tech can score three goals a night and play their normal defensive style, they should be able to win by the skin of their teeth.
MTU wins 3-2, MTU wins 3-2.
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 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.