What happened last weekend?
The Huskies played their fifth straight game away from home Friday night, and it was perhaps their worst effort of the season. After surrendering a pair of goals in the first period, the Huskies never fully recovered, falling 2-0 to the Northern Michigan Wildcats. On Saturday night, Blake Hietala struck twice in the first period, and the Huskies added another pair in the second, en route to a 4-1 win.
The No. 4 Michigan Wolverines played a pair of Hockey East opponents at home last weekend. On Friday night, Boston University led 1-0 early in the third period before Tyler Motte tied the game at 7:16. One minute and half later, Alex Guptill gave the hosts the lead for good. Saturday night, Massachusetts-Lowell took the lead just 1:03 into the second period. Evan Allen tied the game just 24 seconds later. The game remained tied until a little over halfway through the third, when the Redhawks took the lead and held on for the win.
Accountability: Something the Huskies are learning about
Three weeks into the season, the Huskies are just 1-4-1. While that is that not the start that head coach Mel Pearson and his staff perhaps expected, it might be the perfect teaching tool for the squad heading forward.
Teaching is exactly what Pearson’s staff has been up to, having benched co-captain Blake Pietila, seniors Jacob Johnstone and Ryan Furne, and highly-regarded freshman Brent Baltus at various points. In their places, junior Blake Hietala, senior Daniel Holmberg, and freshman Reid Sturos have all given solid performances in their places.
“I thought some changes were warranted to give some energy in the game [on Saturday],” said Pearson. “I thought the changes were good. I thought they all added something in the game and good for them.”
Hietala currently leads the Huskies in scoring, having picked up a pair of goals Saturday night after netting three assists earlier this season.
“He’s really done a good job transforming himself into a player,” said Pearson. “When I took over two years ago, he had to make some changes away from the rink as far as his conditioning, diet, and his workout program. He’s done a good job of incorporating the other things and making himself into a player.”
With all the injuries suffered by the Huskies’ blueliners, Holmberg, a natural center, had spent the season learning how to play defense before being called upon to play center. All he did was pick up an assist and go 18-3 on faceoffs.
“Holmberg came in and I thought did a good job,” said Pearson. “We didn’t talk about Danny [on Saturday], he played defense the past couple of weeks because of our injury situation. We threw him at forward on Saturday and he did well.”
From powerless to powerful: the evolution of the power play
The Huskies started the season 0-for-11 on the power play before Furne broke through with the Huskies’ first marker against Notre Dame. On Saturday night, Hietala gave them their second power play goal. While the Huskies are just operating at 5.4% efficiency, things appear to be looking up.
“I was happy with it for the most part on Saturday,” said Pearson. “We had some really good scoring opportunities outside of the five-minute major.”
While Pearson and his staff are not pleased with the low percentage, they also know it will take time to get everyone on board with what they would like to see from the power play.
“It’s still a work in progress,” said Pearson. “We are still a long ways away from firing on all cylinders.”
The inside scoop: a look at the Wolverines
After years of serving as an assistant coach under Red Berenson, Pearson will finally get the chance to coach against his mentor in a two-game series. The Wolverines have played five different eastern schools to start the season and sport a 4-1-1 record heading into action Friday night.
Sophomore Andrew Copp leads the Wolverines with two goals and six points in six games this season. Junior Phil Di Giuseppe and freshman J.T. Compher have each picked up five points to help lead the Wolverines’ attack.
“Their forwards are as good as any forwards we will see all year, bar none,” said Pearson. “You are not going to see any other team that has the forwards this team does. You have to really be on your game defensively.”
Defensively, the Wolverines have been dressing just one senior, Mac Bennett, and three freshmen, just like the Huskies. It will take time for the group to mature, which is good news for the Huskies. The Wolverines also sport a freshman, Zach Nagelvoort, and a sophomore, Steve Racine, between the pipes, another similarity to the Huskies, who have a pair of sophomores in goal.
“It’s a great opportunity for our team to go on the road, and have a good game against of the best teams in the country,” said Pearson. “We like to play aggressive. We like to forecheck. I think that is something we are going to try to establish against them and work their young defensemen.”
Friday night’s game starts at 7:30 p.m. while Saturday’s is slated to start at 7:00 p.m.