After what looked to be the beginning to a disastrous weekend at Bowling Green State University (4-3-0), the Michigan Tech Huskies (3-3-0) managed to compose themselves for a decisive game two victory. They set their sights on Grand Forks, North Dakota and the North Dakota Fighting Sioux Hawks (4-1-1). The Fighting Hawks are coming off of a home sweep of the Bemidji State Beavers (0-2-2). This will be the first time these teams have played since the realignment leading to the current WCHA and NCHC with the last game being March of 2013.
The Fighting Hawks are having a somewhat deceptively impressive start to their season so far. They are 4-1-1, but those four wins come from Canisius (0-3-0) and Bemidji. Both programs that find themselves in a tough spot starting this season coupled with young rosters. Due to this, the best way to measure their season thus far is looking at their series against Minnesota State (5-0-1). Here we find that they were able to tie game one (4-4) and then lost game two by a score of 2-1. Due to both games being very close it is clear that this team is on the more dangerous side of opponents that the Huskies will play this year.
Jumping to the personnel of the team we see a very rounded offense. The Fighting Hawks have an extreme amount of depth with 14 players having at least one goal scored versus the Huskies’ eight players. Opening this statistic to include points the total jumps to 19 players (13 for the Huskies). This has led to UND being dangerous on all 4 lines and as a result they have found success when their opponent’s defense isn’t up to the challenge. Though all of this should be taken with a grain of salt due to the small sample size of the season. Nonetheless this game should act as a good stress test for the Huskies’ blue line before they return home to host Minnesota State. On the other hand their special teams are one of the worst in the country with a 10.0% power play (39th).
Moving to the blue paint we find that Sophomore Adam Scheel has played all six games so far this season collecting a 4-1-1 record with a 1.48 GAA and .915 SV%. He has been outstanding and is joined by a very strong defense skating in front of him. The Fighting Hawks’ blue line has managed to hold opponents to only 106 shots on net this season (3rd) (Tech has allowed 156 shots (27th)) while also dominating on the penalty kill with 94.4% (6th). However, like last week for the Huskies don’t let that number confuse you as Canisius and Bemidji have power play percentages of 0% (T-51) and 11.1% (35th) respectively. With such a successful defensive core it will be interesting if Head Coach Brad Berry gives Scheel the night off putting either Junior Peter Thome (5-7-0, 2.72 GAA, .880 SV% 18’-19’) or Sophomore Harrison Feeney (11-10-0, 2.05 GAA, .931 SV% 18’-19’ with the Lone Star Brahmas NAHL) in for this matchup.
The Huskies find themselves in a situation of uncertainty coming off of their trip to Bowling Green. Game one saw a continuation of their previous series with Alaska (4-4-0) were they were again not in control of the game. They managed to get a goal off of a weird bounce to open the game, but were not able to hold it losing 3-1. Granted, all three goals allowed were on the power play but game two was a different story. Both teams saw a change in goaltending with Beydoun coming in for Jurusik for the Huskies and Zack Rose replacing Eric Dop. As to why the Falcons did this move is unknown due to Dop’s dominance so far this season, though it could be to rest him for their series against Minnesota State this weekend.
The biggest news from the weekend came from Sophomore Tommy Parrottino who in game two collected the Huskies’ second hat trick of the season. The last time this happened was in the 2011-2012 season with Milos Gordic and Jordan Baker. Rounding out game two saw a goal by Parker Saretsky continuing to be a bright spot for the Huskies season averaging a point per game.
As for their performances in the crease, both Jurusik and Beydoun had good weekends regardless of the what the scoreboard says. At this point it is really up in the air as to who Coach Shawhan taps for net duties at any given night. After his performance on Saturday coupled with his innate ability to steal a game I would expect Beydoun to take on the Fighting Hawks on Saturday. As for special teams the Huskies have a 16.7 PP% (T-24th) and an 84.0 PK% (29th).
Keys to the Game
- 5 on 5. Due to the Fighting Hawks effectiveness on the penalty kill and lack on the power play, special teams looks to not be as big of a factor as in previous games. Against the Mavericks, UND didn’t give up a single goal despite allowing nine power play chances.
A full 60 minutes. Since this is just one game, we can expect both teams to not hold anything back. That being said, the Huskies’ blue line better be ready to play a full three periods because anything less won’t hold off the Fighting Hawks.
Aggressive control. The best period of hockey we saw all season in terms of defense would have to be the 2nd period of game two last weekend. The Huskies were aggressive and controlled the pacing, while forcing the Falcons to play their way. If they can manage to repeat this, they have a fighting chance against the Fighting Hawks.
The Huskies are the underdogs going into this weekend making it hard to pick them to win. However, if you were to take every sport and plot them on a scale ranging from the amount of luck to the amount of skill needed to win, you will find that hockey has the most luck associated with it out of any other sport. Because of this, outcomes are less predictable and since this a single game event the sample size is even smaller than normal. For these reasons I am choosing the Huskies to come out of Grand Forks with the victory. MTU wins 4-3.
How to Watch
Both games are available through Mix 93.5 for audio featuring Dirk Hembroff (free), and via NCHC.tv* (paywall†) for video. The game will take place Saturday at 8:07 EST
*NCHC.tv is available on for Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, and has apps for both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
†You can buy a one day pass for NCHC.tv here.