The Michigan Tech Huskies (12-8-1) find themselves as champions of the 55th annual Great Lakes Invitational tournament as they make their way to Tempe Arizona to face the Arizona State Sun Devils (10-7-3). ASU is coming off of a loss and a tie against Harvard (7-4-1) after playing in a series in Irvine California for New Years.
ASU is a special case when it comes to teams in Division I hockey. They are still independent and as a result find themselves playing teams across all conferences. This comes with its ups and downs as they aren’t used to playing the same team twice as seen in most conferences where in conference play frequently sees two series between teams throughout the season.
However, not all is bad. Since they play a large variety of teams, the Sun Devils are able to see play styles from coast to coast, better preparing them for what is to come in the National Tournament. In addition, they give us here at the Tech Hockey Guide a fantastic measuring stick as to how the rest of the NCAA outside of the WCHA is doing.
Prior to their meeting with the Huskies, ASU has played two WCHA teams: Minnesota State (16-3-1) and Alaska-Fairbanks (10-10). They split with the Nanooks, losing game one 3-4 and winning game two 4-0. Against the Mavericks, they were swept 1-4 and 0-5. Other than those two opponents, the only other overlap in teams played with the Huskies is Michigan State, where the Sun Devils split winning game one and losing game two in over time. Looking at the schedule they look a lot like the Spartans and the Huskies, but looking at the team stats, things start to change.
Beginning with the offense, the first thing of note is that the Sun Devils score a lot of goals. They are currently 9th in the country with 61. Leading the team in points is junior forward James Sanchez with 24 followed by Johnny Walker (Jr. F, 22 pts), Joshua Maniscalco (So. D, 16 pts), Brinson Pasichnuk (Sr. D, 16 pts), and PJ Marrocco (So F, 11 pts). After what is essentially the top line and top D-pairing point totals start dropping off.
Looking at their defense yields some promising chances for the Huskies, as it will be a similar case to what the Clarkson series in that they also give up a lot of goals with 56 goals against (46th). The key weakness the Sun Devils have looks to be their other lines where Demetrios Koumontzis (So F, 7pts) leads the team’s minus column with a -9 +/- rating. Following him is Brett Gruber (Sr F, 4 pts) -7, Steenn Pasichnuk (Sr F, 1 pt) -6, and Austin Lemieux (So. F, 7pts) -3. If the Huskies need scoring chances, they will need to look for these players to be on the ice.
The Huskies will most likely see sophomore goalie Evan Debrouwer (9-7-3, 2.53 GAA, .919 SV%) as he has had the lion’s share of the starts this season. He has been decent this season given the high offensive but lack luster defense he has had so far this season. One thing is clear though, the Huskies should have a good chance of getting shots on him in addition to getting shots past him as well.
Moving to the visiting team, we saw the Huskies take home the championship title after placing second the previous four years. Tech won both games by a score of 4-2 with Matt Jurusik keeping the Huskies competitive all weekend. He faced 66 shots throughout both rounds and only allowed four goals good for a .943 save percentage. Jurusik has been irreplaceable in net through the past month and a half and I wouldn’t expect that would change this coming weekend.
This weekend also saw Tech’s third hat trick of the season, this time by freshman Logan Pietila in game two against Michigan. This is the first time since the 2003-2004 season the Huskies have had three hat tricks in a season and the first time since the 1991-1992 season that it’s been done by three different players. In the GLI championship game, the Huskies became the first WCHA team since 2016 to complete a game without a penalty being assessed. These two promising feats from the weekend that shows just how far this young team has come is how much more disciplined they have become.
Game two saw a lot of what could have been penalties, but the refs were letting the teams duke it out for the title. This resulted in only one call being made for elbowing in the second period on Michigan. Despite the very physical game the Wolverines were bringing to the ice, the Huskies were composed, collective and kept their cool even in the face of being down 2-1 going into the third period.
Finally notching points for the Huskies on the weekend were: Trenton Bliss (1G, 2A), Tommy Parrottino (1G), Eric Gotz(1G, 2A), Alex Smith (1G, 2A), Logan Pietila (3G), Alec Broetzman (1G), Brian Halonen(1A), Logan Ganie(1A), Seamus Donohue(2A), Tyler Rockwell (1A), and Justin Misiak (1A).
Keys to the Game
- Depth. The biggest advantage that the Huskies have over the Sun Devils is scoring depth. They have eight players to the Sun Devil’s six with 10 or more points on the season. Though ASU has better production at the top of their lines, they lack the defensive prowess and skill the Huskies have all throughout their roster.
- Discipline. Time to address the elephant in the arena when it comes to these two teams. There is some history between them and when they last played each other, the handshake line devolved into a brawl started by some ill will between coaches. The Huskies will need to keep their emotions in check and not take stupid penalties; no matter how satisfying it might be to lay out Johnny Walker.
- Pacing. This series is going to play out closely to how Clarkson did, the Sun Devils are going to want special teams and odd man situations. Anything to keep their top line out for as long as humanly possible. Tech will need to do everything in their power to prevent as many opportunities as possible.
Both teams are pretty even when it comes to everything scoring depth and defensive performance. ASU is going to most likely take the NMU approach of not caring how many goals they give up as long as they score one more. Because of this, I see Tech having the advantage and will take the sweep, though it will be close. MTU wins 3-2. MTU wins 3-2.
The guys on our Chasing MacNaughton Podcast also made predictions this weekend for this coming series against Arizona State. Episode Seven’s liner notes can be found here. (They will be available Friday afternoon)
How to Watch
Both games are available through Mix 93.5 for audio featuring Dirk Hembroff (free), and via Pac-12* for video. Game 1 will be Saturday at 9:05 Est and game 2 will be Sunday at 5:05 Est
*ASU’s Pac-12 stream appears to be free.