Going into this weekend, the Huskies should have been a good place. They should have had more than one win in their last three weeks and they should have been closer to a WCHA home ice spot. Alas, here they stand in fifth place and six points behind the Alaska Nanooks (13-13-2). The Huskies find themselves traveling to Huntsville, Alabama to face the Chargers (1-19-4) were even Head Coach Joe Shawhan conceded in his weekly show that this series is going to be a hard test. Yes, you read that right the 1-19-4 Chargers are going to be a tough opponent for the 14-12-3 Huskies.
Alabama-Huntsville currently hold the worst record in the NCAA right behind Princeton (3-12-4), Vermont (3-16-4), and St. Lawrence (3-19-3). The Chargers also have the worst goal differential in the NCAA with 42 goals for and 101 goals against (The Mavericks are, funny enough, the opposite with 101 for and 43 against). The Huskies have a respectable 69 for and 62 against. Currently, the Chargers are averaging 1.75 goals a game with 4.21 goals against compared to the Huskies’ 2.38 for and 2.14 against.
These Chargers only have four players with double digit point totals in Josh Latta (Fr. F, 16 pts), Christian Rajic (Jr. F, 12 pts), Jack Jeffers (So. F, 11 pts) and Austin Beaulieu (Sr. F, 10 pts). In addition, there are no players on the team that have a positive +/- rating. The closed is Sophomore Ben Allen with -1 in six games played. Out of the regular players (19+ games played) Freshman Daneel Lategan leads the team with a -2 while Christian Rajic is at the bottom of the team with a -20. For comparison, the Chargers have more players with a negative double digit +/- ratings (11) than they do players with double digit points.
Moving to goaltending, junior Mark Sinclair (1-15-4, 3.82 GAA, .891 SV%) is the starter with freshman David Fessenden (0-4-0, 3.99 GAA, .871 SV%) serving as the backup with only a handful of games. They aren’t getting that much help in front of them as the Chargers are 7th in the country with 839 shots allowed on goal, while also not being helped on the PK with only a 75.8% (T-53rd) kill rate. Finally, to hit the proverbial nail in the coffin, the Chargers have the second worst power play in the country, only converting 7.6% of the time.
The reason I bring all of this to the forefront of this preview isn’t to dig into the Chargers, they have had a rough past few years which isn’t entirely their own fault. No, I bring this up because you have Head Coach Joe Shawhan saying in an interview that a team in this state is going to be a challenge resulting in a one goal game each night. Moreover, the Chargers have only lost one game this season via this margin against Bemidji (14-8-4). The most troubling point of the comment is that I am inclined to believe him right now even though every facet of the Chargers game says otherwise.
These Huskies cannot score right now and they are presented with the second best chance in all of college hockey (Mercyhurst (3-14-1) has 111 goals against) to do just that. Last weekend, we saw exactly that with only three goals being scored all weekend vs a team that on average allows more on any typical night. Game two was especially frustrating as Tech was presented a five-minute major power play opportunity which resulted in only a few shots being generated. Over the last three-week span from Bowling Green (13-11-2) to Ferris State (7-18-2), the Huskies have only two successful power plays in 19 chances. In addition, through those nine games Tech has only scored nine goals.
Getting points on the weekend were: Raymond Brice (1G), Seamus Donohue (1G), Tommy Parronttino (1G), Brian Halonen (1A), Parker Saretsky (1A), Logan Ganie (1A), Logan Pietila (1A), and Trenton Bliss (1A).
Keys to the Game
- 4.15 Goals Against. The Chargers should allow plenty of chances for the Huskies to score, but will they be able to take them is the real question.
- Area vs Perimeter. The offensive zone has more to it than skating around the outside of the ice. If Tech wants any chance to consistently score they need to use the entire area vs just the outside perimeter.
- Shoot the Puck. Tech is currently looking to pass the puck instead of shooting it. This needs to change as they are losing prime scoring chances because of their reluctance to take the shot.
While I do not know who or what is to blame for these recent performances, what I do know is that something has to change. This should be the easiest series of the year for the Huskies, but after this previous weekend I’m not so sure anymore. UAH wins 1-0, MTU wins 4-1.
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 8:07 Est and game 2 will be Saturday at 8:07 Est
*Flohockey.tv is also the source of all games played in WCHA 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.