After a less than ideal game one which saw the Michigan Tech Huskies (1-3-1) lose to the Bemidji State Beavers (1-2-0) 6-3, they were able to bounce back with sophomore Blake Pietila’s first shutout, winning game two 3-0. The Huskies face off with their rivals, the Northern Michigan Wildcats (1-0-0) who found themselves taking a win in their first game of the season against Ferris State (0-3-0).
The Wildcats found themselves with a very delayed start to their season due to issues pertaining to COVID-19 infections. This saw the cancelation and postponement of 3 different series so far this season. In addition, they have found themselves losing seven players due to graduation, transfer, or other circumstances. Among those that have moved on from the program are seniors Darien Craighead (31pts), Philip Beaulieu (25pts), Luke Voltin (13pts), juniors Ryan Yaremko (4pts), Caleb Schroer (8pts), Mitchel Slattery (8pts), and Adam Roeder (8pts). They combined for a total of 97 points, or ~30.6% of their total 2019-20 output. The big returners include sophomore Andre Ghantous (22pts last season), senior Joseph Nardi (27pts), and juniors Vincent de Mey (28pts) & Tech favorite Griffin Loughran (39pts). Finally, returning in net is the same group consisting of sophomores John Hawthorne (5-5-3, 3.10 GAA, .882 SV%) & John Roberts and juniors Connor Ryckman and Nolan Kent (13-11-1, 2.86GAA, .902 SV%).
After watching their match against the Ferris State Bulldogs, one thing is for sure of head coach Grant Potulny’s era at NMU; they are an offensive team first and their defense is close to non-existent. If they beat a team, 9 times out of 10 they do it by outscoring, rather than preventing the other team from scoring. They take the phase “They don’t ask how, they ask how many” to heart, the game could be 5-4 or 9-8 as long as the Wildcats are ahead, they are happy with their system.
Transitioning to Tech, we saw what I could only describe as a self-inflicted redemption story where they were seemingly out coached and out played in game one and 12 minutes into game two, but turned it around closing out the series on a strong note. The strangest part about this entire week was the decision to start senior Mark Sinclair over Blake Pietila in game one. He ending up getting pulled in the second period after giving up five goals. It should be noted that there was a massive defensive break down in front of him, so the blame for game one’s loss does not rest squarely on the shoulders of Sinclair. This saw the scoring of three goals in one minute. Everything eventually settled down, but the damage was done.
Shutout aside in game two, there was still some good takeaways from the weekend. We saw the first collegiate goals from Jake Crespi and Carson Bantle, also we finally saw the Tech blue line shoring itself up at the end of game one and all through out game two. I was particular impressed with the improvements junior Tyrell Buckley made throughout the series and he has appeared to have taken the 6th spot on the blueline. Finally, credit must be given to the entire team as they greatly reduced the amount of time spent in the penalty box, this is a must this upcoming weekend against a hyper-physical Wildcat team.
Keys to the Game
- Defense. Like I said previously the Wildcats are all offense. This was the case this past Wednesday where they took an early 4-0 lead but slowly gave it up, looking abysmal in the final minutes against Ferris. That being said, Tech should do a much better job keeping the Wildcats off the score sheet.
- Avoid the litterbox. NMU likes to play physical, and after watching their game against Ferris, the Huskies will have to keep calm and not let even the tiniest of skaters get to them. If they can stay away from the penalty kill, shouldn’t have any problems controlling the game.
- Home Ice Advantage (?). This is a weirder one, but Tech has won the last four times they have played at the Berry Events Center. The larger sheet of ice seems to not be a problem and hopefully this trend continues.
Tech is by far the more rounded team. They have better goaltending and defense, while the Wildcats do hold the offensive advantage. If NMU does manage to some how take a game, it’s going to be a high scoring one. However, Tech has proven they can stop that from happening. MTU wins 3-1, MTU wins 4-2.
The guys on our Chasing MacNaughton Podcast also made predictions for this coming series against Northern Michigan. Episode Seven’s liner notes can be found here.
How to Watch
All games are available through Mix 93.5 for audio featuring Dirk Hembroff (free), flohockey.tv* (paywall) for video, and broadcasted on TV6 featuring Mark Evans & Dave Ellis. Game 1 will 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 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.
Jonathan graduated from Michigan Tech in the spring of 2018 with a degree in Physics and Social Science in addition to a minor in Social and Behavioral Studies. He spent his college career watching hockey with the Misfits where he became the treasurer in his last year. When not traveling to away games he resides in Hancock working for a local engineering company and keeping up with all things Tech Hockey.