After a strong game one which saw the Huskies out last the Minnesota State Mavericks winning 3-1, they found themselves on the receiving end being shut out 2-0 the next night. Meanwhile, the Bemidji State Beavers have found themselves in a Covid limbo only playing their one and only game on November 22nd losing to the Mavericks 5-0.
In their only game this season the Beavers found themselves against the Mavericks that played in Game 2 vs Tech. They were shutout while giving up five goals which also caused Senior netminder Zach Driscoll to get pulled after 50 minutes played. The Beavers have yet to play a game since resulting in a full 20 days between games. Looking to their roster for this current season, we find only five player departures with the graduation of Adam Brady (34 pts), Tommy Muck (20 pts), and Hampus Sjödahl; while juniors Charlie Combs (to MSU, 5pts this season) and Henry “Hank” Johnson (to Mercyhurst 1-0-1, 2.02 GAA, .956 SV% this season) transferred. From these losses the Beavers found themselves losing 84 points or ~27% of their total output last season.
The Beavers where picked to finish second in the WCHA preseason media poll. This was in no doubt due to their strong finish last season with a record of 22-10-5. I would typically agree with this assessment, however, the Beavers had an incredibly forgiving schedule last season with all opponents having a combined record of 188-198-54. Removing teams like North Dakota (25-5-4) and Minnesota State (31-5-2) drops the overall opponent record down too 132-188-42. Finally, to add insult to injury, the Beavers played seven games against LSSU (14-23-4), four games against Ferris State (7-26-2), two games against Alaska Anchorage (4-25-7), and four games against Alabama-Huntsville (2-26-4). Now, I’m not trying to discredit Head Coach Tom Serratore and his team’s performance last season, but I do think it is important to put it into perspective.
On the other side of the sheet, we see a Tech team that impressed in game one, taking an early lead against the Mavericks while bending but not breaking to hold on. Sophomore Goaltender Blake Pietila was outstanding giving up only 3 goals on 81 shots over the course of the series. Game one saw him standing on his head giving up one goal 18:44 into the 3rd period after Dryden McKay had been pulled for the extra attacker. Game two saw a similar performance from Pietila, though giving up two goals on the night.
The Huskies offense also impressed with how much they improved since the Lake State series. They where able to cleanly enter the Mavericks zone while continuing to produce quality shots on net. This led to 3 goals in 43 shots in the series. The Michigan Tech blue line also looked strong, but after a good performance by senior Cooper Watson and sophomore Chris Lipe as the third pair in game one, it was confusing to see them replaced. This was especially hurtful to the Huskies given the poor game for sophomore Brenden Datema where he took a 5-minute major in addition to a 2-minute minor throughout the game. This leads into the final news worthy even of the series, in that in the referees played a bigger role than they probably should have. From two questionable 5-minute major penalties on Trenton Bliss (Checking from behind) and Brenden Datema (Kneeing), an overturn Mavericks goal, and a high stick to Tyler Rockwell’s throat right in front of one of the officials with no call being made. The WCHA refs continue to baffle players, coaches, and fans alike. There has been inconsistencies on their calls and little to no communication to fans or team benches about what is happening. It’s the beginning of the season for the officials as well, so let’s hope there is improvement going forward.
Keys to the Game
- Conditioning. This was a key factor in last weeks win in game one the Huskies were stronger out of the gate resulting in them taking a lead. However, this changed as the series progressed as the Mavericks got their legs back. Bemidji finds themselves in a similar situation where they have only played one game 20 days ago. Look for the Huskies to take advantage of this and take an early lead.
- Defensive depth. This was an issue we saw when the lineup changed from game one to two. This caused a rotation to occur changing D-pairings on the fly. Hopefully Tech will be able to find a system that works to prevent any confusion and issues from arising during play.
- Play Cleanly. There were just too many penalties in game two against the Mavericks. They had too many chances on the power play. This in turn is what caused the disastrous 2nd period in game two where Tech was out shot 17-1.
I truly think the Beavers are being overrated from their performance last year. In addition, if the Huskies are able to give a repeat performance of their series against Mankato, I would expect them to sweep the Beavers with ease. MTU wins 3-1, MTU wins 4-2.
How to Watch
All games are available through Mix 93.5 for audio featuring Dirk Hembroff (free), and via flohockey.tv* (paywall) for video. Game 1 will be Saturday at 5:07 EST and game 2 will be Sunday at 3:07 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.