That’s five “Woofs” as Count von Count might say. And each woof is for one Husky goal. This weekend in Madison against the Wisconsin Badgers, Them Dogs pounded home five goals both Friday and Saturday night to sweep the series, notching a 10-3 goal differential. And to be honest, other than in the first ten minutes of the Friday game, the Badgers really weren’t in either match.
While this isn’t a total surprise—after all, Tech Hockey Guide’s prognosticator Jonathan Zamaites predicted a sweep before the series—the total dominance that Michigan Tech showed against the defending Big Ten champion was certainly unexpected.
Of course, this brought great joy to Husky nation and gained Tech a spot in the national polls, as the Huskies debuted at #16 in the USCHO poll . Tech’s rabid student section, Mitch’s Misfits, made the trip down to southern Wisconsin and you could hear them (and more than a few of Tech’s other road warriors) loud and clear on both the TV broadcast and the radio feed.
That’s not the whole story, though, because there were a number of things worth discussing a bit more.
The Offense May Be For Real
After last season, when Tech couldn’t seem to score no matter how many shots they had on goal, it was great to see five goals on Friday when they were outshot 40-26. Most of that differential came in the third period, however when Wisconsin was trying to close a three goal deficit and had a 20-5 shot advantage.
On Saturday, the Huskies had the shot advantage 28-22, but after jumping out to a 5-0 lead at the 2:50 mark of the second period, the Badgers never applied great pressure.
Two games do not a season make, and it will almost certainly be a different dynamic against CCHA teams (most of them, at least) that think defense first. Nevertheless, it’s hard to see how this could have gone much better on the offensive ledger for Tech.
Waking From A COVID Dream
Last season, some of Tech’s forwards seemed at times to be sleepwalking. Logan Pietila and Parker Saretsky in particular didn’t score a single goal, and they weren’t much of a factor all season. Both ended up watching from the press box at times.
However, they seemed to flourish once the stands were filled with people. Pietila popped in three goals and added an assist, while Saretsky had a goal and two assists, and was dangerous when he was on the ice. Finally, while Nick Nardella had a good freshman year last season, he didn’t show any signs of a sophomore slump as he quietly chipped in with three assists.
The Senior Class Is Serious
Three years ago, the Old Dog looked at a large freshman class and thought this might be the best influx of talent since the mid-seventies, when two straight great classes (including Mike Zuke, Bob Lorimer, Jim Warden, Bruce Abbey, and several others who played pro hockey) led Tech to the NCAA Championship Game in three straight seasons—and won the Huskies last championship in 1975.
That promise has only been partly fulfilled, and, while Tech was close last year, they never really reached the level that they had the talent to play at.
Those seniors were everywhere in this series. Alec Broetzman was on fire, with two goals and three assists. Brian Halonen had a goal and two assists; Trenton Bliss scored an absolute highlight reel goal and Tommy Parrottino added an assist. The defenders were in on the party too, as Eric Gotz (who hadn’t been able to practice much for undisclosed reasons) had two assists, Tyrell Buckley make a great play on one of Pietila’s goals and earned an assist and Colin Swoyer also added an assist. If they can maintain that level of play, Tech will be a serious CCHA and NCAA Tournament contender.
The Transfers Were Terrific
The Huskies grabbed three players from the transfer portal over the summer, and they were certainly as good as the Old Dog thought they might be. Australian Tyrone Bronte had a goal and an assist, and, with linemate Ryland Mosley (who joined Tech midseason last year) drove the Badgers a bit crazy with their speed and intensity. Defenseman Michael Karow played near-flawless hockey on the back end and Matt Quercia had an assist while centering Broetzman and Pietila.
Can’t Forget the Defense
Despite being outshot on Friday, the Huskies were outstanding in their own end in both games. After the first ten minutes in the first game, they rarely surrendered any quality chances. On Saturday, it was hard to find more than two or three Badger shots that really had a chance to go in.
When called on, goalie Blake Pietila looked like he just picked up where he left off last year. Although he allowed UW freshman Caden Brown to bank in a shot from the behind the blue line on Brown’s first NCAA shift at the 1:13 mark of the first period, he was rock solid after that. He yielded a second goal on a breakaway Friday and on Saturday, the only Badger goal was a fluke tip that soared high in the air and fell behind him. His GAA of 1.50 and save percentage of 0.952 were dynamite.
As I suggested in one of my season previews, Tech could be a national leader in defense and goaltending before the season is over.
But It’s Only One Series
While the past weekend was nice while it lasted, the pressure doesn’t let up as Tech is facing a challenging non-conference schedule before starting the CCHA season that’s likely to be tougher than the old WCHA schedules ever were.
This weekend, Tech hosts #17 Notre Dame on Friday and then the National Team Development Program squad on Saturday. Both games will be at the JMac in Houghton. They will get a bye week and then travel to Potsdam, NY to take on Clarkson at Scheel Arena, a spot where few visitors ever win.
In November, the Huskies host Lake Superior State, play the traditional home-and-home series with Northern Michigan, travel to Bemidji State and then return home to face Ferris State. We’ll know a lot more about this team before Thanksgiving—but then the struggle will continue as they face current No. 1 Minnesota State in Mankato the first weekend in December.
A Final Note
This week’s column is the 100th Old Dog note I’ve had the privilege to pen. I want to thank the THG staff, who gave me this podium and faithfully edit my work each week. I also want to thank everyone who reads my musings and hope to continue doing this for some time to come.