The Michigan Tech Huskies (5-4-0) find themselves in northern Minnesota to face off against the Bemidji State Beavers (6-4-0). The Beavers are coming off of a road trip sweep of the LSSU Lakers (7-6-1).

Analysis

The Beavers find themselves at 6-4-0 after a very tough first few weeks to their season. They have been trying to find themselves after losing some players to the transfer portal. One way college hockey quantifies a team’s strength of schedule is through KRACH. This gives a rough estimate on how hard of a season a particular team has had compared to all out teams with 1 being the hardest schedule in the NCAA and 58 being the easiest. For example, Tech currently sits at 16th, Mankato is at 7th, Bowling Green is 18th and then there is Bemidji at 4th overall in the nation. 

The Beavers have had the 4th hardest schedule only being surpassed by Minnesota (7-5-0), Western Michigan (6-4-0) and Minnesota-Duluth (7-2-1). Collating this information, their 6-4-0 record starts to look a little more impressive, though there is a bit of deception. Bemidji has lost to a majority of the top teams in the NCAA (as of the writing of this preview). They were swept by Minnesota-Duluth, lost 2 out of 3 to North Dakota (one game was an exhibition), while also sweeping the Wildcats and Lakers. They have split with an up-and-down Bowling Green team that is still currently finding themselves after losing almost all their top scorers from last season. This Beaver team is close to proving if they are NCAA tournament-ready this season, but it’s difficult to judge them based on their current record. 

Looking at their roster, the same few names Husky fans will recognize with one big notable exception: 

Yes, my fellow Huskies fans, Zach Driscoll is no longer a Beaver. He has transferred to the University of North Dakota and can no longer frustrate Huskies fans and players alike. To the detriment of Beavers fans, his replacements have not been up to the same standard they have come to expect from the likes of Driscoll and Michael Bitzer before him. Additionally, the Beavers’ offensive production is similar to the Huskies in terms of top-end scoring, but loses its luster quicker than the Huskies as far as depth scoring is concerned. It should, however, be a pretty even offensive bout. 

Moving to the Huskies, we saw a less than inspiring result on Friday, losing to the Wildcats in overtime in a similar fashion as seen with the Lakers just a week prior. The Huskies are in a tough spot. Their defense is there more or less, despite a few bad breakdowns here and there, but the offense is struggling to show up. This isn’t to say that the shots aren’t there, moreover that their quality shots aren’t where they need to be. This past weekend is a perfect example: the Huskies managed 45 shots in game one with only two going in the net. The very next night, they were under half of that total with 22, yet five went in. The volume of shots only matters to a point, what’s more important is the location and whether or not they actually had a chance to go in the net. 

What we saw Friday was a Huskies team making Rico DiMatteo look better than he is. He played well and deserves credit in that win, but it’s not like the Huskies were making it hard on him, shooting at his Wildcat logo more times than we would like to admit. I’m not putting blame on any one individual or the coaching staff, they are much more knowledgeable than me in the world of hockey and I, like those who read the THG, are on the outside looking in. What matters is that adjustments were made in game two. Hopefully these changes are able to result in more consistent offense and dangerous shots resulting in the offense we know this team is capable of. 

Keys to the Game

  1. Composure. Both Bemidji and Tech are in the bottom half of the NCAA in terms of penalties. Last weekend, Tech did lose their team discipline at times (looking at you Colin Sowyer) and these hiccups hurt them. They need to right the ship and keep their heads cool.
  2. Systems. This one is for the coaching staff. Tom Serratore has had the Huskies’ number in recent years regarding systems and countering them. Joe Shawhan and co. will need to be on their toes this series making sure they don’t get countered into oblivion.
  3. Quality over Quantity. Tech needs to make sure their shots are high danger and have a real chance of hitting the back of the net. Shooting center-mass doesn’t work in any league and unless one of these three NCAA DI goalies doesn’t know how to hold a puck, it’s not going to work.

My Prediction

This series is probably going to result in a split and I am going to call that, given the last three weeks against similar caliber opponents have all been just that. I don’t see any exception here unless Tech proves they can maintain offensive pressure for a full 60 minutes a game. BSU wins 3-2. MTU wins 3-2. 

The guys on our Chasing MacNaughton Podcast also made predictions for this coming series against the Beavers. Season Three Episode Nine’s liner notes can be found here.

Cover photo courtesy Michigan Tech Athletics.

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 7:07 Est. 

*Flohockey.tv is also the source of all games played in CCHA 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.