After a split on the road against a tough Bemidji State team (7-5-0), our Michigan Tech Huskies (6-5-0) find themselves home for Thanksgiving facing off against a Ferris State (4-10-0) caught in fluctuation.
This Ferris State team is a catch-22 this season. They currently sit at 4-10-0, which within itself is not a good record by any stretches of the imagination. However, this team has had a weird year up to this point. The same Bulldogs that found themselves losing to a 1-14-0 St. Thomas also managed to beat a top team in the nation in the Minnesota State Mavericks (11-3-0). The Ferris State Bulldogs are in the exclusive group of St. Cloud State (9-5-0) and Michigan (10-4-0) to have beat the Mavericks, but they’re also the only NCAA team to lose to St. Thomas.
This Bulldog team has at times backed up up my view that they aren’t as bad a team as everyone seems to think they are. They are a year (or two) into a college hockey version of a rebuild under long time-head coach Bob Daniels. A majority of their roster consists of freshman and sophomores who have slowly begun to take bigger and bigger roles within the team. I would give the estimate that if everything goes to play (even in this transfer portal era) the Bulldogs will have righted the ship in a year or two.
Team speculation aside, let’s get to the key players this season:
There are only three underclassmen among their team leaders in Brandley Marek (Fr.), Stepan Pokorny (So.), and Logan Stein (So.). This is notable in that the long-time faces Liam MacDougall (5th season) and Roni Salmenkangas (Sr.) are making their last hurrah before leaving their Ferris team to the next generation of players. What’s even more impressive given this current transfer portal era is Ferris hasn’t picked up many players nor have they lost much, just two players in Coale Norris (to Bowling Green) and Jake Willets (to Lake Superior State). This does hurt, but it is by means the worst case scenario.
Moving to the Huskies, we also find ourselves in a bit of a catch-22. The Huskies defense showed come kinks in its armor, at points against the Beavers. It’s tough to pinpoint one specific flaw, but one thing is apparent: the Huskies defense can not solely win them a game. Our penalty kill has given up four goals in 13 short handed situations (69%) in the last four games alone. To add insult to injury, these chances are seemingly coming at the hands of the same individuals every game in Colin Swoyer and Brain Halonen, each costing the Huskies a goal over this previous weekend via sitting in the box.
It isn’t fair to gang up on these players; they also lead the team in points (in addition to PIMs), so it isn’t as simple as taking them out of the line up, as that would would gimp an already anemic offense. However, the previous two series have shown the Huskies can’t just let these two players take dumb penalties and expect their PK to bail them out any longer.
Additionally, the Huskies can’t expect Blake Pietila to bail them out of every defensive lapses either. Bemidji’s first goal by Owen Sillenger shouldn’t have ever happened given a weak defensive performance by Tech’s Michael Karow. Thorne’s poor choice to throw a check instead of back skate to cover caused the two on one leading to the Beavers’ 3rd goal. Finally, Bemidji’s 4th goal sees Colin Swoyer up by the hash marks instead of covering the puck carrier who is behind the net just before the puck goes to the shooting stick. Instead. you see Bronte taking the role of a defenseman because of Swoyer’s poor position resulting in an open Will Zmolek.
You may think I am being a bit too harsh on this team, and I can agree with that to a degree, but at the same time this has been a Huskies team that has prided itself on its defense. Time and time again, you hear in opponents interviews that Tech is a stingy team that doesn’t give up much, but as of right now that just isn’t the case. This team is capable of so much more and I think we should expect just as much.
Keys to the Game
- Positioning, positioning, positioning. Tech has a major problem in player positioning in recent weeks whether it be defensively or offensively players need to make sure they can cover their area.
- Run up the score. This should be an easier series for the Huskies, but it’s up to them to make sure that is the case this series should allow the Huskies to pad their stats.
- No lose scenario. Lets just be blunt, anything but a one sided sweep is going to be seen as a failure and that is the way it should be with how skilled this team is. The Huskies need to prove to their fans and the rest of the NCAA that they can win games and just come close to winning.
My biggest fear (either than Tech losing a game) is that they win just by the skin of their teeth. This series should be hook, line, and sinker. A few things can spell doom though. Logan Stein is very capable of shutting the door, if Tech’s offense can’t get going and their defense shows nothing has changed this could very well happen. Additionally, we need to see growth from the likes of Colin Swoyer and Brian Halonen in the penalty game. They are great players and I don’t want to discredit them in any way, they just need to quickly reread the NCAA rule book so that they can stay out of the box. Finally, Tech needs to prove to us that they can score. They are starting to find their offense, but whether or not they can sustain it is the real question. MTU wins 3-2, MTU wins 4-1.
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 7:07 Est and game 2 will be Saturday at 6:07 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.