After what could be considered their worst period of hockey since Saturday, October 21, 2017 where they lost to a currently paused Alabama-Huntsville Team 4-2; the Michigan Tech Huskies (8-5-0) find themselves playing their toughest opponent of the season in the Minnesota State Mavericks (12-4-0). The Mavericks are coming off of an away split with the Lake Superior State Lakers (8-9-1).

Analysis

This Mavericks team is probably the most vulnerable the Huskies have seen in the Dryden McKay era. They are still by and far the best team in the CCHA, but this year has shown that, unlike in the past, they are beatable. Teams like Lake State and Ferris have proven this, if you are able to get ahead of this Minnesota State team it is possible to lock it down and just grind out a win. However, this is easier said than done. The Mavericks have yet to win a game by less than two goals with the exception to one game against an evenly matched St. Cloud State team (9-5-0) . 

That being said, before we go any further, let’s take a look at this year’s team: 

As we can see, this team is much more offensively gifted than our Huskies, with four players averaging a point or more per game where Tech has only one in Brian Halonen. Additionally, this team is going to be the most balanced team Tech has played yet with very good point distribution among its regularly playing skaters. All four lines of this Maverick team are dangerous and as a result Tech’s defense is going to have to be on their A-game, something that we haven’t seen since Clarkson. 

There is one last thing to cover in this preview regarding the Mavericks. As of late, they have been suffering a flu-like bug (non-covid related) going through the locker room resulting in players to either miss games or not play at 100%. As a result, they have been playing with a non-ideal roster. This could result in players like McKay and Lutz not being at 100% this weekend and could be an advantage the Huskies desperately need. 

Moving toward the away team, we saw a redemption arch this previous weekend for the Huskies. The first part of said storyline was after this year’s worst period of hockey we have seen from Coach Shawhan’s squad, they were able to come together in the first intermission and turn things around, keeping the pressure on and never letting up. Part two came in the redemption of the player slotted into game two in the form of Tyrone Bronte, Matthew Quercia, and Parker Saretsky. These three have seen reduced ice time in recent weeks either due to injury or just simply not cracking the lineup. All three had huge impacts on game two with Quercia and Bronte’s line being an early offensive well and Saretsky slotting in very well to Broetzman and Caderoth’s line. 

Those three proved that they want to stay in the lineup and quite frankly have proved they deserve to be there. The players they have replaced in Logan Gaine, Jake Crespi, and Nick Nardella have shown signs of regressing in recent weeks with Crespi being the only player to make a case to have in the line up for his PK and defensive abilities. On the blue line a similar story was seen with Russell and Docter, with Russell showing signs of regression and Docter being an upgrade in game two. 

However, there was one noticeable caveat to this switch, Docter looked to be lost and unable to keep up with a fast Ferris team. His positioning was far better than what was seen with Russell who was beaten on Ferris’ first goal and not realizing there was a second skater on the breakaway behind him in Ferris’ second goal. Needless to say, the Huskies didn’t do any favors for Blake Pietila in game one. Game two was a different story, with the Huskies taking an early lead and never looking back. 

Finally, there are a few notes to touch on. I want to first give credit where credit is due in the play of both Colin Swoyer and Brian Halonen on their penalty side of the game. Both cleaned up their play while also being just as offensively dominant. My hat goes off to the two of them. Secondly, I would like to give a quick congratulations to both Matthew Quercia on his first goal as a Husky and to Cayden Bailey on his first ever appearance and save in collegiate hockey. Covering sports is never an easy thing to do at any level. We in the media are here to ask the tough questions, but that doesn’t mean we don’t realize that at the end of the day this is just a game and players and coaches are people too. 

So congratulations to those two and for those who are a fan of goalie equipment Bailey has some of the best pads I have ever seen in the sport of hockey:

Keys to the Game

  1. A game within a game. This series is gonna be determined by the little things this weekend. These are two very composed teams both in “win now” modes. It will be up to the players to implement Coach Shawhan’s system. However, it will be up to Coach Shawhan to have a system that can also be Mike Hastings.
  2. Disciple. The Huskies can not get frustrated by this Mavericks team under any circumstances. One stupid penalty or one defensive slip up is enough for it to be game over. It will be up to the coaching staff and the team leaders to keep the players in line.
  3. Take an early lead… and keep it. This is one of those series where Tech fans hope for a very boring weekend of hockey. That means that Tech is in the lead and grinding the play to a halt. I am not trying to say coming back isn’t possible, but against a team like the Mavericks and Coach Hastings it’s probably nigh impossible for a spotty Tech offensive at this point in the season.

My Prediction

I am going to be as blunt and as straightforward as possible. This is Mankato’s series to lose. As much as we all love our Huskies team we are out matched in every way but maybe special teams and defense as the stats on paper sit right now. That being said, anything but two regulation losses is a good thing for Tech and they are certainly capable of doing that. However, if they are gonna take a game it will be very close and probably in the same fashion as they did it in December of 2020 where they took an early lead and then just hung on. That being said I think a split is entirely possible since there are sick Maverick players who though are playing might not be 100%. MTU wins 2-1 Mankato wins 3-1

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

Cover & Bailey 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.