After a dominant 5-1 win against the Northern Michigan Wildcats (14-11-1, 11-11-1 (3-0) Pairwise), the Michigan Tech Huskies (15-8-1, 14-3-1 (1-5) Pairwise) find themselves traveling to the Twin Cities for the first time since December 10, 2011. Instead of playing old time opponents in the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (15-11-0, 13-9-0 (2-2) Pairwise), the Huskies find themselves playing the new kids on the block in the St. Thomas Tommies (2-24-0, 2-21-0 (0-3) Pairwise). Two weeks ago, the Tommies found themselves on the wrong side of two blow out games against the Minnesota State Mavericks (25-5-0, 23-5-0 (2-0) Pairwise).

Analysis

The Tommies are continuing their rough inaugural season just as they started it. They have gone 1-4-1 in their last six games, taking another win from Ferris State and taking Bowling Green to overtime in game two. Here is an overview of their last six games: 

Against teams with weaker defenses like the Bulldogs and the Falcons, St. Thomas showed that they are able to make games close. They even showed this against teams with great defenses by taking the Huskies to overtime in game two of their previous series against Tech. Despite the ability to keep the games close, this Tommies team has continued their struggles from when they last saw the Huskies. As a result, their individual numbers aren’t the prettiest either. 

For reference, the Huskies have six players above 14 points and 11 players with double digit point totals. Though credit should be given to the Tommies, despite these abysmal stats they don’t give up. Every game, no matter the end result, the players leave it all on the ice. They even managed to get two goals on a Minnesota State team that has only allowed 40 on the entire season. 

Now a brief interlude, 

We at Tech Hockey Guide have recently purchased access to InStat, which is the service the CCHA uses to track everything in every game from time on ice (TOI), to things like shot position and where goals are scored from. This service is not cheap, but is a huge source of good and important data for analyzing Tech Hockey. We are still deciding how to share this data, which may or may not include the use of sponsorships, Patreon pay walls, etc.  

THG’s previews will give you a taste of what to expect and if you, the reader, want more insight and to get down in the weeds, more analytical articles will be coming in the near future! 

Now, back to your normally scheduled preview.  

Looking at the latest series against Minnesota State we can now see where both teams took shots and which shots made it into the net: 

Note: the size of the circle reflects how dangerous the shot was.

Game 1
Game 2

Most of the shots for St. Thomas came from the right hand side of the offensive zone with the lone goal each night coming in between the hash marks. It should be noted that the spot of a shot that results in a goal is inclusive of the position where a puck was deflected in as well. Most of Mankato’s shots were very close to the net in the outdoor game and then migrated back towards the point in the indoor environment. This is likely due to the on ice conditions as the outdoor game saw a build up of snow throughout each period. 

Additionally, through InStat we are given a heat map of all goals a goalie gives up. Both Peter Thome and Jacob Berger are weak top and bottom glove side with a majority of goals being scored on the shooter’s right.

Transitioning to our Huskies, we saw the most solid three games in five days of hockey in recent memory.  The Huskies outscored opponents 15 to 5 and managed a full 60 minute effort each night. Over their past five games since losing to Michigan State in overtime, the Huskies are 5-0 and have scored a whopping 21 goals while only allowing 5 goals. The biggest story out of these past three games is the resurgence of offense from both top line and depth players. In conjunction with the offensive might, the Huskies defensive core has been as solid as ever. 

In fact, looking at TOI the Huskies D core is averaging over 16 minutes per player in the last three games. This results in three strong pairings that can go out on the ice at any time which gives the Huskies coaching staff flexibility in matchups, zone coverage, and roster make up. The NCAA allows for an extra skater each game and through most of the first half of the season Coach Shawhan used it to dress an extra defenseman to try and shore up the blue line. Ever since the fake GLI the Huskies have been using it to dress an extra forward. This has allowed for better offensive matchups and a better distribution of minutes. This flexibility gives Coach Shawhan and the Huskies a chance to rest players which is going to be important with the packed schedule down the stretch. 

Now jumping back to some InStat data, we have the shot placement charts from the Huskies’ last two games: 

Game 2 against Bemidji State
Game 1 against Northern Michigan

As you can see from the charts above, the Huskies have found a lot of success in driving the net and taking shots closer to the opposing netminder. The sweet spot for this Huskies team appears to be between the hashmarks and the goal line; most of the recent goals come in the form of a rebound given up by the netminder or off a cross crease pass. This appears to be the Huskies wheel house and if they want to find continued success they should be exploiting this area of the offensive zone to the fullest potential. 

Keys to the Game

  1. Game management. This is the key theme for the next two weeks. The Huskies need to control the pacing of the game. The coaching staff is doing an excellent job and I would expect to see a different line up this weekend in order to rest some players.
  2. Motivation. These Huskies have been very good lately and coming into St. Thomas they need to make sure that they keep the effort up. They are 7th in pairwise as of writing and anything but a win is simply unacceptable. 
  3. Stretch the legs. This is gonna be a series where the third, and especially fourth line, are going to get extended minutes. They need to take full advantage of this playing time and show the coaching staff what they are capable of. 

My Prediction

This should be a rest series for the Huskies if they keep playing the way they have. That being said, they need to keep up the pressure. St. Thomas won’t give an inch so the Huskies are going to have to take it. They are more than capable of doing so, but they can’t get complacent. MTU wins 5-1, MTU wins 5-1. 

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

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 8:07 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.

Cover photo courtesy Michigan Tech Athletics.

InStat plots created by Zach Aufdemberge