Typically, this preview would conclude the regular season for our Michigan Tech Huskies (14-8-1, 13-3-1 (1-5) Pairwise) as they are set to play longtime rivals in the Northern Michigan Wildcats (14-10-1, 11-10-1 (3-0) Pairwise). In fact, the last time the Huskies didn’t play NMU in the final series of the season was the 2013-14 season where they also ended the year against the Mavericks (25-5-0, 23-5-0 (2-0) Pairwise). Now we see them play Northern in a Tuesday-Tuesday series due to a Covid outbreak within the NMU program.

Analysis

The Wildcats have had their ups and downs so far this season, and that hasn’t changed since the Huskies last played them in November. Showing their previous series results we find:

The Wildcats have won ten of their last 14 which is very good for their prospects in both the CCHA and the NCAA pairwise working their way up to 2t8h as of the writing of this preview. Their success has come off a combination of a few factors. First, they have only played one top team in Minnesota State and, to a lesser extent, UMD, who had to play with players down including starting goaltender Ryan Fanti (11-5-2, 1.60 GAA, .933 SV%)  instead having to enlist 3rd string netminder Ben Patt (0-2-0, 4.07 GAA, .875 SV%) who played his first two college games that weekend. Congratulations is still due to NMU for that series sweep, but it is reduced given the circumstances. At least UMD didn’t pull a Michigan in that situation… 

Second is the Wildcats stuck to their game of just outscoring their opponents instead of preventing goals against. This can be seen in all but the Mankato and LSSU series. The mantra of this Wildcats team is the exact opposite of the Huskies; all offense with little to no defense. This can be seen when looking at their overall stats (courtesy of CHN):

We can see that Tech leads in every facet but offense. This has been the same trend we have seen year over year with Grant Potulny’s team with the exception of PP% which is usually better than our Huskies. 

Finally, the Wildcats just have better top end talent as far as offense is concerned: 

The only player that comes close to the same production is Tech’s Brian Halonen. However, again NMU’s weakness rears its ugly head in this same table when we look at goaltending. Rico DiMatteo is by far their best goalie on the roster. That being said, he wouldn’t be even considered a starter on teams like the Huskies, Mavericks, Beavers, Lakers, and even Falcons given those numbers. This is the secret to beating the Wildcats: just keep them to two goals or less. 

If the Lakers series was a show of force from the special teams, the Beaver’s series was a show of force from the rest of the Huskies game. They managed seven 5 on 5 goals with an additional three on the powerplay.  Game one saw a majority of the heavy lifting done by Tech’s top line notching 2 goals and 6 assists on the night. Game two saw some sweet, sweet depth scoring with Alec Brotzman scoring twice, hopefully righting the ship for the back half of his season. 

The Huskies fourth line finally saw the fruits of their labor with Logan Ganie potting two goals on the weekend. Ganie, along with Mosley, Nardella and Crespi have proved to be the most solid 4th line combination we have seen all season. Mosley and Ganie have specifically shown some good chemistry while Nardella and Crespi have shown just how versatile they are, being able to either slot into anywhere and everywhere they are needed. 

Jake Crespi in particular impressed after being on the first powerplay unit while managing to draw a penalty resulting in a 5 on 3 chance, which the Huskies managed to convert. Additionally, Crespi was able to slot into the wing spot for Saretsky in the 2nd period when line flow was getting disturbed due to Bemidji pressure. 

Finally, I would like to point out the D-corps and the outstanding job they did all weekend. They managed to keep Owen Sillinger and Alex Ierullo off the score sheet all weekend. They did have their defensive lapses at times, especially when a cherry picking Lukas Sillinger managed to hover at our blue line and split the D on a occasion. However, more often than not, Blake Pietila was able to bail them out. 

Keys to the Game

  1. Composure. This is going to be key this Tuesday playing the Wildcats. We could see things getting a bit out of hand against the Lakers and Beavers. The Huskies lucked out that nothing escalated that probably won’t be the case this time around. 
  2. Depth Scoring. They did a good job on Saturday, but the second line of Misiak-Pietila-Ashbrook was a bit quiet on the score sheet. Though they were more used in the defensive zone against the Beavers, expect them to get a chance to stretch their offensive legs.
  3. Game Management. Things are going to start to get tough for the coaching staff. They will need to walk the fine line between winning games and not overextending players due to the amount of games the Huskies have in the month of February.

My Prediction

The Huskies should be fielding the same roster if I were to guess. I would expect to see some changes against St. Thomas this coming weekend to rest some players. That being said, I think this is Tech’s game to lose and it will be up to them to limit the Wildcats to two or less goals. MTU wins 4-2.

Cover photo courtesy Michigan Tech Athletics.

How to Watch

Tuesday’s games are available through Mix 93.5 for audio featuring Dirk Hembroff (free), via flohockey.tv* (paywall) for video, and broadcasted TV6 featuring Mark Evans & Dave Ellis. Tuesday’s game is 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.