Entering the second weekend of February, we find ourselves entering into the 100th annual Winter Carnival series. With the Huskies (17-8-2, 16-3-2 (1-5) pairwise) set to play the Bowling Green Falcons (13-12-3, 10-10-3 (3-2) pairwise) for the first time this season. The Falcons find themselves traveling to Houghton after being swept by the Mavericks (27-5-0, 25-5-0 (2-0) pairwise).
This will be the first and only meeting between these two teams this season. This is due to the CCHA trying to leave games open for teams to play non-conference games. As a result, each CCHA plays one fellow league member for a single series. For example, the Lakers and Mavericks only play in one series, the Wildcats only play the Tommies once, and so on. Additionally, since this is the first time we are looking at the Falcons, there are some major changes that need to be discussed, all roster related.
The first topic to cover is the transfer portal. The transfer portal has turned into the NCAA’s version of free agency for players. Players looking to move on from their current team and institution can declare for the portal, essentially putting themselves on the trading block. Once a player has entered the portal, a school can choose to pick up the student and add them to their team, provided the player agrees to play for that institution. In previous years, this would come with a penalty where the player would have to sit out for a year before being able to play. This exact thing happened with former Husky Gavin Gould, who transferred to Bowling Green after the 2018-19 season. He had to sit out the 2019-20 season and then played his senior year in 2020-21.
However, everything changed when the Covid-19 pandemic started. This changed how the transfer portal works, in addition to player eligibility. The short of it is that players do not need to sit out a season, they are eligible to play an additional 5th season, and a player can transfer to a different institution without having to sit out a year. As a result of these changes, the Falcons had a massive amount of player turnover. They lost nine players, eight to school transfers and one to going pro. Here is a list:
The Falcons lost their top 1.5 lines and two top D-men to the transfer portal, as well as a depth forward in Gould. They lost 148 points or 50.5% of their total point production. This is very similar to what the Badgers lost between last season and this season.
Not all is lost for Bowling Green as they have had players step up, just not to the same degree:
The Falcons are enjoying decent seasons from five players of their players. However, point totals drop off dramatically after Chicoine’s 17. The goaltending is all over the place as well. It isn’t as bad as NMU’s or UST’s respective situations, but for fourth place in the CCHA, it is not where it should be. Their season has also been a rollercoaster ride. They haven’t had much success against top teams this year, with their best result being winning two of four against Bemidji State. Otherwise, they are losing against top teams (Minnesota State, Michigan, Providence, Ohio State, etc) while splitting or tying with teams like Northern, Ferris, and Miami.
The most similar comparison from a pure defensive perspective is how they performed against the Mavericks, as the Huskies are having a similar year in the defensive zone. From our InStat data, we found:
The Falcons were contained to the point more or less all weekend. They managed to drive the net better in game one. Their lone goal on the weekend came on a back door pass of which McKay couldn’t slide over to in time. The Mavericks held a clinic on the Falcons over the weekend showing their weakness in that they can’t defend against net crashing or shots with a lot of traffic. This will be key to get to either Rose or Stoever, both who have an equal chance at starting and have not filled the hole left by Dop.
Speaking of clinics, our Huskies showed the Wildcats one putting up a crooked number winning 8-1. That being said the Wildcats were in an unlucky scenario due to the loss of key players, but did play to the best of their ability. Coach Grant Potulny was very blunt in his interviews, and even gave a bit of insight into just how short handed they were with nine players unable to play for Tuesday’s game. The InStat data reflects this with the Huskies dominating all zones.
The Huskies also saw a full team effort with 12 different players recording at least one point. Tech also had three players one goal short of a hat trick as well. Coach Shawhan took the right approach after they went up big, focusing on the little things and telling players to avoid big checks. It was clear that player preservation was on the forefront of the coach staff with such an important series coming in just three days’ time. Only time will tell if any players are rested, but given the importance of Winter Carnival and the damage that would happen to the Huskies pairwise (they are currently 6th), they need to win both games.
Keys to the Game
- Crash the Net. The Huskies need to continue getting to the “Hard Ice”. The Falcons are particularly weak as seen against them in their series versus Mankato.
- Don’t get out worked. Tech has the lead when it comes to skill. They have better players this season and they are the favorites in all aspects in terms of metrics. However, they can be beaten if they act like they did against St. Thomas. They can’t have that same mentality again this season or else it will happen.
- Keep your head. Over the past three games Tech is finding themselves with more and more penalties. They need to revert to their no nonsense play from before the St. Thomas’ series as Bowling Green has always been a team that can get under players’ skin. Especially with Sam Craggs still on the roster.
Once again, I think this is Tech’s series to lose. Given how well the defense is performing, I am expecting a similar result the Falcons had against the Mavericks. The only area of concern for the Huskies is whether or not their offense can show up. It’s either depth scoring or top line scoring and if both decide not to show up then it will be a bad time. MTU wins 3-2, MTU wins 4-2.
Cover photo courtesy Michigan Tech Athletics.
InStat plots created by Zach Aufdemberge
How to Watch
Tuesday’s games are available through Mix 93.5 for audio featuring Dirk Hembroff (free), via flohockey.tv* (paywall) for video. Friday’s game is at 7:07 EST with Saturday’s game being 5:07 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.