The Huskies closed out their regular season with two difficult losses to Minnesota State, the #1 team in the nation. On Friday, Tech lost 2-1 to the Mavericks in overtime, while they lost again 2-1 on Saturday in regulation. There is a clearly a very small but unmistakable difference between these two teams, and the Huskies seemed to close that gap to just a hair of disparity with their weekend play.
There’s not much to recap from these games — one goal Mavs’ wins have been the story between Them Dogs and the MNSU for some time. There’s a reason why Minnesota State has ended up #1 in both the Pairwise rankings and the national polls — but there’s also a reason why Tech remained 12th in the Pairwise and finished second in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
Seniors Finish Their Careers at the JMAC
Ten seniors participated in the post-game ceremonies at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena on Saturday night, and this is probably the best senior class in quite some time for the Huskies. These guys have a ton of noteworthy accomplishments from their time with the Huskies, and they’ll be part of MTU’s long hockey history from this point forward.
Fifth year senior Justin Misiak, who was injured in Friday’s game and didn’t dress, set the all-time Tech record for number of games played. Brian Halonen finished the season tied for second nationally in scoring with 44 points, while ending up fourth in goals scored with 21. Captains Alec Broetzman and Trenton Bliss led the team in scoring for the previous two seasons, while defensemen Colin Swoyer and Eric Gotz were also top performers throughout their four year careers.
While these stalwarts still have a promising post-season ahead, Tech fans should savor their play as much as possible as the CCHA playoffs start. While 8 of these players still have an extra year of eligibility due to the “COVID year” rule, there have been plenty of NHL scouts at Tech’s games lately. And there’s no guarantee that any senior not signed to a pro contract won’t enter the transfer portal, either.
Starting the Playoffs
Of course, there’s a lot left to play for starting this next weekend, as the Tech will host the Ferris State Bulldogs in the first round of the CCHA playoffs. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the final CCHA standings and playoff pairings and the chase for the playoff trophy, the Mason Cup.
Minnesota State will host eighth place St. Thomas in a series that is not expected to pose any difficulties for the Mavs. Bowling Green will have to make the long trip to Bemidji State for their series, and Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State will face off in Sault Ste. Marie in a battle of 4th and 5th place teams. These two series are expected to be very close, and picking among these four teams is somewhere between difficult and a fool’s errand.
The Huskies struggled against the Bulldogs in Big Rapids two weeks ago, but those games were played in Big Rapids on FSU’s odd sized ice surface. While nothing is certain in college hockey, the Huskies should prevail in Houghton, particularly if they play with the intensity and grit that they demonstrated against Minnesota State last weekend. But if they don’t bring their “A” game to the rink, the Bulldogs are not afraid of Tech and things could be dicey for Husky Nation if that happens.
All first round series are best two out of three matches. However, in a format change this season, the second round will be a single game as will the playoff championship game. If Tech does beat FSU, they will also host a semi-final game. They would then also host the championship game but only if MNSU loses in one of the first two rounds.
Finally, despite two losses, the Huskies held on to the 12th spot in the Pairwise rankings. Sweeping Ferris State and then winning a semi-final game at home will likely secure an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament — but an autobid is possible if Tech can win the Mason Cup. And one more thing — there won’t be any more 3 on 3 overtime play from this point forward. Any games tied in regulation will be real five on five, sudden-death overtime. No shootouts, either. Just authentic hockey.
Win or Say Bye-Bye
No matter, this has been a very successful season for Tech. It’s been a bit frustrating because the Huskies were so close to being a top five national team and lost 6 games in overtime. They also lost four games by one goal in regulation. The Huskies were tied for fourth fewest goals against in the nation, Blake Pietila is a Mike Richter Award (best goalie) finalist, and Halonen will certainly get some support for the Hobey Baker Award.
But the end of this season all depends on winning. Tech could lose one game against Ferris State, and then possibly one game in the finals of the CCHA playoff. If they do that, they can make it to the Big Skate, the NCAA tournament, and then it’s a one-and-done world.
There are a zillion possibilities. And the reality is simple.
As The Old Dog has said before, none of the details matter, so Just Win, Baby.