After what looked to be a promising start to their season with two exhibition wins, our Michigan Tech Huskies (0-1-0, 0-1-0 (0-0) Pairwise) brought fans back to earth after their first real game and 3rd exhibition game. Tech lost a close game in Big Rapids to the Bulldogs (1-2-1, 1-2-1 (0-0) Pairwise) while getting smacked around by the extremely impressive US National Development Team. They find themselves continuing their road plane trip in Fairbanks Alaska to take on the Nanooks (2-1-1, 2-0-1 (0-1) Pairwise) for the first time since pre-Covid times in 2019. The Nanooks have found some success this season going into the weekend sweeping American International College or AIC (0-1-2, 0-1-2 (0-0) Pairwise) and splitting with St. Thomas (1-3-0, 0-3-0 (1-0) Pairwise) last weekend losing in overtime in game two.

Analysis

The Nanooks come into this season as their second year as an independent DI team. This in of itself has some advantages and disadvantages. First and foremost they only way the Nanooks make the national tournament is via an at-large bid, however, as an independent they play a much wider range of teams allowing for better pairwise comparisons. They, like most other teams, have also used the transfer portal to get some new bodies in the Union’s biggest state. Their most notable additions this season have been in Seniors T.J. Lloyd (D, BGSU), Jonny Sorenson (F, Minnesota), and Matt Radomsky (G, Holy Cross). The most notable of the group is Lloyd who’s intention to leave the Falcons to be well known with rumors pegging him to even be joining our Huskies via his junior connections with Parker Saretsky and Logan Ganie. However, no transfer ever happened. 

As for the rest of the team their stats are as follows:

The biggest takeaways from the limited amount of games played is just how much UAF’s underclassmen are leading the way. All but Pyke and Sorenson are underclassmen and so far they are putting in work. Also is the performance of Radomsky who is so far exceeding his number with Holy Cross though against Atlantic Hockey caliber opponents still. Though it’s probably a good guess that Alaska has a better defensive game than Holy Cross. 

We can gain a bit of insight curiously of our Instat data which makes its return this week after having a slow start getting data in. 

Game 1 Xs: Shots taken by team in that zone that were blocked
Game 2 Xs: Shots taken by team in that zone that were blocked

The Nanooks took a crash first approach to the Tommies getting to the hard ice to apply pressure and gain the advantage. All of the Nanook game one’s goals came on momentum shifts from either a blocked shot, partial break away, or pushing the net. Game two was a different story scoring both goals in a 5 v 3 situation.  However, not all is sunshine and rainbows for this UAF team. The Tommies were able to score five goals on the weekend with about three of them coming on defensive lapses or mispositioning by the Nanooks.

As far as the Nanook’s season is concerned they have done a good job to start on a high note. They look to continue this momentum into their second homestand of the season against a travel fatigued Huskies team that has looked sloppy at best from last week. 

Speaking of our Huskies it’s time to cover what could only be described as a skill check of a weekend of which they failed. Myself and other THG readers may have gotten our expectations a bit too high after seeing 10 goals in their first two exhibition games. Luckily for us Tech quickly brought our confidence back down to earth as the Bulldogs would start the one game series by scoring a mere four seconds in. Luckily they would respond within the period on a hard net drive from Parker Saretsky, but that would be all they wrote. The Bulldogs would score in the 2nd on a bad give away from Topi Heiskanen and the resulting Bulldog players would collapse on the puck increasing pressure. 

Looking at our Instat plot we find: 

Xs: Shots taken by team in that zone that were blocked

The biggest take away from this game in my perspective is the lack of driving the net. Too many shots were taken from the point and the plot proves just how not dangerous those point shots are. They are easily blocked (smaller “X’s”) and result in much ado about nothing. 23 of their 35 shots came from this area; roughly 66%. This coupled with the lack of drive the team showed through multiple points of the game are the reason Tech lost. 

Saturday’s game against the USNTDP only gets rougher. 

Xs: Shots taken by team in that zone that were blocked

Here you see Tech does push the puck more to the hard ice, but simply not to the same effectiveness that the U 18 team can. They would show flashes of ability as seen with the larger circle near the U18 net, but would only be able to capitalize on two shots. Since this game was an exhibition the lines were all over the place and the only notable personnel news was the loss of Jed Pietilla after only 2:15 of ice time due to a slew foot leaving him in protocol as Coach Shawhan described. As a result he traveled back to Houghton without making the trip to Fairbanks. 

The saving grace from this exhibition was that it looked like Tech had the advantage in stamina compared to the under 18 team. So if the game went into an overtime or some form of extra play Tech may have been able to pull something out of nothing. 

Keys to the Game

  1. Fast and Furious. The Nanooks are going to put the speed on the Huskies. They play on the Olympic sheet and as a result there will be plenty of room. Tech not only needs to keep up with them, but also show more motivation to out work them which they lacked in Big Rapids. 
  2. Crash the net. Stop taking shots from the point! Unless something starts working in that aspect of their game the Huskies are gonna get much of anything. All of the Tommy goals came from either a breakaway, bad giveaway, or from within the hash marks.
  3. Come and take it. The Nanooks are a big physical team and they are going to use that style of play to their advantage. Tech will need to earn their zone entries and earn their quality chances.

My Prediction

It is really going to depend on which group of Huskies we see. Will they be the high octane offense from the first two exhibition games? Or will they be the frustrated and less than elite snipers we saw in the last two games? I think Tech has the ability to sweep, but they need to show us that they have the drive to want to win. Otherwise they will try to out skill their opponent while being out worked and we already saw how that went last Friday. MTU wins 3-1, UAF wins 2-1. 

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

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. Thursday’s game is at 11:37 EST with Friday’s game being 11:07 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.