Our Michigan Tech Huskies open their 2022-23 season on the road against the Ferris State Bulldogs (0-1-1, 0-1-1 (0-0) Pairwise) with a one game series before heading to Plymouth Michigan to play the USNTDP team in a one game exhibition.
The Bulldogs impressed last weekend, taking the Miami Redhawks (1-0-1, 1-0-1 (0-0) Pairwise) to overtime in their first game of the season, eventually leading to an NCAA tie but winning in a no-consecutive shootout. (It should be noted that a 3 v 3 overtime win is now 67% of a win this season with regards to the Pairwise.) Considering how Miami’s majority of scoring returned this season goes to show just how improved this Bulldogs team has become this season. The names on the roaster might be the same but their play has significantly improved. Who was once a team almost exclusively made of underclassmen has grown into a junior and senior team. If it weren’t for the Tommies’ joining division 1 last season this Ferris team would take my vote for most improved in the CCHA.
We only have one series worth of states to look at, but here are the team leaders going into this weekend.
All the top point scorers are upperclassmen along with Stein in net who looked really good. This should be no surprise as the Bulldogs showed flashes of greatness. This was very evident in their last four games against the Huskies last season taking the much more experienced Tech team to overtime in each contest. With this current season we will see the roles reversed with the Bulldogs being the much more experienced team while the Huskies being the young guns in the league. That being said the Bulldogs do have some issues that need to be ironed out from their previous series.
First and foremost is their special teams. Game one saw the Bulldogs able to go one for three which gives the 22.2% illusion if you look at their overall PP%. However in game two given 7 power plays which included two five minute majors against the Redhawks the Bulldogs managed only one goal and even gave up a shorthanded goal. That’s right given an entire 20 minute period of man advantage they were only able to produce one goal. Needless to say we can expect some changes in personnel, while noticing something else interesting in that their defense looks to be much improved when compared to last year.
This Ferris team will probably still be projected to be under .500 this season, but I think they are more than capable of proving their detractors wrong. That being said I still think they have a bit more to prove to change my stance that put the Huskies as the favorite in this one game series.
The reasoning behind picking Tech as the favorite was due to their performance last weekend winning both games against Lake Superior State and Lake Head in decisive fashion. The Lakers didn’t hold any punches dressing not a single Freshman skater in addition to having 16 upperclassmen suit up for the one game exhibition. They came into Houghton to win and they weren’t able to do that against a scrappy Michigan Tech team. In fact Tech led the entire contest, had a 56 % face off percentage, and managed an even strength and offense zone possession. In fact I’d go as far as to say that this season might go more smoothly than what we expected.
Leading the way was the top line of Mosley-L. Pietila-K. Kukkonen, they were the top end talent that we thought would be missing from this Huskies’ team. Kyle Kukkonen has already shown in his first two exhibition games to be that top end skill that Coach Shawhan has been trying to have for some time now. Additionally Ryland Mosley has made a serious jump in performance from his time as a Husky last year seeing minutes as a 3rd/4th line situational role to Tech’s top line. With such a great step up one would expect him to be the most improved Husky returning so far and that would be the case except for the two players looking to be mainstays for top minutes in both Logan Ganie and Jed Pietila.
Ganie should see some good development seeming with the start of 2022 as seen in this old Bemidji state preview from January. You may remember in my personal preview I slotted him in as the 4th line center and if you are in our Discord you’ll remember me saying I didn’t think he was ready for a larger role. Thankfully either Coach Shawhan doesn’t read my work or knew just how wrong I was regarding his progression. After watching the LSSU game I can say I am wrong and can see him in a top 6 role. One thing that is left uncertain is if he will be healthy after taking a high hit midway through the exhibition. He missed Monday’s game and Joe wasn’t sure if he’d be ready for play this weekend.
Finally is the rise of Jed Pietila. He was paired with classmate Brett Throne and looks to have found his slot in the roster being the stay at home defenseman of the pairing. Many fans might not have known that there was a third Pietila on the team nor that he is already in his junior year, but this is a story we should be used to after the rise of Tyrell Buckley from years past. In my eyes Jed has become what Tech saw from Tyrell and this is his season to prove his salt. If all goes well Jed could win this year’s most improved award and fills a much needed hole in a depleted Huskies D core.
Keys to the Game
- Hit the ground running. The Huskies are still figuring everything out right now. The first two lines of Mosley-L. Pietila-K. Kukkonen and Works/Rassmussen – Ganie – Ashbrook look to be very solid. Additionally their top 4 of Throne-Pietila and O’Connell-Russell look to be successful as well. However, the coach staff is still trying to figure out the rest.
- Breaking down the wall. This one is specifically for Jake Crespi. In game two against Lakehead he had 5 prime scoring chances. He looked like he wasn’t able to buy a goal Monday night. That being said he looked like he has come a long way and is one goal away from starting to open things up for his now senior year. Just take a breath and relax, the goals are coming.
- Go with the flow. These first few non-exhibition games are going to consist of a lot of different line up changes. The coaching staff is actively trying new things and seeing what works since this is such a different team than years past. If something may look different or out of whack at first just give it a try who knows what this season will hold for this young Huskies team.
Ferris may have the experience when it comes to its players, but Tech has something different. This Huskies team is hard working and eager to prove that they can win in this league. With this comes much uncertainty and unpredictability which Tech could use to their advantage until they settle on who is making the everyday roster. One thing’s for sure though, look for a fast pace and messy game as both teams try to learn what the other is doing. MTU wins 4-2.
Cover photo courtesy Michigan Tech Athletics.
How to Watch
Friday’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 against the USNTDP being 6:07 EST on Hockey.tv
*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.