The Michigan Tech Huskies (6-3-2, 6-3-2 (0-0) Pairwise) are on the road in the Twin cities for their first matchup of the season against the St. Thomas Tommies (2-10-0 1-8-0 (1-2) Pairwise). The Tommies are reeling off a close series against Bowling Green (5-7-0, 5-5-0 (0-2) Pairwise), being swept in two close games by the same score of 3-2 each night.
The Tommies are in their second year as a division one program and have already doubled their wins from what they had this time last year. This is in part due to more players either coming in via the transfer portal and true DI caliber players committing and starting their Tommies careers.
Their team leaders are looking reasonably impressive so far. This team would take my pick as the most improved team in all of college hockey this year. Here we find:
The only player Tech has with more points than anybody on this list is Mosley at 11. Otherwise there are quite a few similarities between both teams on a scoring front. This may be a bit concerning on face value as St. Tommies is supposed to be an up-and-coming team and that is true, their top end talent is showing to already be on par with the reduced power Huskies squad we’ve seen so far this season. However, though the Tommies have better top end talent than last year they are still missing the depth that the Huskies have or the same caliber of goaltending. Both Trotter and Roberts have had a rough season getting very little help from their defense or offense for that matter. Tommies netminders rank in the basement of the NCAA with Trotter at 68/78 while Blake is 9th per CHN’s ranking.
Looking to their previous series with Bowling Green our Instat insight shows:
Game one saw St. Thomas controlling most of the game pacing but wasn’t able to get the goals that should come with it. There was a clear shift in momentum with their first goal and the shot map shows this with the high cluster of shots in a higher danger area. However, the Falcons would keep their trend of scoring on special teams to net two goals on the night.
Game two was a different story with the Falcons controlling the flow all game right out of the gate. Despite UST leading at multiple points in the game, they were not up to the task of holding off Bowling Green. This leads us to the conclusion that even though the Tommies can control a game and lead in a game, they aren’t able to finish and have trouble keeping the other team off the scoreboard.
On the other side of the ice, our Huskies are coming off of a tough tie and win with the Lakers. Game one saw the Huskies take the lead but were unable to close it out. The Lakers would end up tying the game resulting in a 3 on 3 overtime NCAA tie but LSSU would end up taking the CCHA extra point in the shootout.
Tech would make Ethan Langenegger look like a Mike Richter candidate. The Huskies seemed to think that a goalie is shaped like a doughnut, shooting the puck center mass a majority of the time. That’s not to say that Langenegger didn’t have his fair share of great saves, just look at game one’s shot chart:
Tech generated chances aplenty with a large amount of high danger chances to boot. Friday night was just the combination of bad puck luck and a goalie standing on his head.
Game two was a better showing for Tech as Blake Pietila would record his 14th career shutout and 4th of this season. There would be much less action until the 2nd period where things would finally speed up. This was reflected in the shot map as seen below:
The Huskies wouldn’t put up nearly as many shots as the prior game, but still had a good percentage of high danger shots. Otherwise most of their game was keeping the Lakers at bay trying to hold the lead.
Keys to the Game
- Stand up for yourselves. The Lakers threw some very questionable hits over the weekend. While the CCHA refs didn’t see an issue with text book 5 minute boarding on Logan Pietila and an NFL-like horse collar take down on Triston Ashbrook, these dangerous plays are going to result in injuries. Tech will need to keep their heads on a swivel this weekend to avoid possible injuries from any other hits that might get thrown.
- Keep up the pressure. There have been points through games that the Huskies appear to take their foot of the gas. This is most apparent right after they score a goal resulting in allowing their opponents to get one back. Tech needs to keep pushing, not allowing the Tommies to breathe.
- Goalies are not hollow. Stop shooting pucks center mass. You aren’t going to force the puck through the goalie, he is just going to stop it. You saw this first hand in game one where shot after shot would be right into Langenegger’s chest. If they make Tommie’s goalie look like a Vezina winner, this is going to be a long weekend.
The Tommies are much better this season, but I still think Tech’s defense or at least Blake Pietila will be able to keep them at bay all weekend. I would give the sweep to the Huskies, that is unless we see a repeat performance of last Friday. MTU wins 3-0, MTU wins 4-1.
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 8:07 EST with Saturday’s game being 7:07 EST
*Flohockey.tv is also the source of all games played in CCHA buildings this season so don’t be