Our Michigan Tech Huskies (8-3-2, 8-3-2 (0-0) Pairwise) find themselves with a not-so-rare Thanksgiving homestand now that they are in the CCHA. They face off against the Minnesota State Mavericks (8-4-0, 7-3-0 (1-1) Pairwise) who look to bounce back from a split with Northern Michigan (9-7-0, 7-7-0 (2-0) Pairwise).
This is the first time since the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons that Mankato has looked beatable. Those were also the last time this team reached double digit losses on the season and the last time the Huskies beat them in a best of three playoff format. The 2018-19 season would see the entrance of one Dryden McKay into the NCAA and four years later he would win the Hobey Baker award. That era of Mavericks hockey has passed and this team has returned to earth with a similar record to our Huskies, but with a harder schedule.
The Mavericks have changed over from their old guard with only a few familiar names left on the roster:
The biggest note is that the Mavericks still outgun the Huskies as far as scoring depth is concerned. Tech has the Mavericks beat in top end talent currently with Ryland Mosley leading both teams, but players like Livingstone, Borchardt, Sowder, Carroll, Sandelin and Furry are all maining a presence. However, their production is significantly reduced from last season. Stats like +/-, shots and shooting percentage are done from their sky high totals as well. Looking at goaltending, we see a similar story with Tracy and Rancier who aren’t able to maintain the same stats seen with McKay or his predecessors in the seasons prior. There appears to be a mystery in Mankato regarding where their top end talent went, and they have yet to solve it.
One final note about this roster is that it is still an older team with only four underclassmen playing in ten or more games. Additionally, they have not performed as well as one would expect from the Mavericks which leads to unsustainability going into next year or the year after that. It’s still early in the season and they could turn things around, but this Mankato team is inherently different and as a result should allow for our Huskies to keep the games close at the very least.
Looking to their last series with Northern, our InStat insights shows:
In game one, the Mavericks were able to control the pacing of the game until the end of the 2nd period where NMU was able to turn up the pressure. The Wildcats would first strike with a powerplay goal then a surprising short handed goal to tie things up late in the third. The OT winner would come on a 4 on 3 powerplay for the Wildcats.
Game two would see the Mavericks take revenge:
Here Mankato would control all of the game pacing through all three periods. They would keep the Wildcats to the point forcing them to take low quality shots while getting deep into the NMU zones for better opportunities. However, if you look at the actual game footage/scoring highlights you’ll see an interesting trend with the Mavericks. All the goals against have either been due to a zone entry rush or via one-on-one with their netminder. Their defensive position was lacking and their new goalies weren’t able to handle the breakaways. This might be the key to getting the advantage for our Huskies as they have shown improvement this season at doing this very style of play.
Switching focus to our Huskies, they had a competitive series in the twin cities against the Tommies. They were lucky to have swept St. Thomas as game two was a mess with penalties all over the place including a five minute major for both teams. However, in the age-old hockey saying “they don’t how, they ask how many.” For the Huskies, that is two wins. Tech controlled most of the play on the weekend, with game two being a stronger effort on their part despite the score board. The shots plots are as follows:
Both nights, Tech did a good job at having a good number of shots in high danger chances while limiting the Tommies’ chances. However, Blake did give up some uncharacteristic goals when St. Thomas scored a few low chance shots from the point in game two. Though to his credit these came on a 5 minute major PK very close to one another. The Huskies had a rough weekend regarding special teams giving up 3 powerplay goals and only scoring on one of their chances. Overall there really isn’t too much to cover, it’s more of what we as fans have seen from our Huskies team. Either they take a huge lead or it’s a close game.
Keys to the Game
- Next man up. This is a call out to Tech’s secondary players that they need to start turning things up a bit. Specifically Ganie, Caderoth, Rasmussen, and Ashbrook (if healthy) need to get on the score sheet in one way or another as their points per game are sub 0.5. Works and Jankowski have started picking up the pace here recently and hopefully they can spark the rest of the players to help fill in the gaps left by the top end guys. Tech will need this depth if they want to be competitive against the Mavericks and the 2nd half of the season quite frankly.
- Clean play. The Huskies took too many penalties last weekend, luckily they were playing the Tommies and only gave up 3 powerplay goals. This isn’t gonna fly against the Mankato who currently sport a 26.3% PP good for 8th in the nation. Tech may be 6th in PK% but they are most likely going to be down a D man in O’Connell who was hurt last weekend.
- Pucks in deep. Tech will need to try to drive the net the best they can. NMU has a much better offense than our Huskies; they only managed four goals on the weekend. Tech will need to make the most of their scoring chances in order to get the upper hand. To be honest, I think if Tech goes down they have a better chance of winning then if they are trying to hold a lead, but only time will tell if that feeling has any merit.
This is Mankato’s series to lose in my eyes. However, unlike previous years they will have to try much harder as they are in a down year on multiple fronts. I think if Tech can keep their act together they can steal a game on the back of Blake, but they will need to prove it. Mankato wins 3-2, Mankato wins 2-1.
The guys on our Chasing MacNaughton Podcast also made predictions for this coming series against the Mavericks.
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 6:07 EST
*Flohockey.tv is also the source of all games played in CCHA buildings this season.