After a much needed bye week, our Michigan Tech Huskies (10-4-3, 10-3-3 (0-1) Pairwise) are back at it this weekend taking on the Lake Superior State Lakers (2-12-2, 1-11-2 (1-1) Pairwise) for their final CCHA match before GLI. The Lakers managed to finally get their 2nd win of the season taking game one in overtime against Bemidji State (7-5-4, 5-4-4 (2-1) Pairwise), but continue to vastly underperform this season from the high preseason expectations. 

Analysis

The Lakers have been a catch-22 this season. they last played Huskies with a 1-6-1 record and that trend has continued thus far. They were originally pegged to be a top team in the CCHA due to the amount of returning talent, but even though they have the players coming back to buy into the program, they have yet to make any progress to return to last year’s form. This can be seen with their team stats: 

Only Louis Boudon has managed to reach double digit points this season, which is very unsettling for what was supposed to be a top CCHA team. Making matters worse when you compare them to St. Thomas, who is supposed to be in the CCHA basement due to their recent jump to DI, they manage to boast four players with double digit points (albeit with two more games in hand). 

The Lakers have managed to have the worst offense in the CCHA while being the 6th worst team in the NCAA in goal for and tied for 7th worst in goals per game and goals against per game. In net, it doesn’t get much better with Langenegger being the only semi-bright spot, even if his numbers are inflated from his last series against Tech where the Huskies made him look like a Vezina candidate. I would think he will get the start in net, as Eisele and Hesse have had their fair share of troubles in net too.  

Looking at our Instat insights™ at their previous weekend against the Beavers we see: 

Both nights saw the Lakers driving the net for high danger chances, but they weren’t able to capitalize on most of them shooting only 7.5% on the weekend. Additionally, looking at the spread of shots most of the high danger shots came from the goalie’s stick side resulting in an unequal distribution. Whether or not this just the scout report of BSU’s Sholl or just a lack of right handed shot potential for the Lakers needs more digging into. Switching to the Beaver’s point of view we notice that their chances are less dangerous but still end up in the back of the net again showing how bad the Laker’s defense is. 

Transitioning to our Huskies, there isn’t much to cover as they had a bye week.  Looking back two weeks we can touch on their NMU series where they managed to split with the Wildcats losing game one in a similar fashion to game two against Mankato. Game two against Northern was different as they showed they can, in fact play, hockey with a lead. Analytics with Augie covered that earlier this week, be sure to give it a read! 

This Tech team has officially passed the halfway point of the season exceeding most fans’ expectations. Entering December, I had them at 7-8 and after their series against Northern I predicted them to be 9-8 roughly and instead they are 10-4-3. The Huskies have been surpassing expectations left and right and this season, which seems like it completing what should be an easy sweep will be one of their biggest tests as they are going into the Soo no longer as underdogs but as the favorites. 

Our Huskies find themselves ranked 17th in both national polls, 16th in the pairwise, and potentially the only CCHA team that has any chance at an at-large bid for the national tournament as things stand. What’s most surprising is how they are accomplishing this feat up to this point: as a team. Unlike last season where most of their point production came from their top line and only their top line in Halonen-Bliss-Parrottino, this season is total group effort. Sure you have your point leaders like any other team, but with the exception of Ryland Mosley, most of the point production is being spread among all 4 lines much more evenly. 

Some other credit that is due is to the Tech defensive corps, which has again been bending while not breaking. Against one of the best offenses in the country in NMU, Tech managed to get four points all while dressing a forward as a defenseman in Alex Nordstorm while Lipe (lower body), Russell (upper body), and now defenseman Crespi (unknown) missed both games. Most impressive was the contributions from unlikely figures with the Huskies forth line of Stauber-Nardella-Bronte making a huge difference on the weekend despite the limited number of minutes they got. Additionally, Evan Orr filled in on the defense and shined in his role as a quarterback for the powerplay. 

All of these subtle contributions have gone a long way to help the Huskies as they enter this weekend to begin the second half of their season. They enter the back end with a bit of store credit due to wins against tough opponents  Mankato, Bowling Green, and Northern all while making sure they don’t lose games they shouldn’t with the exception Ferris in regulation. Their season is only going to get harder and this weekend is a must win so they can use those banked wins later.

Keys to the Game

  1. Stay the course. Tech needs to keep doing what they were before the bye week. LSSU is not in a good place in both the standings and team production. The Huskies need to make sure the Lakers can’t right the ship until after they are done playing them.
  2. Quality over quantity. Looking back to when both teams last played each other, the Huskies out shot the Lakers 42-21 in game one and that game ended in a shootout loss for Tech. Game two saw a 21-20 Huskies lead in shots and a Tech win. The takeaway here is that the amount of shots doesn’t matter if they are low chance or center mass of the goalie. Since that weekend, the Huskies have managed to fix this issue, but this will be the final boss on that front as it was Langenegger being the original cause of this trend.
  3. Keep things tight. Game two against the Lakers was very boring to watch as a fan. Not much happened, but that helped the Huskies. LSSU feeds off of confusion and tring to break a team’s defensive system. When this happens is where their top line thrives otherwise not much of anything gets done.

My Prediction

This is the Huskies’ series to lose. They need to treat it like they are playing Mankato or Northern and not the CCHA basement. Losing is not an option and neither is tying if they want any shot at trying to make a run at an at large bid. For example, if our Huskies won in regulation the last time they played the Lakers they would 13th in pairwise and not 16th. In fact anything but a sweep this weekend will drop them. I think they have what it takes though, and think they will prove me right. MTU wins 3-1, MTU wins 4-2. 

The guys on our Chasing MacNaughton Podcast also made predictions for this coming series against the Lakers.

Cover photo courtesy Michigan Tech Athletics.

InStat plots created by Zach Aufdemberge.

How to Watch

Both games are available through Mix 93.5 for audio featuring Dirk Hembroff (free), and via flohockey.tv* (paywall) for video. Game 1 will be Friday at 7:07 EST while game 2 will be Saturday at 6:07 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.