Happy New Year, Husky fans. We start off 2023 in the American southwest playing in a familiar tournament: the Desert Hockey Classic. Our Huskies (12-6-3, 11-5-3 (1-1) Pairwise) will be competing against the Arizona State Sun Devils (10-11-0, 9-8-0 (1-3) Pairwise), Boston University (12-5-0, 9-4-0 (3-1) Pairwise), and the United States Air Force Academy (6-10-2, 6-10-2 (0-0) Pairwise). This week due to time constraints on my end, I will only be going in depth on the MTU-ASU game but will give a quick lightning rough on the BU-AF game and the possible match ups for day two.
Michigan Tech vs Arizona State
The last time these two teams faced off was also the last time ASU managed to make a NCAA tournament bid. Since then, the road for the Sun Devils has been rocky at best. This is their first season in their new hockey arena aptly named “Mullet Arena”. While they may share it with the Arizona Coyotes for the next few years, make no mistake, this is the Sun Devils arena first and the Coyotes second. That being said, this is a huge upgrade from Oceanside, where they played previously and as result expect a huge upgrade from both an in fan and streaming perspective.
Moving over to the team we see that ASU is more of the same .500 or under team they have been since the 2019-2020 season. Gone are the big names that Tech fans might remember for better or worse, replaced with home-grown recruits with only a few transfers now. They are like our Huskies in a lot of ways in terms of their offensive make up:
They have one top end line in Mastrosimone, Sillinger and Doan but other than that the rest of the Sun Devils fall into a pretty even point distribution. I know I said that gone are the players you might recognize, but there is one player that has consistently haunted Tech fans for the last 5 years in Lukas Sillinger. Younger brother to Owen, Lukas entered the portal after his older brother graduated, landing at ASU. He hasn’t seen the same success he did last year, but is still a threat nonetheless.
Moving to their netminder we see another couple of transfers in Semptimphelter and Kraws both having respectable seasons with the only downside being the team’s record. This is partly due to the teams lack of support in the scoring department averaging only 2.95 goals a game while giving up 2.81 goals a game.
Looking at our Instat Insights™ for their last two games we see:
Their last series against Boston College shows us how they have remained to be a .500 team. They aren’t generating much in the way of consistent offense which leads to issues when they can’t shut down their opponents.
Focusing on our Huskies, we have to talk about the disaster that was their game against Western Michigan. In a nutshell, Tech’s defense left both Blake and Max out to dry letting Western Score the same goal 4-5 times in one game. I don’t know what’s with this team regarding playing after a significant time off, but they really need to fix their mindset going into game days after extended rest. That being said at least they were able to return to form for game two against Michigan State with our Instat Insights™ showing:
Western didn’t really outplay our Huskies from an xG perspective, they just happen to take advantage of Tech unwillingness to defend. Once it was beaten into Tech that they have to help Blake and Max if they want to win games, things go much better as seen in game two against State.
Here we see the continued rise of both Bronte and Stauber who gain significant minutes compared to where they were earlier in the season. The fact that they have been more noticeable on the ice goes to show just how much they are working to earn their spots. Game two was just an all around better showing by our Huskies and goes to show how they can truly keep up with a top end team if they actually work as a team.
Keys to the Game
- Game one. This is another extended rest part of their season if they don’t show up to game one against Arizona State they will most likely end up playing Air Force which only hurts their Pairwise.
- Special Teams. ASU is pretty similar to Tech’s special teams, but the Huskies’ power play desperately needs to improve if they want any chance to have a deep playoff run this season.
- Show up or shut up. This year’s team is supposed to be rebuilding but have shown they can keep up with any team in the NCAA. However, they have also shown that they can collapse against any team in the NCAA too. Just look at their series with LSSU, Ferris, and NMU who should have all been sweeps for our Huskies. This Tech team which I pegged at 16-18 for the season and Coach Shawhan had even lower expectations have proven all of us (including fans) wrong. However, they have still yet to prove that this is what to expect from them week in and week out. It’s now go-time in the back half of this season. No more excuses either win and prove to the rest of the CCHA and NCAA you are where you belong at the top or shut up.
If we see the Huskies of game two of MSU, they will win and hopefully play a BU team with real pairwise implications. If they are a game one team they will play Air Force and we can kiss an at-large bid goodbye. I still have hope for the former and can see their goaltending carrying them forward. MTU wins 4-2.
The guys on our Chasing MacNaughton Podcast also made predictions for this Desert Hockey Classic.
Boston University vs Air Force
This will be BU’s game to lose. Air Force is the weakest team in the tournament by far. Sadly, due to the military commitment requirement, it is hard to recruit top end talent so the Falcons have their work cut out of them. BU wins 3-1.
Possible match ups.
Michigan Tech vs Boston University
The Terriers are the favorite on paper, but I think this helps the Huskies be the underdogs. BU has played a few good teams like Michigan, but I truly don’t think they have been properly tested as they pretty much only play schools in the greater New England area. MTU wins 3-2.
Michigan Tech vs Air Force
If Tech does lose they should beat Air Force easily. Unless they continue to implode against teams that have no business beating them. MTU wins 4-1.
Arizona State vs Boston University
BU is the better team on paper. I think ASU has a chance though since they are at home. I’ll give them the underdog edge. ASU wins 2-1.
Arizona State vs Air Force
ASU is the favorite and it would be their game to lose. ASU wins 3-1.
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 PAC 12.com (paywall) for video. Day one Game 1 will be Friday at 5:30 EST (BU vs Air Force) while game 2 will be at 9:00 EST (MTU vs ASU). Day two’s games will be Saturday at 5:30 EST (MTU vs BU/Air Force) and 9:00 EST.(ASU vs BU/Air Force)
*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.
Jonathan graduated from Michigan Tech in the spring of 2018 with a degree in Physics and Social Science in addition to a minor in Social and Behavioral Studies. He spent his college career watching hockey with the Misfits where he became the treasurer in his last year. When not traveling to away games he resides in Hancock working for a local engineering company and keeping up with all things Tech Hockey.