As we enter our second weekend of February, Michigan Tech students and fans alike are preparing for Winter Carnival as our Huskies (20-7-4, 19-6-4 (1-1) Pairwise) prepare to face off against Bowling Green (14-14-2, 14-12-2 (0-2) Pairwise). The Falcons come to Houghton after losing and tying Ferris State (11-13-4, 11-12-4 (1-1) Pairwise) at home in Ohio last weekend.
Bowling Green has been an up and down team this season. When Tech first played them in the first weekend of November, they were experiencing a long 5 game losing streak until beating our Huskies in game two. This has become the norm for BGSU going through winning streaks and losing streaks with not much in between. The Falcons had a strong win streak from December 29th to January 14th with their fans wondering why they weren’t getting some national recognition despite their only real opponents being Bemidji. They would soon see that 6 game win streak come to an end against St. Thomas and Ferris. The main issue for Bowling Green stems from their poor defense and only average net minding. They may be averaging 3.30 goals a game, but they then allow 3.13 goals a game. Looking at their team stats we can see a similar story:
The team is led by
former OHL player Hobey Baker candidate Austen Swankler who is having a career season, ranking 3rd in the country in points. He and O’Hara are the only underclassmen on this list while the rest of the point scores consist of seniors and graduate students. All this results in a make-or-break it year for most of the top point getters. The Falcons are more of what fans would expect from Northern in the sense that they don’t care how many goals they give up as long as they have one more.
This can be seen in the fact that they have had four different Netminders see ice time this season. Though it needs to be stated that Pete Eigner (son of Bowling Green head coach Ty Eigner) is a special case as he was a walk-on to the Falcons making the switch from Forward to goalie. CHN did a story covering his journey to Division I college hockey you can read here.
The other three goalies have made most of the starts this season with Stoever being the main guy this season. He has had respectable numbers despite being under .500 this season, truly showing how little help he gets in front of him. If I were to make a comparison based on other goalies Tech has faced this season, he would be the closest to Ethan Langenegger from LSSU or TJ Semptimphelter from ASU. That means he can steal a game every now and again, but expect for him to give up 2-3 goals on any given night.
Looking at their last weekend against Ferris we see:
As to be expected, the Falcons had very high xGs both nights, but as we all know xGs aren’t the same as actual goals. If BGSU had a better average defense for what is seen in the CCHA, they would see much more success not having to rely so heavily on their goaltender or straight offensive talent.
Looking at our Huskies we see the exact opposite of what BG does more or less. They put on a strong defensive showing being led by Blake Pietila further proving his case for the Mike Richter award. Our Huskies are probably the most defensive team in the country with the 2nd best PK at 88.9% and 2nd best goals against average in the country at 2. The weakest aspect of their game is the powerplay, but that is all made up with their 5-on 5-scoring. There really isn’t much to cover otherwise. Looking at the shot charts only confirms what fans saw:
Tech kept BSU to the outside of the zone most of game one while game two saw the Beavers adjust slightly. Special teams were basically nonexistent all weekend, though Tech finally managed to get their second power play goal of 2023. Though it isn’t a good stat, it’s nice to see them finally get rewarded as the team has shown fans they’ve been deserving to pot a few over these past few weeks.
Keys to the Game
- Take away the space. Ferris showed last week that aggressive forecheck will shut down the Falcons. Whether it be on the special teams or just normal 5-on-5, BGSU needs to get set up more or less to be effective.
- Clean play. Power plays account for 30% of Bowling Green’s goals this season. Tech needs to either keep playing the way they have so they can’t do anything on the PP or not even give them the chance. We all saw what that looked like on Friday with the Huskies dominating all aspects of the game. Sure they only scored two goals, but it doesn’t matter when the other team is shut out.
- Transition play. A lot of the goals Ferris scored came off of the transition. BGSU’s defense isn’t the best, so whether it be a puck steal, turn over or zone entry, taking advantage of the Falcon’s poor positioning will be key for Tech to get on the board.
I think the Huskies are the favorites. BGSU has a very good offense but that’s about it. Their defense is shaky resulting in the team being ranked 8th in the country in shots allowed per game at 33.7. So, either Stoever bails them out by standing on his head or somehow they manage to get more than 2 goals against one of the best defensive teams in the country. One thing is for sure though, if our Huskies act like they did against Western who is also an offense team first, get ready for a tough weekend. MTU wins 2-1, MTU wins 3-2.
The guys on our Chasing MacNaughton Podcast also made predictions for this coming series against the Falcons.
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), via flohockey.tv* (paywall) for video. Game 1 will be Friday at 7:07 Est. Please note, game 2 has an earlier start time due to Winter Carnival festivities and will be played Saturday at 5:07 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.
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.