Hello Husky fans, it’s been a while. I hope you have all had a good summer! Seeing me appear in your news feeds can only mean one thing though: Huskies Hockey is right around the corner!
To begin this upcoming 2023-24 season we’ll first look through the roster changes for Coach Joe Shawhan’s squad then follow up in the coming week(s) with the schedule and any other notable news for this season. So without further adieu let’s jump into it!
First things first we’ll cover is the Huskies that have departed, whether it be due to graduation, transfer, etc.:
There are a variety of reasons a player may choose to leave the program whether it be due to playing time, degree choice, or professional opportunities. The biggest losses from this outgoing class are by far O’Connell, Lipe, Nardella, Crespi, Ganie, Saretsky, Jankowski, Thorne and Ashbrook. They were the backbone of the recent Tech teams which saw several NCAA regional berths. This turn over results in a much younger Huskies team and fans will have to see how these younger players are able to adapt to the college level.
Next up is some minor record keeping as we have some number changes due to them becoming available as players move on from their college careers.
For the last of the tables we have the incoming class of players. They are looking to make a spot on a roster with a lot of opportunity this season and the competition looks to be strong among them.
Here we see coach Shawhan living up to his promise on focusing on players out of the higher end leagues like the USHL and SM-Sarja (Finland). These types of players should have an easier time adjusting to the college level. Additionally, we have three transfers all from quality programs that should bring experience like Jack Works did last year.
The biggest get from this incoming class comes in the form of two players. First is Max Koskipirtti who found himself on the Finland U18 team and might be the first Tech player in a while to be away from the team come the New Year with World Juniors. The biggest question will be how he makes the switch to North American ice and how long will he stay at the college level. The second player has a last name familiar to many with Chase Pietila joining his older brothers and cousin on this year’s squad. Pietila and teammate Nick Williams were both part of a Youngstown Phantoms team that won the Clark Cup (USHL Championship). With over 50 games played each, both contributed large parts to that winning team and should make an immediate impact on the blue line at Tech.
Finally are the returning players. Tech is losing 34 goals (33%) + 85 assists (49.7%) for 119 points (43.4%). This is somewhat of a double edged sword going into this season as they aren’t losing much in the way of actual goal production, but are losing a large portion of their scoring support. Players like Crespi, Saretsky, Thorne, Nardella and Lipe played an important role in feeding the primary goal scorers of L. Pietila, K. Kukkonen, Mosley and Ashbrook. From a goal scoring perspective the Huskies are only losing Ashbrook this season so the scoring depth should be there, but they will need to find new secondary scoring and setup men.
The biggest boone for the Huskies is the return of both Logan and Blake Pietila. The twins are taking advantage of their 5th season of eligibility due to the Covid-19 pandemic rule change and they are in the last class to have the chance to do so. From here on out all Huskies will only have the standard five years of eligibility to play four seasons. With Blake back in the crease the Huskies will likely have the best college goaltender in the country now that players like Devon Levi (Mike Richter award winner despite my own objections) and Yaniv Perets have both gone pro. This is both a good and a bad thing as it guarantees that the Huskies will have an anchor in net in Blake this season, but might hurt their future as it will reduce the playing time and eligibility of Max Väyrynen if he sees the ice this season.
Wrapping up the roster, we have two big questions that need to be answered this season. The first is whether or not the incoming freshmen and returning players can not only replace the outgoing scoring production but improve upon it? Those leaving did a serviceable job at filling the second through fourth lines, but there was still a large lack of scoring depth. This is to be expected giving Coach Shawhan’s defense first approach to systems, but given the pedigree of players coming in this season I would expect to see scoring improve from outside the top line of Mosley-L.Pietila-K.Kukkonen.
Second is the question: who’s in net? By far and away it’s Blake’s to lose, but do we see a more 50/50 split than last year with Väyrynen? Do the Huskies decide to just have Blake play the whole season to save a year of Väyrynen’s eligibility? Or will Tech eat the year to give him some playing time? For reference, a year of “eligible games” was lost last season while Väyrynen only played in 4 games all season. Of course this could just all be over thinking and things like player eligibility don’t matter when the end goal is to win.
Cover photo courtesy Michigan Tech Athletics.
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.