Welcome back Tech hockey fans to part two of our season preview where we take a deep dive into our Huskies’ schedule this season. Additionally, I’ll give my way too early prediction to see how our Huskies will fare.
First we have some old business to review. Last season I predicted Tech to end with a record of 16-18. Coach Shawhan and the players must have seen this and thought I had no idea what I was talking about because they proved me wrong, posting a 24-11-4 record leading to yet another NCAA regional berth. Though the season didn’t end the way they or fans would have liked, they were able to pull something out of nothing after losing many key contributors. Only time will tell if Tech can repeat such a feat with this group of players, but things look pretty good from a schedule perspective for the 2023-24 season.
Starting with the full rundown of teams the Huskies play we see:
As you can see, there aren’t too many tough teams this year with the strongest two being Wisconsin and Michigan State as they have had significant improvements this off season.
The hardest games will be against Wisconsin and new head coach Mike Hastings. He has had the Huskies number throughout his DI career and I would bet money that this trend continues. As for the other five teams the toughest opponent is most likely University of Minnesota Duluth due to their NCHC membership and the players that allows them to bring in. However the Bulldogs have seen a bit of decline from their title wins as those players have moved on in their hockey careers. Alaska is a wild card in my view. They have had some portal transfers, but only time will tell if coach Erik Largen can get the same results as last year out of his new group of skaters. Finally, St. Lawrence and Clarkson should be Tech wins with Clarkson being slightly more of a toss up as they are the better of the two teams. The Huskies should be favored, but Clarkson has its fair share of upperclassmen that can carry them to a tournament berth this season.
This should be a good month for Tech as the toughest opponent will be Bemidji State. The Beavers are likely to finish in the top four of the CCHA as they have a decent amount of returning players. The biggest name in the incoming class is Eric Pohlkamp who will be in the running for CCHA rookie of the year. Otherwise I would expect three sweeps against Ferris, Augustana and, surprisingly, Mankato. The Mavericks lost the farm with the departure of Hastings and I am expecting them to fall from grace due to the loss of players and coaching.
As the Huskies enter the final month of 2023 they face off against Northern Michigan and Bowling Green then travel to Grand Rapids, Mich. for Great Lakes Invitational (GLI). Northern will be Tech’s toughest CCHA opponent and Bowling Green has become an easier series due to their loss of players and head coach. I would expect a split against NMU and a sweep against BGSU. At the GLI I expect a win against Alaska and then Tech to lose to Michigan State as their incoming class is absolutely stacked with talent this year. However, if Ferris manages to pull out a win against Michigan State, then Tech would be the favorites against the Bulldogs.
Tech should take a majority of the conference points in their three series. St. Thomas is going to be better than last year, and if their opponents if they don’t show up ready to play, the Tommies will out work them. They showed this last season against the Huskies. I would expect a split in the Bemidji series and then a sweep against LSSU who is in the CCHA basement looking up.
This will be the Huskies’ second hardest month of the season as far as conference play is concerned. All three opponents will be looking to snag as many conference points as possible, with BGSU and Mankato being the most desperate due to their losses over the off season. Tech should be able to take four to five games out of the six. I’ll give the benefit of the doubt and round up since NMU’s game plan is still just all offense and hoping their goalie can bail them out if the offense isn’t up to snuff.
This is the first time since 2021 we will see conference (non-playoff) play extend into the month of March. Given its just one series against St. Thomas I would expect Tech to be the favorites and not in need of the extra conference points (or at least they shouldn’t be).
Our Huskies are the favorites in the CCHA in both the Coaches Poll and Media poll. While they have improved (at least on paper) compared to last season I see most of the improvement as a result of the decline of the rest of the conference. This season will be the most wide open the CCHA has been yet, but this is due to talent lost rather than talent gained. Programs like Minnesota State, Bowling Green and Bemidji State are worse off while Tech and Northern have had gains.
I would compare Tech’s schedule to something seen with Quinnipiac where they might have a really good record but be middle of the pack when it comes to strength of schedule. The Bobcats were able to prove they were ranked correctly winning it all last year, but our Huskies have shown in the past they can be overrated and lose games against opponents that have no business taking conference or pairwise points. The Huskies only have a few series this season where a loss is “acceptable” in terms of pairwise. Otherwise taking games against basement programs will just result in pairwise ignored wins since it only results in a drop.
The moral of the story for this season is that if our Huskies play up to expectations, fans will need to hope that the rest of the conference is able to over perform against non-conference opponents to help Tech in pairwise comparisons. Taking a quick look at the other team’s schedules, Husky fans are also going to need Augie, Beaver, Falcon, Maverick, Wildcat and Tommies fans.
One final note, the piece was finished before the news that Austen Swankler is joining our Huskies through the transfer portal. As of Sept. 26, based on preliminary information provided by the University, we can expect him to join our Tech squad around GLI. I do have to say that details about eligibility are still subject to change due to the circumstances surrounding his transfer. One this is for certain though, he only helps this Huskies team and will have a significant impact when he does start playing.
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.