Last weekend sure was interesting. Our Michigan Tech Huskies skated to a tie for the third time against the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in the USA Hockey Hall of Fame game. After a rough 1st period, Tech was able to settle down and managed to tie UMD, hopefully starting some positive momentum to bring into this weekend against the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks. The Nanooks are coming off of being swept by a very good Denver team at home as they continue their third year as an independent program.
The Nanooks are coming off of a promising season last year, managing 15th in pairwise and losing out on a national tournament bid due to auto-bids from Colgate and Canisius. Head coach Erik Largan has done a fantastic job getting as much as possible out of his program and will look to continue this trend in Houghton. They have played two games so far this season, letting us look at their top players and what they bring to the table:
Though there is a small sample size of data, we can tell right off the bat that the biggest issue facing the Nanooks is defense and goaltending. They have a decent forward corps which is currently being led by their junior class in Risk, Dubois, and Israels. However, looking back at the game footage, the goals UAF gave up were not the typical ones fans would be used to seeing. Most, if not all of Denver’s goals came from between the face off dots on wrist shots. There was little to no screening or deflections on the Pioneer’s end, the UAF goalie corps were just beaten almost every time. Our instat analytics created by THG’s own Zach (Augie) Aufdemberge back this up to a degree:
Looking at the shot maps, we see that some of DU’s goals had a very low xG chance yet they still went in with the UAF goalies not being able to make the save. Five out of the seven goals in game one had an Instat calculated xG under 0.1 while game two showed the same story with only one goal being above 0.1. Needless to say Alaska simply dropped the ball on defense and goal tending.
Though despite the stark differences in shots and xGs the Nanooks were able to put up a fight for most of game two until Denver started to pull ahead:
Finally, looking at individual performances we see:
The last big thing to note is that the Nanooks are a very physical team and the box score sheet reflects this, with a total of 14 UAF penalties being taken. With CCHA refs presiding over this series, expect a similar result this coming weekend. Our Huskies will get powerplay chances, but only they will know if they will capitalize on them.
Speaking of our Huskies, Zach has already provided us with a recap that can be found here!
Tech started their single game series very slowly while UMD was firing on all cylinders right out of the gate. Additionally coach Shawhan managed to surprise some fans with the line up breaking up the last years’ top line and giving spots to some upperclassmen in Blais Richartz, Levi Stauber (from the Duluth area), and Marcus Pederson. Notable players that did not make the trip included Kash Rasmussen, Henry Bartle, Evan Orr, and Cameron Moger, all players I pegged as potential line up mainstays going into this season.
One would assume the lines aren’t final yet and that Tech is still going through the growing pains of having too many qualified players with not enough spots to dress them all. That being said, be prepared to see all four lines in a blender as the coach staff (now including former Husky Alec Broetzman) figures out the best way to play each player.
Keys to the Game
- Keep it clean. This Alaska team is very physical. They are going to hit, they are going to aggravate, and they are going to try to draw Tech into taking dumb penalties. Our Huskies will need to keep level heads to stay out of the box while also trying to fix their power play with the numerous chances they should get.
- Hard Ice. The Nanook goalie corps is well shaken after giving up so many soft goals to Denver. Tech should be able to capitalize on this by taking any and all shots despite what xGs say this weekend. This is the perfect example of saying “we out shot the other team” while also winning.
- Reality Check. Hopefully Tech has been able to shake the rust off and get a good gauge as to how prepared they are after tying with Duluth. Expectation should be in check now and they shouldn’t expect a win or even an easy game regardless of what polls are saying.
This is one of the most important series Tech will have this season as UAF is an independent and as a result will give the Huskies a ton of good pairwise comparisons. I would assume we’ll see some roster changes this weekend to give other players some looks while also trying to settle in for the season. I originally saw this series as a potential split, but after seeing their two games against Denver I now think the Huskies sweep. MTU wins 3-1, MTU wins 4-2.
The guys on our Chasing MacNaughton Podcast also made predictions for this coming series against the Nanooks.
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. 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.
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.