Our Michigan Tech Huskies are nearing their holiday break after gifting the Bowling Green Falcons an overtime win and the resulting two CCHA conference points that accompany it. The Huskies will see if they are feeling as generous with their rivals in the Northern Michigan University Wildcats. The Wildcats are trying to bounce back after being “swept” by Auguastana in Marquette (tying and losing a meaningless shootout in game one).
If you have followed Wildcat hockey in addition to my coverage, you will notice that my take on this series and team doesn’t really change from year to year. The Wildcats are all offense with little to no defense. Last season saw Goalie Beni Halasz step up to the challenge and steal games with little to no defensive support. This season however, he has not found the same form, regressing like Tech’s Blake Pietila has. This is not to say that either goalie isn’t in the top end of the CCHA, but the lack of defensive structure and support is really making every mistake they make result in a goal against (or at least a quality chance).
The only saving grace for NMU versus their Huskies counterparts is how their offense can bail them out. They are currently averaging 2.88 goals a game (Tech is at 2.65), but they are also giving up more goals too; 3.50 goals against (Tech is at 2.94). What has been carrying these ‘Cats has been their top end talent trucking along. This can be seen below:
Once again, Ghantous is leading NMU scoring with the likes of Papp and Shlaine making their presences known too. However they have lost a good amount of depth in AJ Vanderbeck (13G-19A-32Pts), Joey Larson (13G-14A-27Pts), David Keefer (15G-10A-25Pts) and Alex Frye (6G-12A-18Pts). These losses have not been replaced so far this season, with only freshmen Tanner Latsch and Kevin Marx Noren finding a mild form of success so far this season.
The biggest loss so far comes from players still with the team in Halasz and Glockner both posting subpart numbers from their previous years. The biggest fall is Halasz who has yet to find a grove and has lost the starting job. This can be seen in last weekend’s series against the Augies, where THG’s Augie (not to be confused with Augustana) has graced us with more instat charts for our viewing enjoyment:
Game one shows what NMU is capable of in keeping close games with the difference being defense and goaltending. However, game two was what happens when the wheels fall off. They took two five minute major penalties (with ejections) in the first period by Rylan Van Unen and Isack Bandu. Both hits were to the head, with Bandu’s egregious enough to warrant the CCHA’s first suspension of the season.
Most of the goals given up to the Vikings were pretty soft, all things considered, as Halasz and Glockner are the reason Augustana didn’t leave the UP with a full sweep.
Looking to our Huskies, we saw a very disappointing game one lost in overtime to Bowling Green (currently 61st in the pairwise). If Tech plays anywhere close to their Friday game, NMU will put a crooked number up on the scoreboard. Though if they manage a performance more similar to what we saw last Saturday, they should be able to come out of the weekend with a sweep as any semblance of defense and rebound control perfectly counters this NMU squad. THG’s Augie has the recap that can be found here.
Keys to the Game
- Composure. Tech needs to keep their heads this weekend. NMU is too good of an offensive team to give them any power plays or, god forbid, a Tech player be ejected. They will need to keep their Disdain for their rivals in check.
- Zone time. Tech fell behind due to their inability to maintain a presence in the offensive zone in game one. Game two saw a similar trend in the 2nd period but the team was able to snap out of it before giving up more than two goals.
- Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other. When all things boil down, this series is basically no different than playoff hockey. It will come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes while also maintaining that edge. This is a very important rivalry match up with the winner taking CCHA points when they have more meaning than ever in the leagues short modern history. Systems are going to break down and it will be whoever can patch things back together the best will win the points.
In years prior it has been Tech’s defense against Northern’s offense. This is still the case, but the turntables have turned. Tech’s defense isn’t what it used to be currently and NMU’s offense, though reduced, has managed to continue to chug along. I think the safest guess is going to be a split this go around with each team winning at home. MTU wins 3-1. NMU wins 5-3.
The guys on our Chasing MacNaughton Podcast also made predictions for this coming series against the Wildcats.
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, and broadcasted on TV6 featuring Mark Evans & Dave Ellis. Game 1 at the MAC will be Friday at 7:07 ET. Game 2 at the Berry will be Saturday at 6:07 ET.
*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.