Here we are everyone. As we enter into the final days of December, we kickoff the second half of the season. Our Huskies will be looking to earn a spot in the championship game, but first need to have a rematch against the UAF Nanooks. Additionally, Michigan State and Ferris State will be vying for their own spots as well in the second game of day one. Like in seasons previous I will cover Tech’s match up with Fairbanks and the possible outcomes of the other games. Special to this season is the pairwise implications for all teams to see what is the best result for each of the four teams.
I should note this is going to be a little more old school, as THG is also on Holiday Break and so we won’t be seeing any Analytics with Augie or InStat plots.
Michigan Tech vs Alaska
This is the one game that I can provide the most analysis for, as it is an update to their last meeting in October. Since their last meeting the Nanooks have gone 8-4-0, however they have had the chance to beat up on the likes of Stonehill (0-16-0) and Alaska-Anchorage (6-13-1). Removing those two series brings them down to 2-4-0, more in line with our Huskies. They have split with Augustana (6-8-2) and St. Cloud (9-5-2), while being swept by NMU (7-9-2) in Marquette. The Nanooks have been roughly in line with our Huskies in terms of adjusting their performance based on who they have played. We can see this in their top players as well:
They are being led by a strong group of upperclassmen on the top line, top defensive pairing and starting goalie. This group brings the one thing a college hockey team needs: experience. We have seen firsthand what a lack of experience can produce, as Tech’s rough start can be attributed to the slew of underclassmen filling key starting roles. Despite having one of the best goaltenders in the country Blake Pietila can only do so much when what’s in front of him lacks the skill/knowledge one gets from just playing games.
As for what makes GLI special in terms of player availability, this will not be a factor for the Nanooks as they do not have any players attending the IIHF World Juniors Tournament. However, their opponents in our Michigan Tech Huskies do have a player in Max Koskipirtti, who is their first player to participate in that tournament since Blake Pietila (the forward) in 2013. Max is also the first Husky to not play for Team USA in the tournament. He will be a big hole that will need to be replaced this coming tournament, but lucky for Coach Joe Shawhan, he has an ace up his sleeve in one Austen Swankler.
Swankler has officially joined the team and is eligible to play starting this Thursday. He instantly should make an impact on this Husky squad, but it will be up to the coaching staff in figuring out how to fully utilize his skill set. One thing is certain though, Austen can no longer hurt any Tech fans with his scoring dominance leaving me with some memes that are no longer useful:
Keys to the Game
- Play your game. Tech will need to keep doing what they are doing recently. They played the Nanooks at their worst as a team and have been slowly getting better and better. I think UAF and Tech are still very similar teams, but the Nanooks have played the NCAA basement while Tech has been able to play stronger teams.
- Keep your head up. The Nanooks are a physical team, but don’t take all that many penalties. Our Huskies will need to keep things clean while also not letting the Nanooks manhandle them. The Nanooks are also good when it comes to special teams (15th in the country in PP% and 32nd in PK%). Tech needs to stay out of the box.
- Pass the puck to the (Former) OHL player. This one goes out to the team and their new member in Swankler. Hopefully, they are able to build some chemistry here with his midseason addition. He is there to help the Huskies and they need to take full advantage of his presence.
The best comparison between these two teams are through Augustana and Northern Michigan. Tech managed to have a better record against those two teams as the D corps and other underclassmen gained experience as the season continues. I think Tech should be the favorites as a result of this but it will hinge on how they contain the Nanook’s top players. MTU wins 3-2.
The guys on our Chasing MacNaughton Podcast also made predictions for this GLI.
Ferris State vs Michigan State
This series is a bit easier to predict as the Bulldogs are the underdogs to a very good Spartan team. I won’t be giving a full breakdown like I did for Tech’s game but I will give a few plots and share some thoughts on how this match up might end up.
First up is the Spartans, they have completely rebuilt their program and are firing on all cylinders going into the holiday break. They are a juggernaut this season sweeping Wisconsin while holding a 12-4-2 record and spot #7 in the Pairwise. Meanwhile Ferris is 5-11-1 while being 62nd in the pairwise. Needless to say this is MSU’s game to lose, but what really matters is who they are losing to world Juniors. As of the final rosters the Spartans are losing four players:
The biggest losses are in Howard and Augustine. Losing their freshman goaltending is probably the biggest blow, as their other netminder in Luca Di Pasquo has only played 99 mins this season. MSU’s depth can make up for the loss of Howard, but it can’t fix their hole in the net.
As for Ferris this year has been more of a wash as they are still going through their college version of a rebuild. They shouldn’t have beaten our Huskies, but in typical Tech fashion we once again played down to our opponent. I expect MSU to take this game and join Tech in the championship game. MSU wins 4-1.
I will be doing a lightning round and giving some quick and dirty predictions.
Possible match ups.
Michigan Tech vs Michigan State
The Huskies are favored in goaltending while the Spartans have the better offensive and defensive depth. As a Tech fan I have to go with our Huskies. MTU wins 3-2.
Michigan Tech vs Ferris State
Huskies are the favorites, but need to recognize this Ferris team can steal a game. I think Tech is looking for revenge and will take the win because of it. MTU wins 4-1.
Alaska vs Michigan State
I expect MSU to pull away a win as they should be able to out skill the Nanooks. If Coach Largen can keep UAF to their style of play they do have a legitimate chance at beating the Spartans. MSU wins 4-3
Alaska vs Ferris State
Ferris are the underdogs, but if their netminders can steal a game this would be the one to do it in. Alaska is a step below Tech who is a step below MSU in terms of offense (assuming Swankler is able to get going right away). UAF wins 3-1.
Cover photo courtesy Michigan Tech Athletics.
I have ran the Pairwise calcs (thanks to CHN’s calculator) here is a table of the possible outcomes for Day 1:
Day 2 is a bit more complicated due to the amount of games being played throughout the NCAA this Holiday break so you’ll have to stay tuned to THG social media if I get a chance to run the calcs before the second day of games.
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.