As we enter into the new year our Michigan Tech Huskies, like most people, find themselves looking to be a new team. They managed to win the GLI taking it in a shootout win against a Michigan State team missing key players. Our Huskies too are missing some talent in Arvid Caderoth (injury) and Max Koskipirtti (traveling back from World Juniors) leaving a huge gap in the center of two lines. The Huskies travel to the Twin Cities this weekend to take on the St. Thomas Tommies who have found themselves in 2nd place in the CCHA as head coach Enrico Blasi has his team finally shaping up to what he envisioned when bringing the team up to DI.
The Tommies are slowly making their way up the CCHA and NCAA as they progress. They have a new arena in the works that should be opening in 2025. All things considered the Tommies are on the right track and are going to be a scary program in just a few short years. As of right now though they are still more bark than bite though much improved. Their Sophomore and Junior core of players have been carrying the load with a few transfers filling out the gaps. This can be seen in their leading point getters:
Wahlin has been rock solid his whole Tommies career thus far and this year is no exception with Malmquist and O’Neill following suit. Head Coach Blasi has been able to pluck talent from other programs who might not see high ice time and use them to the advantage of his growing program; this is the case for O’Neill, Byers, Gleason, and Sibell who are all transfers and filling important roles. This strategy has allowed Blasi to accelerate the growth on ice, which has contributed to the Tommies success. However, there is one question I have: why is Aaron Trotter still getting minutes in net given Sibell’s fantastic season so far?
The Niagara transfer has been switching off with Trotter all season and given his numbers it makes no sense why. Other than this enigma, the Tommies have established themselves as a hard skating team and should be able to put up a fight against any opponent. They last played an exhibition game against UMD, but we will be looking at their last real set of games against Vermont:
Though the xG is higher for UST they really didn’t play that well against a much improved, but still underwhelming Vermont team. The Catamounts were able to take advantage of sloppy play to sweep the Tommies.
Looking at our Huskies they have had a recent upswing winning the 57th GLI in a shootout over MSU, but more importantly they were able to keep up with the Spartans while being down key players. THG’s Augie might do a recap on GLI here in the near future so keep an eye out for those games.
Otherwise the biggest question for our Huskies is the center position. Logan Pietila and Austen Swankler have C1 and C2 set but the 3rd and 4th centers are up in the air until Max and Arvid are back in action. If Tech can’t stay at least 50% at the faceoff dot there are going to be problems this weekend.
Keys to the Game
- Play up, not down. Our Huskies are notorious for playing down to their opponent. UST will out work Tech since that’s the only way they can beat them. Tech has the higher skill cap, but skill can’t win hockey games alone, they need a drive too.
- Stay out of the box. There is a certain freshman defenseman Cough Chase Pietila Cough who needs to stay out of the box. The PK has been doing much better, now ranked at 46th over all with 77.6%, but they really need to stay out of the box to not give the Tommies any unnecessary chances.
- Momentum building. Tech’s schedule is all CCHA teams from here on out. The only path to the big skate is most likely going to be the conference’s auto bid so they need to start this second half off strong. Get two wins and move on to the next weekend ahead.
The Huskies should be able to take both games. They really only have one line of Tommies to worry about and if they can perform like Vermont did before the break they should be able to put some big numbers up on the scoreboard. However, given their track record I expect them to play down to UST and keep Tech fans on the edge of their seats. MTU wins 2-1, MTU wins 3-2.
The guys on our Chasing MacNaughton Podcast also made predictions for this coming series against the Tommies.
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 Thursday at 8:07 ET. Game 2 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.