Our Michigan Tech Huskies are about to enter the last week of January no different from where they started this season. They faceoff against the Lake Superior State Lakers in Sault Ste Marie for their first and only meeting of the season. The Lakers have surprised a lot in the CCHA this season going from the bottom of the league just a year ago to a competitor right in the middle of contention.
The Lakers are to a degree what our Huskies should be this season. They are in the top 15 teams on special teams with their PK being 4th in the country while also having a great offense averaging 3.28 goals a game. They have fairly decent depth scoring with eight players in double digits (our Huskies are at 7). Additionally. the upper end of their talent is currently higher than our Huskies, as seen below in their top scorers:
The real question regarding this team is with so much going right, how are they 11-13-1 (3-2 OT)? Well, this question isn’t so easy to answer as it is partly their own fault while also being a product of their schedule. This Lakers’ team is mostly all offense, while also having a netminder in Langenegger who is the key to their success. They allow 3.16 goals against a game, and the defense allows almost 31 shots a game. If Langenegger is on his game there are no issues. They have played seven games where this has been the case only giving up 1 or 2 goals. However, if their senior goalie isn’t playing up to his full potential then you start to see close games of which they have only won four of 11 games.
The fact of the matter is that this Lakers’ team has been a bit bipolar this season, winning against teams like Clarkson, St. Lawrence, and St. Thomas all while losing to Alaska Anchorage, Bowling Green, and Ferris State. LSSU is more or less a product of their schedule this season losing to teams they shouldn’t while also not being able to steal points against teams they should be able to. (Sound familiar, Tech fans?)
Looking at their previous series were they were swept by Ferris we see:
The Lakers were able to have more high quality shots than the Bulldogs, but then you see the result when Langenegger isn’t lights outs. They need him to be on his A game to be able to win, and when things get close, the data suggests he can’t contain the other team.
This is very similar to our Huskies who managed to take four of six points from the Beavers last weekend. Game one saw the first time they managed to keep a team under two goals this whole season. However, in typical Huskies fashion they did manage a comeback in game two to tie, but still made Beaver’s goalie Mattias Sholl look like an NHL Vezina winner through the whole weekend.
This weekend should be easier for them from an offensive standpoint with the Lakers not being the strongest defensive team. I don’t see the Huskies stopping the Lakers defensively either though. The Tech defense is a patch work this season with only three reliable players in Chase Pietila, Jed Pietila, and Matthew Campbell. Ice time reflects this very fact too, those three players are all averaging over 21 mins a game mean while the bottom half of the D corps has had a lot to be desired. Vaharautio was beaten several times in foot races against a weakened BSU; while Getz and Russell would appear to be lost for periods of time out on the ice.
Additionally from an offensive standpoint the D has not helped much outside of Chase and Campbell in terms of generating much of anything. I understand that the Huskies defense is young and still developing, but the coaching staff is doing the team and fans a disservice in not continually trying different pairs with players like Orr (a Matthew Campbell lite), Williams, or Bezick to see if they can make a game day impact.
In my view the Huskies are currently trying the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. Something needs to change and this is just my unknowledgeable suggestion.
Keys to the Game
Lay it on. The more shots the Huskies can put on net the better this weekend. They need to force Langenegger to make a mistake. Given enough chances it’s very probable that he does.
Keep things close. We saw this in Saturday’s game in that we don’t want our Huskies to fall behind more than one goal at any given time. LSSU can clone what BSU did and just lock the Huskies out and keep shots to the perimeter. If Tech can keep things close LSSU is more likely to crumble from the pressure.
- Zone Entry. For the love of all things hockey our Huskies need to learn how to enter the offensive zone. All it takes to stop the Huskies is three opposing skates standing on their blue line not giving any space. Time and time again Tech would be forced to dump and chance for zone entry. This doesn’t help when they don’t have the speed to reclaim control.
I see Tech scoring a decent amount of goals this weekend. However, I don’t see them being able to prevent them from LSSU. The Lakers have a better offense and special teams while our Huskies might have a better goaltender in Blake Pietila if he decides to be his normal self. Though I would put my money on the Lakers sweeping just being able to produce more offensively especially with Tech is missing Kyle Kukkonen this weekend (He was seen on crutches and in a walking boot this week on campus). LSSU wins 4-3, LSSU wins 5-2.
The guys on our Chasing MacNaughton Podcast also made predictions for this coming series against the Lakers.
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 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.