We are entering the month of February (even though it looks like April here in the Copper Country) which can only mean one thing: Winter Carnival. Our Huskies look to try and end the season on a higher note as they face off against Minnesota State. The Mavericks are currently looking to bounce back after splitting with St. Thomas where they dropped game two.
First, a brief interlude
I would like to apologize for not having a preview for the NMU series. For those not in our Tech Hockey Guide Discord, I have been dealing with some health issues for the past year now which has resulted in myself traveling to and from Rochester, MN to the Mayo Clinic. Last week (and Monday and Tuesday of this week too) was another one of these trips. Needless to say, life got busy in addition to not being able to work on a preview due to health issues. Hopefully for the final stretch of the season here, we’ll be able to break down the last 3 series and playoffs without any hitches!
The Mavericks currently sit in 2nd in the CCHA standings, while our Huskies are tied with Bemidji State for 4th. This season has continued to be a slugfest for all teams in the CCHA, resulting in great conference parity at the expense of cannibalizing any teams chances at a pairwise at-large bid. This has led for an exciting final stretch to see who will stand atop the CCHA as for the conference’s autobid.
Mankato has more or less been quietly doing their thing this season after losing both games to the Huskies back in November. They have gone 10-5-1 (including shootout wins & losses) slowly moving up the standings. They aren’t the same Mavericks our Huskies fought and won against a few months ago, though the same can be said for Tech too. Looking at their top performers we see:
The big point getters are who one would expect if they are following college hockey in the grad students/older players. The big surprises come in the form of Murr and Eisele making large impacts as underclassmen. The key to slowing down the Mavericks this weekend will be if the Huskies can stop their household names in Morton and Sowder, which is doable, though the odds are not in Tech’s favor. Looking at their previous series against St. Thomas we only have Game two in instat. Augie has whipped us up some charts to look at and we see:
Saturday’s game is a textbook definition of when a team gets “goalied” in hockey. UST’s Trotter stole this game and just about single-handedly won it for the Tommies (short of scoring all the goals, of course). St. Thomas is a wagon this season so splitting with a team like Mankato (even after their losses) is not surprising. However, UST is a bad comparison to our Huskies as we have more issues currently.
Speaking of our Huskies, THG’s Augie will have a very graph heavy recap for us all for the past few games. Otherwise, there really hasn’t been much that different in terms of what has been happening with this team. We have some injury updates (though it’s more unofficial rumors), Kyle Kukkonen is hopefully going to return for CCHA playoffs while Austen Swankler’s season is over. Both players are key losses to Tech’s already anemic offense, but hopefully this will give other players chances to step up these last few weeks of the season.
Keys to the Game
- Zone entry. Tech needs to figure it out why a team can stand them up at their own blue line. It should not be this difficult for the Huskies to enter the offensive zone every weekend. Once they stop feeling like they need to dump and change, then hopefully we can get better quality zone time and shots.
- Game management. This one is for the coaching staff. The team has a ton of talent on paper, but they are missing that glue to hold everything together. It’s too late in the year to fix that in all honesty, but what the staff can do is make sure players are doing the right actions on the ice. Saturday last week was a good change of pace with the lines being scrambles and the D pairings being changed to see if something will happen. However, they need to also apply this logic to things like the PK where having your top 6 being the only players out there is just not sustainable. There is no reason a Bronte, Pedersen, Rasmussen, or other “bottom six” player can’t kill a penalty. This lets minutes become much more evenly distributed while also resting your top offensive performers.
- Winners win, losers play not to lose. This is what we saw in the last period against NMU. Tech shortened the bench and played boring hockey. This is fine when a team is up 2-3 goals, but not when they are only leading by one. Tech needs to better distribute playing time and keep guys better rested. There is no reason Chase Pietila can’t play 31+ minutes in a game, but he shouldn’t have too.
Like everyone on the podcast, I am low on this team right now. To be fair, I think there is a lot of finger pointing going one by outside eyes and it’s not all wrong. The coaching staff is to blame, but I also think the players are at fault to some degree too. Either what the staff is saying is going in one ear and out the other, or the staff isn’t making the right tweaks between games. I see Tech playing at least 4-5 decent periods up to the standard that Mankato historically has, but it’s going to be roughly 1-2 periods worth of time over the weekend where the players look like they all just started playing together that game that will be their downfall. Tech can and will put up a fight, but unless the depth charts can overperform, they are not winning this weekend sadly. Kato wins 4-2, Kato wins 5-3.
The guys on our Chasing MacNaughton Podcast also made predictions for this coming series against the Mavericks.
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 5:07 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.