Series Preview: Michigan Tech @ Michigan

Michigan Tech heads on the road again this weekend on their last leg of a 2-for-1 deal with the Michigan Wolverines. The last time the Huskies traveled to Ann Arbor, in November 2013, they lost both nights, forcing overtime on Friday and losing by one goal on Saturday. Michigan enters this weekend 2-1-0 including a road win at Ferris state and a home split with Union.

#29 Riley Nelson (MTU) and #18 John Madden (Mich) at the 1996 GLI (Photo credit: Ryan Johnson)

#29 Riley Nelson (MTU) and #18 John Madden (Mich) at the 1996 GLI (Photo credit: Ryan Johnson)

Michigan lost much of its firepower on offense from last year with the departure their top four scorers, Kyle Connor (F), J.T. Compher (F), Tyler Motte (F) and Zach Werenski (D). So far, that turnover has dropped Michigan's goals per game by almost 2 full goals, with them averaging 3.00 goals this year compared to 4.76 last year. On defense, they've seen a nearly-identical improvement, reducing their goals against from just over 3 to 1.67 so far in the very young season.

Michigan Tech finally got some wins last weekend, albeit one of them requiring 3-on-3 overtime and not counting as a win according the the NCAA. They are now 1-4-1(1) and need some non-conference success to help themselves with the pairwise. There were many positives last weekend that Coach Mel Pearson can build on including the power play, which got back on track, going 5 for 8 on the weekend. That is wonderful to see compared to all the failures in that department on the road thus far. 

It should be a good series if Michigan Tech plays the way the coaching staff wants. Coach Pearson keeps talking about "liking" this team and he sure seems to expect them to be able to get on a role, maybe it can start this weekend.

Three Keys to the Series:

  1. Not falling behind. Michigan Tech needs to find a way to stay out the penalty box early and set the tone by not allowing the crowd to get into the game. There should be a decent contingent of Huskies fans, including Mitch's Misfits, and scoring first could really setup Michigan Tech for success. 
  2. Tyler Heinonen (Sr., F) and Joel L'Esperance (Jr., F) were expected to lead this team offensively and they only have one goal each. The balanced offense last Friday was nice, but for the Huskies to succeed, those two will need to find the back the net with more frequency. They should have opportunities but will they finish?
  3. It seems obvious that the Wintjes (Sr.)/Kero (So.) rotation will continue for a few more weeks as both goalies get settled in. It seems likely the goalies will each see around 25 shots, so they will have to drastically improve from their current season save percentages and stay better than 0.900 to give the rest of the team a chance to score enough to win. 

I wouldn't be surprised to see Chris Leibinger (Sr., D) back on the wing to start this series, with the Huskies fielding a very similar lineup to the one used last Friday, including Wintjes in goal. 

The Prediction:

While last weekend's results probably weren't good enough for many fans, it was a huge step in the right direction, with Alabama-Huntsville unlikely to be the pushover they were through the last couple of seasons. The power play got on track and the crowd shouldn't be nearly as unfriendly in Ann Arbor with all the alumni and students traveling to watch.

Michigan Tech gives up the first goal and struggles to recover losing 4-2 on Friday. Saturday, the Huskies bounce back to get an early lead and hangs on 3-2.

Special Note:

Mitch's Misfits will be traveling to Ann Arbor for this trip and for those of you that care, they are sitting in Section 26 on Friday and are a little more disbursed Saturday, having seats in Sections 26, 28 and 29. If you plan on attending, feel free to join them in loudly cheering on the Huskies. Every bit helps!