Weekend Wrap Up: Week 16

MTU Earns Three WCHA Points Against Alaska - Anchorage

Alaska (Anchorage) has been the Achilles’ heel for the Huskies the last couple years... One team is kinda the thorn in your side and (Anchorage) is it.
— Gary Shuchuk, "Mel Pearson Show" (Jan. 16, 2017)

The Huskies and Alaska-Anchorage split the hard way over the weekend, with each team winning three of the six WCHA conference points over two 2OT games. With both games going beyond regulation OT, each game went down in the NCAA book as a tie. For WCHA conference point purposes, the UAA Seawolves earned the winning point in 2OT on Friday, while Jake Lucchini (So., F) scored in the shootout to give the Huskies the second point on Saturday.

Huskies Eat Way Out of Two-Goal Deficit

The Huskies came out Friday, fresh off their split with ranked Notre Dame, hungry to improve their point total in the WCHA standings. After MTU held offensive pressure for nearly the entire first period, UAA drew blood first. Mason Mitchell (So., F - UAA) scored his sixth goal of the year on a breakaway play. The Seawolves were looking to capitalize on any small breakdowns by the Huskies, and they found another small one to score on. Less than a minute into the 2nd period, the Huskies misplayed the puck behind their net which allowed for another quick UAA goal. The Huskies were quickly in a two-goal hole that they were not expecting. 

The two-goal lead disappeared in the second period. The first Husky goal of the game was kind of a blooper which resulted from some sustained offensive pressure. Jake Lucchini (So., F) found a rebound and bounced it over Rasmus Reijola (Sr., G - UAA), where it fell gracefully into the net. It wasn't the prettiest goal, but it got the team fired up and back into the game. The second MTU goal was a real beauty: Reid Sturos (Sr., F), at the top of the point, had three defensemen collapsing around him. Sturos found Michael Neville (Sr., F) on a clean pass to the crease. Neville switched to his backhand and scored the then-tying goal. Watch the goal below at the 2:02 mark.   

Penalty Kill Overworked Saturday, Holds Strong

Once thought to be a resolved issue for the season, the Huskies were assessed 14 penalties over the weekend for a total of 68 minutes. The PK killed 13 of 14 (92.9%) on the weekend, but it was a number of penalties the Huskies will not be able to incur against ranked opponents. The penalty kill has been strong of late, but the Huskies would prefer to be firing the power play on all cylinders instead of their PK. 

We’ve got to play five-on-five. That’s the bottom line... It gets our whole team involved when we play five-on-five.
— Mel Pearson Post Game Comments (Jan. 14, 2017)

The penalties on Saturday caused a few negative reactions from the Huskies:

  1. The inability to skate with a full five lead to the Huskies being unable to sustain much offensive zone time. Ultimately, UAA only found the back of the net once on Saturday as the Huskies fought off nine penalties. Chris Gerrie (Fr., F) scored his first in a Huskies jersey.
  2. Penalties in the offensive zone, not knowing why a call was made and weak penalties cause team frustration. Michael Neville was removed with a game misconduct at the end of OT Saturday and assessed 25 PIM for "abuse of officials", likely for yelling at the referees out of frustration.
  3. Penalties halt the flow of the game. Not every player has significant penalty kill time. That means several players receive more minutes, while others get into the game less often. The Huskies would prefer to use their full team, to get full advantage of their depth and to play their game plan. 
  4. Michigan Tech is ranked 5th in penalty minutes, nationally. Knowing this, referees will (either knowingly or unknowingly) call the Huskies closer, a cycle and perception Tech will need to actively work to change.

The Huskies have 474 PIM on the year (16.9/game) and the MTU penalty kill is ranked 7th in the nation at 87.8% (137/156). 

Michael Neville (Sr., F) scored while all alone in the crease off of a beautiful pass from Reid Sturos (Sr., F). Neville switched to his backhand and put the puck top shelf (Photo credit Bob Gilreath).

Michael Neville (Sr., F) scored while all alone in the crease off of a beautiful pass from Reid Sturos (Sr., F). Neville switched to his backhand and put the puck top shelf (Photo credit Bob Gilreath).

THG Three Stars of the Weekend:

  1. Jake Lucchini (So., F) - 1 regulation goal on Friday and his shootout goal on Saturday. Lucchini is leading the Huskies with 8 goals on the year.
  2. Reid Sturos (Sr., F)/Michael Neville - The above play. Neville had 1G, 1A Friday and Sturos had 1A, 10 SOG on the weekend
  3. Chris Gerrie (Fr., F) - Scored his first goal in a Michigan Tech uniform on Saturday. Gerrie did not play on Friday and now has five points on the season (1G, 4A) 

MTU in the Rankings

Michigan Tech dropped to 26th in the Pairwise Rankings. The Black and Gold are second in the WCHA Standings, with 39 conference points in 18 games. BSU still leads the conference with 49 points in 20 games. The Huskies fell to second in the THG WCHA Web Media Poll after leading last week. Tech fell to 36 points—and out of the rankings—in the USCHO.com Division I Men's Poll, after breaking into the top-20 last week.

Also, THG would like to remind readers that full Mel Pearson Show audio can be heard on the MTU Stretch Internet portal.