Misiak hopes to step in quickly for Michigan Tech

Austin’s Justin Misiak breaks back to the net during the second period against Bismarck Friday night in Riverside Arena. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

HOUGHTON — With the graduation of Michael Neville, Reid Sturos and Tyler Heinonen, the biggest question facing the Michigan Tech Huskies in terms of offense is simply: where will the goals come from? The trio of seniors combined for 82 career goals, which is a lot to make up for.

The good news for Huskies fans is this: there is help on the horizon.

Incoming freshman Justin Misiak comes to Houghton having scored 42 goals in 118 games with the Austin Bruins of the North American Hockey League. While goal-scoring is not his main focus, Misiak feels comfortable around the net, and that is something the Huskies could use to their advantage.

“In my first year, I did not shoot as much,” said Misiak. “In my second year, I put the puck on net, and lucky things happened, just put the puck on net and good things happen.

“At that level, you don’t have a lot of time to have the puck on your stick, so you have to put it somewhere”

A St. Clair Shores native, Misiak is really excited about staying in his home state while playing college hockey and has spent a lot of time in the Upper Peninsula with his family, which made the decision to come to Michigan Tech very easy for him.

“I love the U.P.,” said Misiak. “My uncle has a cabin in Iron Mountain, so I spent some summers up there and just fell in love with it. At that level, you don’t have a lot of time to have the puck on your stick, so you have to put it somewhere.”

Misiak grew up playing in a strong hockey system in his hometown before making the jump to Detroit proper to play for the nationally-known Little Caesars program where he played alongside Calgary Flames draft pick and World Juniors gold medalist, Tyler Parsons.

Playing for the same franchise that launched the careers of the Florida Panthers’ Vincent Trocheck and the Colorado Avalanche’s Rocco Grimaldi was something that meant a lot to Misiak, but it was the home rink for Little Caesars that really sold him on the club.

“That was a great experience playing there,” said Misiak. “We practiced at the Joe [Louis Arena] every day. Just to be able to walk into this arena where all these memories were made was breathtaking. To go through it and experience it was just great.”

In his first season with the U18 team, Misiak led the team in scoring in conference play with 13 goals and 26 points in 28 games. He continued to play well in his second season with the U18 club, scoring another 13 goals and 25 points in 25 conference games.

During his second year with the club, he was extended an opportunity to step in and play three games with the NAHL’s Amarillo Bulls, where he skated alongside another Huskies’ recruit in Tristan Rostagno.

The opportunity to practice with the Bulls and getting into a handful of games was a very rewarding experience for Misiak.

“It was different,” said Misiak. “It was obviously a good experience. Your decision-making has to be that much quicker. Going down there was a different atmosphere, a different experience. It helped me out the long run. It got me ready for the next level.”

In 2015-16, the 5-foot-10 Misiak joined the Bruins. In his first campaign with the Bruins playing alongside skaters such as Jade Miller, now a sophomore at Minnesota-Duluth, he scored 17 goals and 35 points in 58 games, good for fourth on the team in scoring.

In the playoffs, Misiak chipped in six assists in nine games.

“The competition was great,” said Misiak. “It was a great experience overall. It was fun, but I also had to put the hard work in to be able to get to the next level.”

Misiak also had a special opportunity to jump leagues for a game and play for the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League. The experience taught him a lot about where his game was at that point.

“I was a little nervous at first,” said Misiak. “It was Military Night and they had a packed crowd of 13,000 [people]. It was a little quicker. It was a good experience. It made me work on things I saw that USHL players excel at.”

Returning to the Bruins, Misiak developed some chemistry with Nebraska-Omaha recruit Travis Kothenbeutel, and the duo combined for 48 goals and 117 points. Misiak picked up 25 of those goals and 60 points to lead the Bruins in scoring.

The opportunity to lead the team in scoring gave Misiak a chance to really grow offensively.

“During my first season, I struggled early,” said Misiak. “After playing a full season, I brought my confidence up. I knew what I needed to do. In my second year, I was a little bit of an older guy, so I had to go in and dominate. I took what I needed from my first year and worked on it in the offseason and then things worked out.”

Misiak likens his game to that of that Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin. Larkin is described by ‘The Hockey News’ as “very strong on his skates and has lightning speed. Is a constant offensive threat, especially taking defenders wide and crashing the net.” Misiak has modeled his game after Larkin, who grew up in nearby Waterford and is just a few months younger than the new Husky.

With the Huskies looking to build off of what they accomplished last season, they could use some early success from Misiak and his classmates. Fortunately for the Huskies, Misiak enters the college game having built up his confidence each season, leading to a strong final junior campaign. He has the potential to grow into the team’s top center as his career moves along.