Tech hockey heads to Bowling Green with depleted lineup

HOUGHTON — The last three times Michigan Tech (13-11-5, 9-8-5-2 WCHA) played Bowling Green State (16-8-6, 13-4-5-2 WCHA), the Huskies gave up 10 goals and allowed BGSU to convert 42 percent of its power-play chances, resulting in two losses and a tie.

And Tech played those games with a full roster. This time, when the Huskies hit the road for a two-game series against the Eagles today at 7:37 p.m. and Saturday at 7:07 p.m., they will be doing it with a depleted lineup.

The Huskies will be missing captain Brent Baltus, freshman defender Seamus Donohue and sophomore defender Mitch Reinke for certain. Junior forward Jake Jackson and freshman forward Justin Misiak are both day-to-day, and their status for Friday and Saturday is unknown.

But coach Joe Shawhan isn’t worried.

“We still have a great nucleus,” he said. “There is always a good side to it. We will get a chance to see some other players and to get them some good minutes. We will get to evaluate them and see where we are at moving ahead and stabilizing the lineup for playoffs.”

Shawhan will rely on veteran players like Joel L’Esperance and Jake Lucchini on offense, and Mark Auk and Dane Birks on the defensive end.

In addition to those four core players, there will be some relatively new faces on the ice as well: freshman defender Tyler Rockwell will appear in his first Division I contest, and veteran players who haven’t seen a lot of time will also contribute minutes. Shawhan expects to play Mason Blacklock and Evan Anderson against BGSU, the second-place team in the WCHA.

The fresh faces will have their work cut out for them. Tech dropped both games last weekend to Ferris State, and Shawhan says Bowling Green is a similar opponent.

“Like against Ferris State, there will be a lot of shots that are straight-on,” he said. “There won’t be a tremendous amount of movement, it will be more of a power type of game.”

Because of that style, Shawhan said he plans to play Patrick Munson in the net. Munson has been in a three-way battle with Robbie Beydoun and Devin Kero for the starting goalie spot all season, and while Shawhan was attempting to find a consistent starter down the stretch, now he is shifting his attention to choosing the best goaltender for each individual matchup.

Munson, who is 7-7-3 on the season, provides the best size (6-1, 190) and ability to makes saves against overpowering teams who don’t spend a lot of time with the puck on the perimeter.

Tech will need Munson at his best, as Bowling Green has taken advantage of the Huskies penalty-killing struggles in each of their previous matchups. If the puck gets past Tech’s defense, Munson will be its last chance at stopping a goal, particularly because Tech will be missing Baltus, one of its top penalty-killers.

“Stopping that comes down to eliminating their second-chance opportunities, those long possession times in our zone,” Shawhan said. “We also can’t take foolish, selfish penalties, ones that aren’t saving scoring chances.”

Aggressive, physical teams have been a problem for Tech this season, and Bowling Green is one of those teams. In order to combat that type of play, Shawhan has reworked his practice plans.

“We are just trying to up the compete level in practice with what we are doing,” he said. “We are trying to make sure there isn’t a lot of difference between game tempo and practice tempo, which is a big change for this program. But I think it is necessary for this group.”

This will be Tech’s last road series of the season. Five of its last six games will be played at home, with the exception being one game at Northern Michigan on Feb 23.