Huskies Hockey: Michigan Tech gearing up for rivalry series against Wildcats
HOUGHTON — It’s rivalry week.
Michigan Tech (5-6, 3-5 WCHA) enters the weekend home-and-home series against No. 19 Northern Michigan with some momentum after sweeping Lake Superior State last week.
Puck drop is 7:07 p.m. Friday in Houghton and 6:07 p.m. Saturday in Marquette.
It’ll be the 154th meeting between the Upper Peninsula schools.
Northern Michigan (7-3-2, 5-1) is coming off a split against Alaska Anchorage. The Wildcats are second in the conference while Tech is sixth.
The Wildcats have found plenty of offense so far this season, which has been something lacking for the Huskies, at least before last weekend’s series at LSSU. Michigan Tech won 4-2 in the Friday game and 2-1 on Saturday.
Michigan Tech sophomore Trenton Bliss was named WCHA Forward of the Week after scoring three goals including game-winners in each. He also had two power-play goals. He leads the team with five goals.
Sophomores Alec Broetzman and Colin Swoyer are tied for the team lead with seven points.
Last week’s offensive production was badly needed for Tech after being swept by Minnesota State the week before. Now, Tech has a two-game winning streak before facing the Wildcats at home.
Northern Michigan leads the rivalry series at 75-64-14. Michigan Tech has a 35-31-8 record against the Wildcats at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena. The Wildcats have a 43-24-6 record against Michigan Tech in Marquette.
Northern Michigan swept Michigan Tech in the last rivalry meeting, the Wildcats’ first sweep over the Huskies since 2005.
And Northern Michigan’s offense is red hot coming into the weekend.
Northern Michigan sophomore Griffin Loughran leads the WCHA in overall scoring with nine goals and eight assists in 12 games. NMU sophomore Vincent de Mey is second in scoring with eight goals and five assists.
Loughran is tied with six other players for most goals in NCAA Division I hockey.
De Mey has five power-play goals this season, tied for third-most in the country.
The Wildcats have five other players among the WCHA’s top 20 scorers, including defenseman Philip Beaulieu. Michigan Tech has none.
The Wildcats have scored the fifth-most goals in Division I hockey so far with 43 goals in 12 games (3.58 goals per game). Only Penn State, Providence, North Dakota and Sacred Heart Wisconsin have scored more so far.
NMU leads the WCHA in goals scored, but barely trails Minnesota State (3.60) in goals per game.
Michigan Tech is seventh out of the league’s 10 teams in offense, with 25 goals in 11 games (2.27 goals per game).
Michigan Tech’s defense, however, is tied for second in the WCHA. The Huskies and Bemidji State have both given up 22 goals in 11 games (two goals per game).
The Huskies’ defensive success has put them among the best in the NCAA so far. Their defensive goals per game is seventh-best in the country, while NMU is tied for 37th.
NMU’s defense is seventh in the WCHA, having given up 36 goals (three goals per game).
The obvious interesting battle to keep an eye on will be the Wildcats’ ability to score goals and the Huskies’ ability to prevent them.
The Huskies have put heavy emphasis on sustaining offensive pressure. Michigan Tech peppered the Lakers’ goal with 48 shots last weekend, but still sit near the bottom of the WCHA in total shots on goal. The Huskies are ninth (258 shots in 11 games (23.5 shots per game).
The Wildcats are sixth in shots on goal (326 shots in 12 games, or 27.2 shots per game). As a result, Northern has scored on a higher percentage of its shots than any other WCHA team, at 13.2 percent.
Michigan Tech, having scored 25 goals in 258 shots, has a 9.7 percent shooting percentage, good for fifth in the league.
Senior goaltender Matt Jurusik started both games last week in net for the Huskies. It was his first game action since Oct. 25 at Bowling Green. Jurusik stopped 57 of 60 shots, a .950 save percentage. He’s ranked third in the WCHA in goals-against average (1.87). Minnesota State’s Dryden McKay (1.32) is first in the league and second in the country in that category. Bemidji State’s Zach Driscoll (1.61) is second in the league.
Jurusik has the 13th-best save percentage (.934) in the country.
Northern’s goaltending has also been serviceable, with freshman John Hawthorne holding a shutout and a .907 save percentage with a 2.46 goals-against average.