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Huskies hockey returns home to face Falcons

Michigan Tech forward Jack Works battles with a Minnesota State defender during a game Friday in Mankato, Minnesota. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Tech University)

HOUGHTON — With a 3-2 win in overtime on Friday night and a 3-2 win in regulation Saturday, the Michigan Tech Huskies hockey team had a very strong showing against the Minnesota State Mavericks on the road. The Huskies now have points in five of six CCHA contests, and are 6-6-3 overall and 4-2 in CCHA play as they prepare to host the Bowling Green State Falcons.

Huskies coach Joe Shawhan liked a lot of what he got from his team throughout the weekend, but especially on Saturday when the Mavericks pushed hard at two different points in the game.

“It was good growth,” he said. “I think the biggest positive out of it is that Mankato showed a little push on Saturday. Actually, on two occasions, they kind of started taking over. I thought that our guys adjusted and pushed back, which seems like a little thing, but it was a big thing for us. To have some guys, not all, but some guys that kind of met that challenge, and said, ‘OK, let’s stop this now and get our game back on order.’ That’s huge.”

The kind of effort needed to slow down a pushing opponent had been something that eluded the Huskies earlier this season, with the loss at Bemidji State being a great example.

“Before I said we need to find that ability to reset and stop the momentum, because we’ve lost several hockey games this year, Bemidji probably being the most notorious, where we weren’t able to reset,” Shawhan said. “How is this going to stop? How are we going to stop this water from coming in the boat? But, I thought we had a couple of occasions, one in the second, one in the third, where we were able to do that.”

More importantly for Shawhan and his staff, it wasn’t just one player trying to steer that proverbial boat in a direction, but rather a group of players. The more players that are willing to do what it takes to turn the boat, the better, according to Shawhan.

One such player was sophomore defenseman Kasper Vaharautio, who was instrumental in the defensive zone Saturday.

“I could see it in Kasper’s eyes that he wanted to be on the ice,” said Shawhan, “like he wanted to, and no turnovers on the weekend. Some players are unsung heroes. I could see it where he wanted to be on the ice and be able to do a job, and he did.”

Another player that Shawhan mentioned has been on a tear since coming back from an early-season injury, junior forward Jack Works. Works scored a goal on Saturday night, and has four goals and six points in his last eight games.

“It’s just incredible the difference that he makes in the offensive zone for us,” Shawhan said. “His scoring chances, first of all, the scoring chances from that line, once he got healthy, Arvid (Caderoth) all of a sudden took off. Now, that consistently is our line that produces the most offensive opportunity in the games.

“When that puck’s on his stick below the hash marks, he wants that puck to ultimately end up at the net, or he expects someone else to get that puck to him at the net.”

Along with Works, alternate captain Ryland Mosley is on a pace to set a new career high in goals. He has eight in 15 games this season after scoring 12 in 39 games last season. He was named CCHA Offensive Player of the Week this week.

“He’s another guy that has a really strong self perspective of his game,” said Shawhan. “He’s another one that wants to excel offensively. Again, when he has the puck, he’s hard on the puck.

“He’s probably, in some ways, a little bit different in Works in that he’s more of a shooter, where Works is more of a (take the puck to the net player).”

Shawhan would love to figure out a way to play them together more often, but they both play left wing and are left-handed shots, so that makes it difficult. However, they are together on the power play, which has come to life in a big way since the Wisconsin series. The Huskies are now finishing on the advantage at 22.4%, which is 13th in the country.

“If they can make the right reads on the power play, which they’re making a lot of them, you either have a chance to go to the net, or you got a chance to get it to the shooter,” Shawhan said. “On Friday night on the power play, 4-on3, we were able to get it to the shooter, and he made a shot.”

One more player who is continuing to have a large impact over the past is sophomore defenseman Mathew Campbell. Since returning from an early-season injury, Campbell has one goal and three points in his last four games. He had the primary assist on Works’ goal on Saturday. He earned CCHA Defensive Player of the Week this week.

“His contribution to our team is, in importance, it’s probably as much as anybody on our team,” said Shawhan. “The thing that you have to realize (is) he’s a transfer. He’s a freshman in the sense that he never played a game last year. This kid’s a freshman. He does not play like a freshman.

“You don’t find a player that does what he does. His offensive contribution to the game this weekend, just in offensive analytic numbers, surpassed all the other defensemen by such a margin, that he may have provided more offensive analytical contribution than all the others combined.”

In an interesting side note, both Works and Campbell, who are transfers, were offered scholarships to Michigan Tech before they made their decisions to accept offers from other schools originally. However, both are now Huskies, and the team is happy to have them both in the lineup.

SCOUTING THE FALCONS

The Falcons come into this weekend 4-10 on the season and 2-4 in CCHA play after earning back-to-back splits with Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan their last two weekends.

Junior forward Ryan O’Hara leads the Falcons in goals (8) and points (13) through 14 games this season. Freshman forward Brody Waters is also off to a great start with six goals and 11 points. He earned CCHA Freshman of the Week honors this week.

Senior forward Josh Nodler is also playing well, with a team-high seven assists and nine points.

In goal, the Falcons are still looking for either junior Christian Stoever or freshman Cole Moore to take over the starting job. Stoever is 1-5 in seven appearances with a 2.68 goals against average and a .902 save percentage. Moore is 3-5 in 11 appearances with a 3.14 goals against average and a .900 save percentage.

The Falcons were rocked just prior to the season with a controversy over an alleged incident that led to the departure of preseason CCHA Player of the Year Austen Swankler.

Shawhan feels that the Falcons, much like the Huskies, are in a period of readjustment, but are probably a few weeks behind the Huskies in terms of turning the corner.

“They’re probably a couple weeks behind us overall in that readjustment of getting things back together, and (they are a) good hockey team. Ty (Eigner) does an excellent job with that group, always competitive. Obviously they’re showing, right now, that they’re going to beat anybody, and that they’re going to compete well for at least a top four position.”

GAME TIMES

The Huskies and Falcons are set for a 7:07 p.m. game Friday at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena. Saturday’s game is set to start at 6:07 p.m.

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