MSU Game Day: Mavericks at Michigan Tech
Minnesota State opens a two-game non-conference series at Michigan
It's December 6 and the Minnesota State University men's hockey team has played one game. Michigan Tech has played two.
That will change in a couple hours when the No. 6-ranked Mavericks face the Huskies at MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton.
There will be a lot to watch for with the Mavericks today. It's been two weeks since they controlled the game from start to finish in a 5-0 victory at Bemidji State.
After beating Bemidji State, then having the second game of that series postponed, then having last weekend's scheduled series against BSU in Mankato postponed, then going through a quarantine period two weeks ago, today's game is almost like a second season-opener for MSU.
Is it odd to play a Sunday-Monday series? Sure, but at this point, with all of the rescheduling, postponements and cancellations we've seen in the WCHA over the past month, any game that can be played is a good thing.
Who: No. 6 Minnesota State at Michigan Tech
Where: MacInnes Student Ice Arena, Houghton, Mich., 5:07 p.m.
Records: MSU 0-0-0 WCHA, 1-0-0 overall; Michigan Tech 0-0-0, 0-1-1 overall
Follow along: Live blog at TheRinkLive.com ; live streaming at FloHockey.TV
The Mavericks and Huskies haven’t met in more than a year. MSU won both meetings against Tech last season, winning 3-0 and 2-1 at Tech on Nov. 8-9, 2019. MSU goalie Dryden McKay stopped 48 of 49 shots over the two-game series. The teams were set to meet in the WCHA playoff semifinals in mid-March, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the season just days before the series was set to begin.
MSU is 17-16-6 all time at Tech. The Mavericks lead the overall all-time series against the Huskies 43-20-10 including a 7-2-1 mark in their last 10 matchups (home team in all caps):
Nov. 9, 2019: Minnesota State 2, MICHIGAN TECH 1
Nov. 8, 2019: Minnesota State 3. MICHIGAN TECH 0
Feb. 9, 2019: Minnesota State 3, MICHIGAN TECH 2 (OT)
Feb. 8, 2019: Minnesota State 1, MICHIGAN TECH 1 (OT); MSU wins shootout 1-0
Jan. 5, 2019: MINNESOTA STATE 4, Michigan Tech 1
Jan. 4, 2019: MINNESOTA STATE 4, Michigan Tech 2
March 11, 2018: Michigan Tech 2, MINNESOTA STATE 1 (WCHA semifinal series)
March 10, 2018: Michigan Tech 4, MINNESOTA STATE 2 (WCHA semifinal series)
March 9, 2018: MINNESOTA STATE 2, Michigan Tech 1 (WCHA semifinal series)
Oct. 28, 2017: MINNESOTA STATE 5, Michigan Tech 3
Scouting the Huskies
Michigan Tech went 21-15-3 overall and 14-12-2 in the WCHA last season under Joe Shawhan, who is in his fourth season as the Huskies’ head coach. Tech has to replace its top-scoring defenseman, Seamus Donohue (17 points); its third-leading scorer, forward Alex Smith (23 points) and its top goalie, Matt Jurusik (19-10-3, 2.07 GAA, .923 save pct.).
The Huskies have added some talented players at those spots, including forward Carson Bantle, the media's WCHA Preseason Rookie of the Year. He edged MSU's Akito Hirose for the preseason honor. Bantle, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound winger is a handful. The 2020 fifth-round pick of the Arizona Coyotes averaged a point per game last season for the Madison Capitols of the USHL, including 20 goals. The Onalaska, Wis., native played at Shattuck St. Mary's for two seasons before going to the USHL.
Another newcomer is expected to help Tech ease the loss of Jurusik in goal. Senior Mark Sinclair transferred to Tech from Alabama Huntsville when Huntsville's program was thought to be on the chopping block prior to this season. Sinclair played for the Chargers for the past three seasons and was second in the WCHA last season with 971 saves.
On defense, Brett Thorne, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound freshman is expected to jump in and help the Huskies immediately. Thorne was the CCHL Defenseman of the Year last season, when he led all defensemen in the league with 74 points, including 27 goals. He was nearly a point-per-game player in his juniors career with the Carleton Place Canadiens, finishing with 153 points in 167 games.
Add Bantle to a forward group that includes juniors Alex Broetzman (27 points in 2019-20), Trenton Bliss (27 points) and Brian Halonen (22 points), and Tech will have plenty of firepower up front.
Minnesota State named its captains last week, including two defensemen and two forwards, all seniors. All four are Minnesota natives. Defenseman Riese Zmolek, from Rochester, was voted by his teammates as MSU's captain. Defenseman Jack McNeely (Lakeville) and forwards Jared Spooner (Bismarck, N.D.) and Dallas Gerads (Blaine) are alternate captains.
As I type this (2:45 p.m.) I'd expect the line charts for today's game to be posted anytime. MSU's coaching staff will have some interesting decisions to make. Do they treat this like another season opener and roll out their best lineup, one that dominated rival Bemidji State two weeks ago? Do they try to get some of the freshmen who didn't play at Bemidji into one of the games at Tech?
Does Ryan Edquist get a game in goal? In most years, the answers to those questions would be obvious. But in most years, MSU would have a dozen games in by now. In 2020, when the Mavericks have been practicing for three months but have only played one game, coaches haven't had a chance to see some players in a true game setting. This weekend's series is officially a non-conference series, so perhaps the Mavericks coaches use it as a chance to get everyone in the lineup.
Mavericks who were scratched in the team's season opener were junior Chris VanOs-Shaw, sophomores Tony Malinowski, Colby Bukes and Evan Foss, and freshmen Tanner Edwards, Ondrej Pavel and Connor Gregga.