The No. 3 ranked Michigan Wolverines’ hockey will return to the ice this week after a two-week hiatus at the Great Lakes Invitational at Yost Ice Arena this Wednesday and Thursday to take on the No. 18 ranked Michigan Tech Huskies and No. 5 ranked Western Michigan Broncos.
The Wolverines haven’t won the GLI since 2015, losing to the Huskies in the 2019 championship game (2020 was canceled due to COVID-19).
Michigan has historically done very well in this tournament. The Wolverines have won more GLI’s then anyone else (17) and they’ll have to do it without five of their best players currently absent at the World Junior Championships for USA and Canada, respectively. Four of their top six scorers are in Edmonton for that, so we’ll get to see just how much depth they really have.
Michigan Tech Huskies
Michigan Tech comes into this game at third place in the CCHA with an overall record of 10-7. Before winter break, the Huskies swept St. Thomas winning 6-1 and 5-3. Goals haven’t been an issue this year for the Huskies, as they currently rank 19th in goals in the nation. It’s been offense by committee, as they only have one player, Brian Halonen (Sr. F) with over 20 points (22 P, 11 G-11 A) in 17 games.
Michigan Tech is a veteran team with their five top scorers all being upperclassmen. Trenton Bliss has 14 points in 16 games played and 2019 GLI MVP Logan Pietella has 13 points in 14 games.
The defensive side of the puck is where the Huskies have had more trouble. They have given up the 12th most goals and don’t have any defenseman in double-digit points and only one that’s a plus in the +/- category. Goaltending has fallen on Blake Pietila, who has started every game and has a .910 save percentage, but don’t let that fool you. His 2.06 goals against average is the 11th best in the country. They give up a lot of shots which will lead to goals from probability standpoint, so it’s been more they haven’t been able to limit dangerous chances more then Pietila can’t make saves.
The one strength to keep an eye for in terms of special teams is their penalty kill, which ranks 4th among all teams at 92.0%. Teams with a high penalty kill percentage usually go for offensively when they can they Huskies are no different ranking tied for 11th with two shorthanded goals through the year.
Western Michigan Broncos
The Broncos sit in second place in the in the college hockey equivalent of the SEC, the NCHC with an overall record of 13-5. They had won seven games in a row before a series split Nebraska-Omaha to end the first semester.
Like Michigan Tech, Western can score. The Broncos’ 70 goals as a team ranks seventh among all teams and rank 10th in powerplay percentage at 24%. They are averaging almost four goals a game at 3.89.
This is a veteran-heavy team with offense that’s lead by Drew Worrad with 27 points (5 G-22 A) in 18 games. Four of the Broncos five top scorers are Seniors (which tends to help in a short tournament like this) Ethen Frank is second on the team with 24 points and a team leading 17 goals in 18 games also.
Western has been okay in terms of goals allowed ranking tied for 23rd with giving up 44 goals which comes to 2.44 goals a game given up. Ronnie Attard leads the team in scoring for defenseman with 18 points and a team leading +15. Goaltending is lead by Junior Brandon Bussi with a 2.47 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. He’s played and started all 18 games.
It’s not often a team ranks third in it’s own conference for power play percentage and is in the top 10 nationally, but that’s exactly what they are. Western’s penalty kill ranks tied for 14th at 84%. They aren’t extraordinary in any category but they are above average in every major statistic, usually the sing of a veteran team and good head coach in Pat Ferschweiler with an NHL background. The Broncos won’t try to fool you, they know what they are. They have big defenseman that make it tough to play against for the opposition and have senior latent scorers that are able to carry the load offensively.
Wednesday, Dec. 29 — vs. #18 Michigan Tech (Yost Ice Arena), 7 p.m. TV: B1G+
Thursday, Dec. 30 — vs. #4 Western Michigan (Yost Ice Arena), 7 p.m. TV: B1G+ |