According to the Lunar New Year calendar 2022, it’s supposed to be the Year of the Tiger; in the college hockey world, it might as well be the Year of the Husky. Michigan Tech hockey entered 2022 as a middle of the road team. Once the calendar changed, so did the Huskies, who have won eight straight games to open the year. Michigan Tech sits firmly in the discussion for an NCAA tournament berth and has risen to the No. 14 position in the current USCHO.com poll. Michigan Tech has done well, but they can’t let up. The Huskies will need to build upon their 17-8-2 record to ensure postseason hockey. That effort begins this weekend against the ferocious Bowling Green Falcons.
At first glance, the Falcons may not appear to be a threat to Michigan Tech. Bowling Green has lost three in a row and four of their last six contests. However, the Falcons boast a solid 13-12-3 record. Bowling Green is led by forwards Taylor Schinder and Austin Swankler who each have eight goals and 17 assists on the season. The Falcons only rank No. 5 in the CCHA for goals per game with a 2.79 average. What they lack in quality they make up with quantity, as their 28.75 shots per game rank third in the conference. Bowling Green will come to Houghton as a heavy underdog, but if they can generate enough pressure on goal, they have a chance to play spoiler.
Michigan Tech is averaging a blazing 3.27 goals per game and an overwhelming 32.5 shots on goal. The Huskies offense is spearheaded by Brian Halonen who has 16 goals and 18 assists on the year, good enough for fifth in the conference. Trenton Bliss has put up eight goals and leads the team in assists with 19. Blake Pietila has made life miserable for opposing teams, posting a .921 save percentage and a 1.76 goals-against average. The secret to Michigan Tech’s success lies within their special teams. Both their power play percentage and penalty kill percentage rank best in the conference. This means that in order to beat Michigan Tech, Bowling Green will have to be sharp on the powerplay and avoid the penalty box at all costs, which is easier said than done.
Winter Carnival is always an important time for Michigan Tech hockey and this year is no exception. A strong series for the Huskies will propel them right into the NCAA tournament discussion while a rough showing could destroy their hopes of postseason hockey.