Reload and Redeem: Michigan Tech Men’s Ice Hockey 2022-23 Season Preview

Kevin Hoefer

The Overview: After two straight winning seasons, the 2021-22 Michigan Tech men’s hockey team broke through and earned their first NCAA tournament berth in four years. While a first-round exit may have not been the result the Huskies were hoping for, Michigan Tech proved they belonged among the nation’s top hockey programs. While a plethora of talent has since left, there’s plenty more that remains. Enough for the Huskies to get pegged as the 20th best team in the poll and expectations to remain as high as ever in Houghton.


The Offense: Michigan Tech got used to terrorizing the other team’s goalie last season as they finished first in the CCHA for shots on goal and third in total offense. However, of their top six point-getters from last year, only Logan Pietila remains. As the new leader of the offense, Pietila will look to expand on his 13 goals and 10 assists. Returners Tristan Ashbrook and Arvid Caderoth both tallied 16 points for the Huskies a year ago and will be expected to take the next step up in order for the offense to remain at the top of the conference. Goals could also come from freshman Kyle Kukkonen who was taken by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2021 NHL Draft.


The Defense: Last year the Huskies held their opponents to just over two goals per game. As with the offense, most of the top defenders from a year ago have graduated, but there is reason to expect the defense to maintain its elite status. Preseason All-CCHA goalie Blake Pietila returns. In 2021-22, Pietila ranked fourth in the nation in shutouts and seventh in goals-against-average. Helping him out in the back will include the likes of Brett Throne and Chris Lipe who will both look to build off of solid performances from last year.


The X-Factors: Michigan Tech was phenomenal on Special Teams last year. The Huskies had the second-best Power-Play Percentage in the CCHA and the league’s top Penalty-Killing Percentage. While “5 on 4” was a strength, 3 on 3 was not. The Huskies stumbled in overtime contests, where they lost a total of six games in 3 v 3 play. Improvement in this area could lead to a dramatic boost in win percentage for Michigan Tech.


The Opponents: In order for Michigan Tech to earn their first conference title since the 2015-16 season they’ll have to get through the dominant Minnesota State Mavericks. The Mavericks are coming off of an NCAA National Championship game appearance and have two players on the Preseason All-CCHA Team. Rivals Northern Michigan University will hope to improve on their fifth-place finish from a year ago and is returning a majority of their squad including their star forward AJ Vanderbeck. Michigan Tech will also play crucial non-conference games against Western Michigan, and St. Lawrence which can boost their chance of a tournament bid.


The Outlook: It’s impossible to overlook the amount of talent that graduated or transferred, and it’s fair to wonder if this year’s Michigan Tech season will resemble a rebuild or reload. But, with their lights-out goalie back for another year and proven veterans who will look to take on bigger roles, the pieces are in place for another winning season. While easier said than done, the Huskies have every reason to believe they have what it takes to win their first NCAA Tournament game since 1981. Now they just have to prove it.