This weekend, the Spartan hockey team will visit the Michigan Tech Huskies in Houghton, MI for the first time since 1984. The Spartans play the Huskies every other year in the opening round of the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit, but haven't played in Houghton since coach Tom Anastos was a junior forward. The Spartans will arrive in Houghton riding a three-game winning streak and coming off possibly their best game of the season.
These two teams last met on December 29, 2011, with the Spartans winning 3-1, including a goal from now senior captain Greg Wolfe. The Spartans used to be conference-mates with the Huskies when they had a short stay in the CCHA. This is an exciting series to pay attention to as a Spartan fan and could become a season staple as the Huskies will make a return trip to Munn Arena next season. With only 20 conference games scheduled in the B1G hockey season, series like this one could become commonplace for MSU.
The Huskies stand at 1-6-1 on the season with their only win coming against Northern Michigan at home. That record is very deceiving on how good the Huskies still can be this year. Tech has only played one home game this season thus far and has played series on the road at Michigan (#2 ranked team), Notre Dame (#4 ranked team) and Minnesota Duluth (#20 ranked team). Last weekend, the Huskies were swept by the Wolverines 3-2 (OT) and 2-1.
Michigan Tech Huskies
Website: Michigan Tech Huskies Hockey
Time: Friday and Saturday start time of 7:07 pm. Games can be heard on the Spartan Sports Network and you can stream the game on Americaonesports.com ($$).
Coach: Mel Pearson is in his third season as the head coach of his alma mater. Pearson will be familiar with the Spartans, as he was an assistant coach under Red Berenson at UM from for over 20 years. Pearson is 30-45-9 in three seasons at Tech, including leading Tech to their first GLI title in 32 years last season. Tech was one of the worst programs in college hockey when Pearson took them over and they have taken big strides since his return to Houghton. In the realigned world of college hockey, the Huskies may be an NCAA tournament team soon as the watered down WCHA is much easier to win an autobid in now.
Players to Watch: The Huskies feature a few different forwards that are dangerous and could cause trouble for the Spartans. Blake Hietala is a senior forward who is the leading scorer this year with five points in seven games played. David Johnstone, a former Spartan commit from Grand Ledge, was the 2nd leading scorer last season with 10 goals and 19 assists. Alex Petan was the leading scorer last season as a freshman and made an appearance on ESPN Sportscenter's Top 10 scoring a goal from his knees. Finally, Blake Pietilla got a mention from his coach at WCHA Media Day as a massively underrated forward in the league. The New Jersey Devils prospect may be the best pure scorer on the Huskies roster, as he proved with a strong performance on Team USA's World Junior Championship squad last season. In between the pipes will be sophomore Phoenix Copley who sports a 2.16 GAA and has a .937 save percentage.
Series Prediction: This series brings together two struggling offenses and two teams with strong goaltending. MTU is one of the few teams with a worse power play than MSU, standing at only 6.2% this season. Michigan Tech has scored only 1.75 goals per game compared to MSU's 2.67. I think MSU finds a way to get out of town with a split as Will Yanakeff gets a win in net. Lets make it MSU 3-1 Friday night, MTU 3-2 Saturday.
Video: MSU defeats MTU 3-2 in the 2000 GLI Championship game. This video features 3 NHL Spartans (John-Michael Liles, Ryan Miller, Adam Hall) and a goal from Spartan Damon Whitten, who will be on the Huskies bench as an assistant this weekend.