The Bridgeport Regional: Four undrafted free agents to watch

Photo Credit-Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Like in the Fargo Regional, we will highlight one undrafted free agent per team in this competitive regional to watch. Each team has some talent not selected in the NHL draft with a chance of playing in the NHL very soon.

Lake Superior State Lakers

Mareks Mitens

The Ventspils, Latvia native is one of the best goaltenders in the country, and played against several other top flight goaltenders in the WCHA this year. The Latvian netminder is one of the most athletic goalies left in this tournament, and has the ability to make saves look easy and keep the game calm. When the Lakers’ offense has gone dormant this year, he has kept them in games. His strong hockey sense, combined with getting feedback over the course of the two NHL development camps he has attended ( Islanders, Blackhawks) has helped improve his play to the point where the goaltender not many new about before he represented Latvia in the 2016 World Under 18 Championship in Grand Forks now projects to get multiple offers at the next level. If he can keep the Lakers in it early against a very offensively gifted Massachusetts team then they could have a chance to move on, beyond that if his improved defense can limit the grade-a looks that he sees, Mitens could help his team make it to the Frozen Four.

Bemidji State Beavers

Zach Driscoll

He has the athletic ability of Mitens, and calmness to match. The Beavers’ netminder also has a team in front of him with not as much offensive upside as the Lakers have. Despite that, he got his team into the tournament through playing well against the best competition in the league, Minnesota State. In every game he has played in this year, he has shown calmness in net, and the ability to make tough saves look easy while benefiting from the defense-first system that the Beavers play. When they took on Alabama Huntsville, the Chargers had moments of a surge, but Driscoll kept them at bay. For his team to defeat the high-flying Badgers of Wisconsin, he will have to do more of the same.

Wisconsin Badgers

Ty-Belton Pice

To play on a line with Cole Caufield, you need to have physicality, and the ability to get him the puck, along with some shooting prowess of your own. Luckily he has all three of those things. The senior center has 29 points in 23 games, and is a big reason for Caulfield’s likely Hobey Baker Award that he will win in a few weeks. The way he plays the game to lead his Badgers involves a lot of physicality, and he is also one of the smarter players on-ice that they have. While the spotlight will rightly be on Caufield, look for Pice’s role to matter just as much in determining how far the Badgers will go this postseason. After this year, given the success of his line, NHL teams may want to chat with one of the better assist-generating centers in the country who help set up the best goal scorer in the country. He can earn his way to the NHL in a few years if he keeps his work ethic where it is, and shows scouts that his abilities translate to the next level.

Massachusetts Minutemen

Olivier Chau

If you think Odeen Tufto of Quinnipiac will get a lot of attention by NHL teams after this year for his superb playmaking ability, you are correct. Chau’s numbers while not as gaudy suggest his ability to put up assists in a similar manor at the next level. Along with being incredibly disciplined (one penalty taken for a mere two minutes this season), he can distribute the puck at a high level. He has 17 assists in 25 games on a team that has speed and scoring up and down its lineup, and on a group that has had to win tough defensive battles in a strong Hockey East only schedule this year. Chau’s skill and discipline will most likely appeal to any NHL team looking for a responsible playmaker who can make their top goal scorers at the AHL level better, while being able to play a third or second line role in the NHL one day soon.

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BSU 4 UAH 0: Recap and three thoughts

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Other than the pace of scoring, for the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville, today’s regular season finale against Bemidji State looked eerily similar to the series opening loss yesterday.

That is, the Chargers had multiple chances to take the lead or tie things up, but could not solve Bemidji State goaltender Zach Driscoll who put another shutout on the board on his Senior Day game. Defensively, for the first two periods, the Chargers were able to limit the looks of the Beavers to the periphery, and clear the danger areas for most of the first 40 minutes.

Their issue, as was the case last night, came down to dealing with long shifts and getting tired out. Bemidji State has worn out teams all year to score a lot of goals, and today in the first two periods was no different.

The moment that put the game away for the Beavers came in the third period. Peyton Francis came down into the offensive zone midway through and hit both posts with his shot. At the other end, Alex Adams potted an unassisted goal to make it 3-0. Upon review, his goal stood as Francis’ shot never crossed the red line according to any available view. 27 seconds later, Adams scored against Derek Krall again to make it a 4-0 game. Despite multiple chances from the Chargers to round out the game, they could not solve Driscoll, who finished with 13 saves for the game.

What have we learned going into the postseason

This Chargers group did a lot of things right this weekend, when you look beyond the box score against a defensively strong Bemidji State team that will serve this group well next weekend against Laker Superior State, and beyond. They also did some things this weekend that will be hot topics of discusson with UAH Head Coach Lance West and his staff this weekend.

Here’s some takeaways from today

Take the quick out/make the simple play

Multiple times today the Chargers could not get a clear and a line change. Associate Head Coach Karlis Zirnis, among others, has driven home to this team the value of simplifying their game on defense. When you face a veteran team like Bemidji State who knows how to make you pay for your mistakes, and you make them.well the result is what we saw today. As this team matures, they will learn to take the simple out to get to their offense. In net, while Derek Krall had some nice saves today, the team gave up their second goal after he did not cover the puck and the Beavers hemmed the Chargers in. While he will get better at making that read, and had some highlights today, the ability to make the simple play or clear was not shown as a need by just the skaters for the Chargers today.

Speed will bring this program forward

Two players stood out this weekend for their speed, Tyrone Bronte and Peyton Francis. Both of them had some of the best looks the Chargers had all weekend, and Francis came millimeters from making things a one goal game before Bemidji State scored their two insurance markers to provide the final score. Speed is what will get this program to the next level, and these two have it in spades. Their effort today and this weekend was some of the best for the Chargers. Francis had many good looks today, and Bronte threw some of the best checks of the game for either team. His ability to get physical and add some checking to his game has grown leaps and bounds since he came to Huntsville

Delete the past

This team has one series to win, next week against a Lake Superior State team that they were about nine seconds away from earning at least two points against on the year, all on the road. The Lakers have a bit more offensive upside than Bemidji State, and one of the best goaltenders in the country in Mareks Mitens. They are also a bit more open in their game and present more opportunities to be countered than the Beavers do. If the Chargers can play the same way they did in the first and second period tonight, and make the simple play to get a few more clears, then against a team that is more open and more offense forward, they can make things interesting.

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UAH-Northern Michigan: Three things to watch for

Photo Credit: LSSU Athletics

Northern Michigan is one of the most improved teams in the country in the last few weeks. The return of Andre Ghantous has immediately did what Grant Potulny hoped, up their offensive output. In addition, it seems like new addition of  Rico DiMatteo has helped with their goaltending, and that Ghantous and Joseph Nardi are leading this team forward. Here are three things the Chargers need to do in order to stymie one of the hottest offenses in the country.

Manage the game

This was a theme of the Minnesota State and Michigan Tech series. Both nights, at points, UAH played well and hung in with two really good teams. At select other points, they could not do anything with the puck and were working in their own zone for minutes on end, which leads to penalties, and goals in your net quite frequently.

When this team is playing at its best, their physical defense makes superb quick and simple breakout passes to the fast group of forwards they have, who then race in and score before the opposition has time to set up. This is how Quinn Green’s goal on Thuursday night against the Mavericks was so good to see. Everything to get Green the puck is what needs to happen consistently for the next two days for this group to have a chance.

Capitaize on your chances

Since their rise up the WCHA standings, one thing seems to remain constant. The Wildcats have not scored less than three goals in their past six games, winning all but one of them. They have also not conceded less than two goals more than once, and in only a third of those six games have they given up two or less goals. That is to say, a team that relies on speed and offense has to be worn down a bit through the neutral zone and be made to defend. The Chargers do not have to overwhelm their opposition with taking time and space. They do need to work with the speed in their team to find ways to sbe more efficient on the evening. This concept of efficiency is one that they have worked to improve on since the year started, and one that will be at the heart of what to watch for going forward.

Score first

This is one of the better areas for UAH recently, as they have been able to get the first goal in four of their last six games. The speed of this team, on the Olympic ice sheet, will give them a lot more room to generate offense. The skill of players like Tyrone Bronte will be on a bigger stage with the extra ice for him to use. In addition to scoring first, UAH’s ability to get different players involved this year in that effort cannot be understated for its importance.

Overall, the Wildcats present a unique challenge of speed and quick strike plays along with a resurgent group. While it is not likely that Northern Michigan will have an at-large bid to play for, this weekend provides them with a chance to get closer to securing a top three spot, and to go further in the postseason. How UAH responds after four losses at home will be in large part to how well they can stay within their system, and make the Wildcats have to play catch up.

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The WCHA will get at least three teams into the NCAA Tournament: Here’s why

The WCHA, in its final season in its current form, and most likely its final season on the men’s side of things, is having themselves a superb year. Alabama Huntsville is playing the underdog role with 13 freshmen and dramatically improved results from returning players. Ferris State has a World Juniors Champion . Bowling Green is one of the most complete teams in the country with multiple stars on it. Lake Superior State has one of of the top goalies in the country in Mareks Mitens leading a veteran team. Also, Michigan Tech has one of the best goalies in the country, a really tough system to scheme against, and is in a good spot as well. Minnesota State still is in pole position for the McNaughton Cup with its sterling start to its WCHA season despite losing a lot of scoring up front.

All of the top six teams in this league are playing good enough hockey, that the “eye test” should actually benefit this league this year without normal factors of consideration being used. In its final year, the WCHA may have more influence over the final field than realized.

Why write about this?

Well, the WCHA is being looked on by some as an after thought. Every year, like Atlantic Hockey, it seems like the leagues is talked about as an afterthought. Given that the ECAC only has four teams participating this year, and both independents do not look to be candidates for an at large bids, the other five conferences will get to compete for some extra at-large spots.

In addition, defensively, the WCHA is a league built on being able to play close games, like those which are commonplace in postseason hockey. Six teams are within the top 22 of fewest goals allowed, and all of those teams, arguably are fighting for a postseason spot in the league. Given the non-use of the pairwise, all of these teams still have some claim to being under consideration, as long as they finish at .500 or better of course. That style plays better in the postseason when games are typically tight checking, low scoring affairs throughout.

Not many leagues play consistently defensive hockey as well as the WCHA has. Given its top goaltenders, and opportunistic offense, they, like Atlantic Hockey, will have more teams representing them in the NCAA Tournament this year, and deservedly so.

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UAH Hockey: Credit the Returners-Part Two

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

The Chargers of Alabama Huntsville have done quite a lot in this pandemic-marred season so far. Part of that is how well the 13 freshmen have integrated into this group. Another part of that is the exponential growth of those who came back. This is the second part of our series documenting the sucess of the retuners. If you did not get a chance to look at the last bit of info on some of the returners, there will be a link at the bottom of this article to go back and check that out. Since writing the first piece, we have seen Bauer Neudecker continue to thrive on Tyrone Bronte’s line and showcase the sneaky shot that David Fessenden and others know about. In addition, his linemate Lucas Bahn has pitched in in some key moments, especially on the power play. He leads a power play ranked fourth in the nation coming into the weekend.

As we said before, and as is still relevant now,” in order for this team to thrive, the returning players who toughed out so much to stay Chargers have to improve. Given the unique year this is, some returners are playing for ice time next season with their play this year. That is, due to the pandemic, the NCAA is allowing players with more academic work to not have this year count against their eligibility. Therefore, all players, especially the returners are competing for ice time now, and a roster spot next year to some degree. As Carmine Guerriero said when we talked to him, they have all bought into the new way these Chargers are playing, and it has showed.”

Let’s look beyond the top line numbers and look at how some more players have improved year-over-year.

Dayne Finnson

The junior defender put home the most thrilling goal of the season so far, and one of the most thrilling at the Von Braun Center of any scored in this program’s Division One existence. His improvement goes beyond that. For starters, he already has more goals in 8 games this year, than in his previous 64 games over his first two seasons played (two this year, one in the previous two seasons). In addition, he has both of those goals on the power play. When you look at reasons why this power play is fourth in the country, the blue line’s contribution is a big part of that. For Finnson he is also two points from equalizing his points output last year (has five in eight games this season, and had seven in 32 games last year). We knew Finnson could defend well before this year, but him adding as much offense as he has done to this point is a welcome addition to the diversity of point contributions the Chargers need.

Drew Lennon

The junior defender, with one three point game against Ferris State, exceeded his career pont total in his first  two seasons in one game as his three points were a big factor in the thriller. Beyond that, he plays a cerebral game, similar to Bahn. He has shown an ability to find the opening when setting up the offense, as shown on the nice pass he made to Quinn Green earning him the secondary assist on Ben Allen’s equalizer against Ferris State with 2.3 seconds left.  Throughout the year, look for how Lennon compliments the assertive game he plays on the scoresheet. He has the potential to stretch defenses like he did against Ferris State. Given the speed the Chargers have up front, Lennon’s keen eye on offense becomes even more critical, as he showed against Ferris State.

Ben Allen

The third line center for the Chargers scored the equalizer against the Bulldogs last Friday, his ability this year stretches far beyond that. He plays on a line with Peyton Francis and Connor Wood. All three of them provide superb speed and energy that helps extend what these Chargers can do. On that goal, he got the primary assist from Quinn Green, a speedy freshman who spent last weekend on the first line with Tyrone Bronte and Neudecker. That shows his ability to move around when needed, and the staff likes the speed he plays with. From watching him play last year against North Dakota, his ability to defend was apparent to those watching then. This year, he has gotten noticeably faster and provided West with more options for every situation Having a few players that start in the bottom six of your forward corps that can move up in key moments is part of building a better program. Allen has two points this year already, and is on track to far exceed the 16 games played last year if he keeps playing his role as he is.

All of the returners have provided a needed element to this team, and we will have updates on all of them including ones not discussed in this upcoming article. All of them, even ones not mentioned in the first or second article have improved their games and provided the leadership this team needs.

Link to first article on the returners.

https://seamoresports.com/2021/01/06/uah-hockey-credit-the-returners/

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“Every Single Program Matters”: Mike Snee on College Hockey Inc’s Mission

(Photo Credit-College Hockey Inc.)

Mike Snee is the Executive Director of College Hockey Inc. This is an organization integral to helping grow the game, and in placing new teams across America to showcase a game loved by many in areas where there is not a hockey presence that there is now. His organization helps move the process forward to find new teams at interested schools with the capacity to fund them, and works to market the game to perspective players before they commit to a path to play hockey beyond their youth team.

Those presentations around America are a big part of the daily mission to grow the game for all, and Snee’s team has had to adapt to the pandemic-marred world we are all living in. As a result, his organization now has the capacity to present to any group in the world about a game with unrivaled passion and fan support across the country. If more Americans are choosing to play the game, that means these presentations are working, and 33 percent of players on NHL roster have now played college hockey. In addition to that, Snee strongly believes that because of the increase in interest towards Division One Men’s College Hockey, more worldwide interest has dovetailed with that. For instance, last season, 116 Europeans played college hokckey, a vast increase from the time Snee stepped in to run the organization.

As a leader of College Hockey Inc, Snee cares about all Division One Men’s Ice Hockey programs. As such, he took his time focusing on developing a plan to call new schools after the Pegulas pouted a lot of their money into making their Penn State program viable and competitive in the Big Ten Conference. In terms of how he structures to call teams to maximum affect, he has devised his pretty simple way of doing it. First, the team needs money, and a lot of it.It also needs Money is not the only concern for teams have the hay too adress. They need school, alumni support, an ice rink or two, and some fans willing to come. He noted that the success of his group has given them two different templates of creation to pursue going forward.

College Hockey Inc. has two roles. First, its job is to market the game to Americans better than it had done before its formation. On that note, this organization has done a good job in promoting the exploits of its American-brown alumnae at the NHL level and beyond. Throughout this interview that having more players like Cale Makar come to college helps them all around the world as they look to raise the profile of this great game.

“Every single program matters.”

Snee said this specifically when talking about Alabama Huntsville’s future. He credits the tremendous steps the Advisory Board has taken to help UAH Hockey move back into the game, and is now working moving to a new conference. As to their sweep this past weekend, he noted that sweeps like this help build the very lore that the Chargers are doing things right. He called that, as Head Coach Lance West did, a “program win.”

In addition, he notes a theme we have been seeing with other’s perception of the value of the UAH program. That is, this program is indispensable to the sport in order to grow it in its least capitalized market, the southeast.

Despite having a large role in expanding the game, through connecting folks who want to give money with schools willing to have Division One Men’s Ice Hockey, Snee credits the programs in this sport for everyone’s success. Although he does have a point in general on the day-to-day of running and promoting stores, we think the role of College Hockey Inc. is much more. They have their own process and list of calls ro make towards new schools after the pandemic abates. Given that his staff is so small, they spend a lot of time making presentations, and finding new ways to stay up-to-date on things around this great game. We had discussions about other areas of possible expansion as well. Snee and his small group are passionate advocates for every school in this great game, and their efforts show.

How the game continues to grow will not solely be on Snee and his group created with funds from the NHL and USA Hockey. It will grow or not by the efforts all of us take to promote it on our own communities and how we value the sport within its context. That is, if we see hockey at the college level as itself a perpetual interest generator in playing this great game, more people can be encouraged to help fund future teams. Perhaps one day, in a not too distant future, Purdue and Indiana could be doing battle on the ice for the Old Oaken Bucket Cup given to the winner of that series every year , should they make the jump to Division One. If Snee has his way, that example could become reality one day.

As Snee said, “every single program matters.” His group fights to help all of its members, and work to bring in new ones on a daily basis. College Hockey Inc. does their best to live up to that four word saying, and it shows.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

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UAH wins an overtime thriller 5-4: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Tonight, the Von Braun Center was rocking from start to finsh, as the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville were able to come back to tie the game with 2.4 seconds left on a Ben Allen put back on a rebound from a Quinn Green shot to send the game into overtime. In the extra stanza, Dayne Finnson rocketed home a top corner snipe to send the socially distanced crowd home happy, and put a stamp on one of the most intense games of this pandemic-altered season.

After all of that, there is plenty to consider, and while UAH did win, we think the staff will have some things they would like to chat with the team about before the finale. Remember that, tonight, in terms of time of possesion and shot attempts from dangerous areas, the Chargers not only did better, but found a way to answer adversity. This fact will serve them well as the season marches forward.

The Good

Well, the speed of the Chargers was on full display tonight. Tyrone Bronte was an absolute rocket on the ice, and he was not the only Charger that was able to get in behind a very physical Ferris State team that capitalized on chances they had. Bronte himself picked up a power play goal on a nice setup from Lucas Bahn. Bronte was able to get in between a big Ferris State penalty kill and tip the puck past Logan Stein, who showed why he was a goalie for Team USA at the World Junior Championship this year. Stein finished with 40 saves on the evening, including many grade-a looks. In terms of how hard the Chargers made a goalie work, this was their best outing of the year.

In addition, we were heartened to see Drew Lennon get his first goal as a junior for this team. He, like many in his class, could have gone elsewhere but he choose to come back and buy in to this new staff’s program, and had a key goal and two assists. Along with scoring his first goal as a Charger, he exceeded both of his previous individual seasons’ point totals in one game tonight with three.

To us, multiple people stood out, but Bronte, Lennon, and Dayne Finnson all stood out tonight. His winner was one of the most effective shots on net the Chargers have had all year on a tough angle against a superb goalie. He deserves all the credit in the world for his effort. Also, on the heels of a good weekend against Michigan Tech we will highlight the effort and speed of Quinn Green, on the equalizer by Ben Allen, it was Green’s speed and pass that sprung Allen for the look that provided the equalizer.

What to watch for

While the Chargers had the better time on attack, possession, and shots on net, we still want to point out a few areas we feel confident in saying that after the euphoria of today abates, that the coaches may adress with this group. First off, two penalties happened away from the play or not during its run that gave Ferris State more time on the extra man, and some five-on-three time. We are pretty positive neither Connor Witherspoon or Connor Wood meant to end up in the box for their faceoff delay, and roughing penalties, but it happened. Luckily the penalty kill of Karlis Zirnis killed off both looks there, but the point will probably be driven home some more in some way tomorrow.

Finally, for how important the system is to this team, it got away from it at points. Other than the first look which was a seeing-eye marker from Antonio Venuto, nearly every other goal from Ferris State came on a defensive zone breakdown that gave the Bulldogs more time and space in front of the net.

With all of this said, the page turns to tomorrow night, and the Chargers must be ready for a determined opponent that wants its first win. Ferris State, especially Stein will be ready, how will these Chargers react to playing after a win? Tomorrow will be the first chance they have to answer that question.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

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UAH Loses 4-0 in WCHA Opener: The Good, and Improvements Needed

(Photo Credit: LSSU Athletics)

The Chargers of Alabama Huntsville came out today against the Huskies of Michigan Tech, and played a game that had a few good things about it, but left some questions that this team still needs to answer. David Fessenden played well in net for the Chargers, especially in the first period, surviving 9 Huskies’ salvos in the first frame. In the second, Michigan Tech put themselves ahead for good, outshooting UAH 17-5 and scoring three of their goals. The Huskies tacked on an insurance marker in the third to round things out.

The Good

The first period was a defensive effort by this team the way Lance West and Karlis Zirnis would like. The buy in from every Charger was there, and of the nine shots Fessenden faced, really only two or three were high danger chances that Fessenden was able to stop. In addition to this bit of good, we continued to see the speed of this team. Systemically, that is the biggest difference for these Chargers every night. Fundamentally having this team speed kept this game closer longer than it should have been. Despite only having 34 shot attempts, these Chargers showed their system and its ability to stretch out games.

What to improve on

Like fouling at the end of the game in basketball to extend it with hopes of your opponent missing a foul shot, one has to use the time and space given by your trap system to put home some goals. These Chargers, tonight, did not do that. They were outdone in shot attempts by a margin of 26. That will not win you many games in any league on any night. On Michigan Tech’s first goal, they had a sustained shift of more than a minute of zone time leading to the goal by Brian Halonen. The Huskies wore down the Chargers, and he got a tap-home goal Fessenden had no chance to stop. Between condensing the box a little bit to increase the blocked shots, and finding ways to get quicker exits, the coaches are probably looking to tweak how they execute their systems to stand up to these Huskies tomorrow afternoon.

In addition to this simple fact, the Chargers need to not try for stretch passes nearly as much as they did. When they got a stretch through, it was not on the tape of the receiver most times, and it did not go anywhere. These Huskies live to make your life tough when trying to attack them, and this game brought no exception to that rule.

Finally, on offense, this team has to string together shifts from time to time. We cannot recall many instances in this game where the Chargers changed on the fly while holding possession in the Michigan Tech end. Blake Pietila is a superb goaltender all on his own for the Huskies, and is even better because of the system he has in front of him. The more these Huskies score before their opponent can catch up, the harder things get. To get Michigan Tech out of sorts, you have to score first. We saw flashes of the speed we are starting to get used to, but need to see more of it in the finale.

Regardless of the result tomorrow, this team needs to show the get-back it has had in the first four games of the season. Even if they come home from Houghton with no WCHA points, they need to string together some more positives before Ferris State comes to town in a series that could determine who plays either the toughest team in the WCHA, or who makes the postseason tournament if it needs to be shortened due to COVID-19 concerns.

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Virtual Misfits in Real Life: How Mitch’s Misfits Cheer During the Pandemic

(Photo Credit: Evan Fuerst)

There are many student sections in college hockey with superb traditions, and dedicated to their teams. All are suffering a lack of in person viewing of the teams they cheer for due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. However, not all student sections are created equal. Mitch’s Misfits, a student run group that follows the Huskies of Michigan Tech is the most disciplined, organized, and concerted with their efforts to cheer for their Huskies.

To give you a brief example of how dedicated this group is, they follow the Huskies all over the country wherever they can. Last year they traveled to the Ralph Engelstad Arena and watched their team play a close game against the Fighting Hawks. Not only did they attend the Ralph, they were the loudest group of fans from start to finish all night long. Their cheers from the upper deck were heard everywhere in tbe building.

In addition to this, there group not only is an official one on campus, but they work to bring more fans from one of the better, more unheralded engineering schools in the country to the game every single night. They provide a model of what it means to be a fan of the entire game of college hockey, while working to get more people in the stands next to you, not just going to the game. Students travel with this group for multi-day excursions when the Huskies play far away. Not many student groups do that with some institutional support.

With all of this background said, we turn back to the current reality the Misfits face, they cannot show up in their own rink and cheer so loud that folks in North Dakota could hear them on some nights. They have had to adapt to the ever changing rules and regulations of this pandemic, and still have some positive thoughts about their hockey team’s opponent this weekend, the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville.

Evan Fuerst and Shane Cruthers are two leaders of the Misfits, and quotes below are from both of them.

First, on this weekend’s series against a team many thought would not still be active this year, they said

” I think UAH’s effort to save their program is amazing. It shows that hockey communities can come out of anywhere. The outpouring of fans, former players and college hockey fans alike was amazing to see. We think it shows that college hockey can mean more to a community than just a fun thing to watch. ” The featured picture showcasing the Misfits in this article is from one of their trips to the Von Braun Center. Hopefully, at some point soon, they can make another one there.

Back to the Misfits, given that the vast majority of classes at Michigan Tech are online, they have had to do other things to maintain the wonderful community they have built. For instance ” We were attempting to do a social at our house early in the semester full of socially distanced games. That was later cancelled because of increased covid guidelines which prohibited that plan. We have also hosted watch parties online for our fans to interact with one another while still staying safe.”

With that said, the group still has things to watch for on the ice, that would serve as a quick heads up to fans of the Chargers and other WCHA opponents.

As they said, “Carson Bantle has been one of my favorite players to watch in the first few games of the season. He has shown to be a key offensive contributor and is also very physical on the ice. A lot of us think he will blossom into a key contributor all over the ice, and it shows with Arizona’s draft choice of him.”

Finally, while the group hopes to be able to travel at some point in the year, due to ever changing regulations amidst a global pandemic, they know that may not happen this year. With that said they do hope things improve enough to hold ” a group watch party if that is allowed by the school, as we normally do for the teams road games. We would like to set up some pond hockey games with all those from the organization to get out and enjoy the winter season.”

The Misfits, like all of us, are dealing with this pandemic and new regulations as best they can do. Also like us, they hope that soon, Houghton and every other city with a college hockey team in it, can welcome back fans at capacity. Until then, the Misfits are doing what they can to bring together Huskies over Michigan Tech Hockey in the safest way possible.

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Previewing the Michigan Tech Series: A Quick Glance Beyond the Box Score

This weekend, the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville head north to Houghton Michigan to take on the Huskies of Michigan Tech. Head Coach Joe Shawhan’s team is one similar to Tech teams past. They defend really well, make you go through them to win, and get great goaltending. Blake Pietila, is looking to earn the full time job, but former Charger Mark Sinclair hopes to earn some of the net back. So far, from watching both play, Pietila has been markedly better, but Sinclair has a veteran pedigree and the ability to keep his team in games despite long stretches of being outshot, as Chargers fans would be the first to let you know.

One wrinkle these Huskies do have is their addition of RPI center Tristian Ashbrook. He has not been on a campus this year to practice with anyone because his now former school has been all remote, and he has had to train elsewhere. Shawhan mentioned that his conditioning is good so far, and that Huskies fans could see him take on the Chargers this weekend.

What does he bring to Houghton?

Simply the thing that this program has been in perpetual need of, goal scoring ability. Ashbrook’s speed and desire to camp out in the dangerous areas are a true addition to a Huskies team already plenty skilled at puck possesion and gap control.

How players like Coyotes’ draft pick Carson Bantle match up against the speed of the Chargers is what we will be watching for this weekend. The Huskies, on paper, have the better pedigree, but also have never faced a vast portion of this team. Of the returners, all of them have taken some step to get better, head among them being Bauer Neudecker, The speedy winger has helped the first line of the Chargers drive play forward, and has already put home two goals in four games to start this campaign. In addition, the team play of this group makes them much harder to defend than last year’s iteration of these Chargers. How Shawhan deploys his lines against this team will be an indication of how good he thinks each line is to some degree. For instance, if Bantle’s line draws Bronte’s line, then it will be clear that Shawhan thinks Bantle and company can shutdown the speed of Bronte and his wingers to turn play the other way. Deployment is a good test to see how coaches view their team, not just line chart locations.

A good show of improvement at the individual level is Neudecker’s work. Last year in 31 games played did not find the back of the net. In addition, playing on the line centered by Tyrone Bronte has given him the benefit of not being the fastest player on the ice for the Chargers. The biggest issue that the two opponents of UAH have faced in defending this team is dealing with its speed. That is the one area that the Chargers have an advantage on paper against this Michigan Tech side.

With that said, the Huskies have scored in waves this year when they have found twine and, like the Chargers tend to score by committee. For offense this is a four line team that the Chargers will face with defenders who can stay at home and keep the play going. On defense, these Chargers, to some degree or another know Sinclair’s tendencies as the returners have all practiced with him. Regarding Pietila, he has been the main person for these Huskies so far. When he is dialed in behind this defense, most teams in college hockey, regardless of their station will have to up their game to score. Expect no different for these Chargers. Reflexes are his best skill, and these Chargers will have to find ways to continue their improvement in net-front presence goals to generate more rebound looks.

Finally, if these Huskies can knock off a strong Bemidji State team, and an even better Minnesota State Mankato squad, then they are not to be taken lightly. This is a big series for these Chargers to set the tone for their final season in this WCHA. How they will be remembered in this conference starts with what they do this weekend. Their final chance to rise above their station and shock some people over these next few months all begins in Houghton.

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