Series of the Week: Michigan Tech vs. Bemidji State
The month of February may be freezing cold in the Midwest, but the push towards the NCAA tournament is heating up in the WCHA as No. 18 Michigan Tech (14-6-1) will welcome Bemidji State (7-6-3) to MacInnes Student Ice Arena for a weekend battle on the UP.
As it stands, one school in the conference, Minnesota State, is destined to make the tournament and Bowling Green isn’t very far behind either.
However, three schools, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech and Bemidji State are all on the bubble, so each game is of utmost importance.
Bemidji State has proven over the years that they can make life extremely difficult at this point of the season and playing spoiler is a large component of its DNA.
Bemidji State’s offense is one that doesn’t necessarily do anything special, but it will be relentless on the attacking end. Although they average just 2.81 goals per clip which is ranked No. 27 nationally, the forwards are a serious strength.
Alex Ierullo, Owen Sillinger and Ethan Somoza have been steady and reliable for a number of years, and this shortened season is no different.
The trio has combined for 34 points and Sillinger leads all goal-scorers with nine. Ierullo has 13 points with 10 of them being assists and has a natural ability to make plays happen regardless of the circumstances.
Tyler Vold and Brad Johnson aren’t just captains of this Beavers squad, they are also the top defensemen anchoring a penalty kill that sits second nationally at 92.9 percent.
Both players have been strong in regard to defensive play and points. They have 12 combined points with 10 being assists and their unselfish nature goes a long way.
Zach Driscoll has been a great feature of this Bemidji team for three years after coming over from St. Cloud State.
Although his stats have dropped off a little from a year ago, he still brings a lot of juice to his game.
The netminder from Apple Valley, Minnesota has a 6-6-3 record with a 2.61 goals-against-average and a .916 save percentage, but there is still time to get those numbers up.
Michigan Tech has had itself an extremely strong 2020-2021 campaign and was riding a six-game winning streak into Tuesday’s battle with Lake State. That streak was snapped, but they are still playing with loads of confidence as of late.
The Huskies are just one spot below Bemidji in goals-per-game with 2.76. But the parity amongst players and points is much greater compared to the Beavers.
Junior forward Trenton Bliss leads the Huskies in goals and points with 10 and 21, respectively. Freshman Arvid Caderoth has 12 assists to lead all scorers in that category and he is one of seven players in double figures.
Alec Broetzman and Brian Halonen are two of those players with more than 10 points and the juniors have been making life miserable for opposing defenses over time.
Eric Gotz and Colin Swoyer have been virtually impenetrable all-season long, and that trend is expected to continue. They have the ability to lockdown anybody at any time while also contributing offensively.
Between the pipes, Blake Pietila has been a brick wall for a team that averages just 1.95 goals-allowed per contest and his play has stolen a few games this season. In 16 games played, the sophomore has a record of 11-4, a goals-against average of 1.56 and a save percentage of .941, which is second in the conference behind Minnesota State’s Dryden McKay.
It’s been a struggle for teams to get all of their games in given the pandemic. However, there’s one thing that won’t drop off once February begins to fade and the calendar flips March.
Both sides are already fighting for their postseason lives right now and there’s still a little over a month until the NCAA tournament starts.
Michigan Tech has been nothing short of spectacular in recent weeks and they will ride the lightning right into the back end of the regular season and into the WCHA tournament.
The Huskies are hot and it’s tough to stop them when that’s the case. As good as Bemidji typically plays down the stretch, the defense led by Gotz and Swoyer paired with Pietila in net is a tough nut to crack.
Prediction: Michigan Tech sweeps
Christopher Hess is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Fifth Year / Broadcast Journalism
Hailing from Long Island, Christopher is a fifth-year with experience broadcasting football, volleyball, hockey, baseball, softball and public address announcing. Chris has been featured on State College Saturdays, CommRadio’s Saturday college football pregame show, Daylate Tailgate, CommRadio’s Sunday college football recap show, and on a number of podcasts. Chris also writes a number of articles during football and hockey season and is an insider for the men’s hockey team. Chris is also a co-host on Hockey Night in State College and 1st & 10. Chris is interested in either play-by-play or working in the sports media department for a college or professional sports team alongside being a sports radio personality. To contact Chris, email @firstname.lastname@example.org.