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Michigan Tech Shuts Out Alaska in Series Opener

Michigan Tech made the trek way up north to Fairbanks, Alaska for a Thursday-Friday non-conference series against former conference foe Alaska Fairbanks. The Huskies took the first game of the series on Thursday night with a 2-0 victory.

The two teams played a scoreless first period, though not without a little controversy. Michigan Tech’s Ryland Mosley appeared to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead late in the first period, before the officials headed to the video review booth and, rather inexplicably, overturned the goal, claiming Michigan Tech was offsides on zone entry.

But the puck doesn’t lie and Mosley would not be denied his goal. 2:59 into the second period, Mosley scored a short-handed goal to put Michigan Tech in the lead. Mosley’s line would strike again at 12:19 of the second period when Logan Pietila jammed home a goal at the netfront for a 2-0 lead.

From there, the Michigan Tech defense went into lockdown mode. The Huskies allowed 14 shots on goal in the the third period to just six put on Alaska’s net, but Michigan Tech did an excellent job of limiting high-quality chances and the Nanooks were never able to seriously threaten getting back into the game.

The shutout was the 11th of his career for Michigan Tech goalie Blake Pietila, which set a new Michigan Tech school record. The two teams will complete their series late Friday evening in a game that starts at 7:07pm Alaska Time/11:07pm EST.

Notes and Thoughts:

-The difference-maker in this one was Michigan Tech’s first line of Ryland Mosley-Logan Pietila-Kyle Kukkonen, which had a hand in both goals and should have had a third if not for a video review that we’ll discuss further.

The big question for Michigan Tech was where would the offense come from after losing a superlative offensive talent in Brian Halonen, along with a handful of other key seniors that dotted the top of Michigan Tech’s team scoring list last year.

Mosley and Pietila have never been huge scorers, though Pietila did have 13 goals last season, which adjusting for Michigan Tech, is like 50 elsewhere. But I’m intrigued by what freshman Kyle Kukkonen brings to that line. Kukkonen is a bit of an outlier in that he’s an NHL draft pick that doesn’t come from Tech’s normal recruiting footprint of the NAHL and the Pietila family. But family connections—his aunt is Michigan Tech’s athletic director—brought him to Houghton and he should be a major contributor for them.

Even though Kukkonen only ended up with one assist on the scoresheet, I thought he did a really nice job driving the play and using his speed and skill to draw in defenders and create open space for Mosley and Pietila multiple times throughout the game.

Will that be enough to carry Michigan Tech this season? Probably not. I don’t think it’s fair to expect Halonen-like production right away, and the depth probably isn’t there behind them. But it’s a good place to start.

-I hate absolutely everything about the decision to overturn Michigan Tech’s goal in the first period. This isn’t a great video, but you get the gist:

I guess the argument is that if you slow it down frame-by-frame, there’s a possibility that the puck isn’t 100% across the blue line before Kukkonen is all the way in the offensive zone.

Here are my issues:

-Offsides is a scam. You don’t need it. Nobody is buying a ticket to see anything happening in the neutral zone.

-But fine, if we have to keep offsides out of tradition, at the very least, the offensive team should be given every benefit of the doubt at the line to avoid blowing the play dead. If any part of the puck is touching the blue line before the attacking player is 100% inside the blue line, that should be good.

I really can’t understand the purpose of this rule. I sat through this game and believe me when I tell you: these teams were doing just fine at not scoring goals on their own. They didn’t need the extra impediments.

-The rulebook is exceedingly clear that video review should only be used to correct “egregious errors” and that the standard of evidence needed to overturn a call is significant. If you need the Hi-def slow-motion frame-by-frame forensic analysis to disallow a goal, it’s not an egregious error. Nobody on Alaska’s team offers even the slightest protest after the goal was scored.

It’s incredibly frustrating to watch week-after-week as officials completely ignore the actual rules in the actual rulebook and enforce a standard of actively searching for any minor technicality to disallow a goal. I’m not sure what the answer is. It feels like the rules committee could change the wording of Rule 73.5 to “OH MY GOD JUST LET THE GOAL COUNT YOU PUTZ” and officials would still spend minutes huddled in their box trying to determine if the waft of a fart provided too much distraction for the opposing goalie.

-Last week, Big Ten Network passed on airing a college hockey game between two of the top-five ranked teams in the country to show a volleyball match because, by all available evidence, volleyball seems to draw about double the audience of college hockey games. I can’t help but draw a connection between that and the video review nonsense. Low scoring games are an issue for hockey, and losing a goal seemingly every other game by searching for trivialities doesn’t help.

Maybe coaches don’t care because their salaries seem to go up regardless of who shows up or tunes in, but there has to be an adult in the room that figures out that making fans sit around for five minutes so the officials can figure out why one of the three exciting events in a game was Actually Bad makes for a terrible experience.