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Michigan Tech Throttles Wisconsin 8-1 at Kohl Center

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The Badgers suffered their worst home loss of the Mike Eaves era.

Tanner Kero's three points helped lead Michigan Tech to a blowout win
Tanner Kero's three points helped lead Michigan Tech to a blowout win
Matt Christians

Heading into the second half of their season, Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said he wanted the Badgers to "reboot the computer" after the dreadful start to the season. When they turned that computer on for the first time in 2015, they got the equivalent of the Black Screen of Death.

#5 Michigan Tech handed the Badgers one of the worst losses of the Mike Eaves era at Wisconsin with an 8-1 victory over the Badgers on Wisconsin's home ice. The loss tied last year's 9-2 drubbing at Boston College and an 8-1 loss against Minnesota as the most lopsided loss in Eaves tenure, and was the most goals allowed by the Badgers at the Kohl Center with Eaves at the helm.

Goals came early and often for the Huskies. Tanner Kero got the scoring started for Michigan Tech with a short-handed goal. Alex Petan and Blake Pietila added goals in the first 10 minutes of the game that chased Wisconsin starter Joel Rumpel from the net.

Rumpel's replacement Landon Peterson did an admirable job to keep the Michigan Tech lead at 3-0 in a first period where Wisconsin was absolutely dominated. But there was only so much Peterson could do. The Huskies broke through against him just over a minute into the second period with a goal by Dylan Steman. The Huskies would add two more goals in the second period. Wisconsin's Morgan Zulinick broke up the shutout with a goal in the waning seconds of the second period, but the final result was never in doubt.

Michigan Tech would tack on two more goals in the third period to bring the game to its' final score. The win moves Michigan Tech to an overall record of 15-4-0 on the season, while Wisconsin drops to an NCAA-worst 1-11-1 overall record. The two teams meet again Saturday evening at 7:00pm local time, in a game that can be seen on Big Ten Network.

Fancy Stats

Shots on goal: UW: 5-9-11-25  MTU: 15-16-9-40

Corsi(even strength shot attempts): UW: 7-13-13-33-38% MTU: 23-18-13-54-62%

Prime Scoring Area chances: UW: 3-8-9-20   MTU: 14-16-8-38

What do the numbers tell us?

Holy cow. The score effects of the blowout game evened things up a little bit in the latter half of the game, but Michigan Tech's first period was about as dominating as a team can get. Pay extra attention to the 23-to-7 even strength shot advantage in that first period. That suggests Michigan Tech had possession of the puck for a little over three-quarters of the period. The prime scoring area numbers show that Tech didn't just have quantity, they had quality too.

Notes

-Mike Eaves was fairly positive, circumstances considered, after the game. He seemed to lay nearly all of the blame on the fact that Wisconsin had been off for the past three weeks--even longer for players like Eddie Wittchow and Adam Rockwood returning from injury--while Michigan Tech is a very good team that had played less than a week ago at the Great Lakes Invitational.

While I'm sure some Wisconsin fans would like to see Eaves admit the obvious--Wisconsin is downright bad right now--I'm not sure there's much benefit to be had by completely burying this team. Wisconsin has struggled to find any sort of success even when they have been engaged and playing their best hockey. To keep piling on them in a tough situation is only going to make it easier for the team to quit, and then things could turn really ugly.

Eaves promised a better effort out of his team tomorrow night. It will be interesting to see how the young Badgers respond. A loss like tonight is somewhat understandable, at least relatively speaking, but if the same thing happens again tomorrow, it's a really bad sign.

-It was a bad start right from the beginning with Wisconsin, in part thanks to an off night from starting goalie Joel Rumpel. On a night where the slow-starting Badgers really needed him to keep them in the game, he let in the first shot he saw, and three of the first six. He was maybe screened a little on those first two pucks, but those are saves Wisconsin needs him to make. Like the rest of his team, he looked a little rusty tracking pucks and it put Wisconsin out of the game before it even started.

-This is the second time I've seen Michigan Tech play live--the other being their GLI loss to Michigan, a game they dominated but just couldn't find the back of the net--and I've been extremely impressed both times. The big thing that stands out is how deep they are. After the game, Mike Eaves commented that "it's tough to tell who their first line.." All four lines can skate and score, which makes them tough to play against. They've got some defensemen that can really move the puck and are offensive threats too. I really think they match up well with any team in the country.

-Tanner Kero had an excellent GLI last week, and he was top-notch again here tonight. He's not very big, but he's such a quick, slippery player and he just knows how to make plays with the puck. Kero now has six points in his three games since Christmas, when he got engaged. He also has 24 points in 19 games, so this recent stretch is no fluke.

-Also a strong game for the other Michigan Tech captain Blake Pietila. He's such a strong skater; a real physical force, and can make an offensive play if he needs to. Pietila centered Reid Sturos and Blake Hietala against Michigan at the GLI. Tonight, he centered David Johnstone and Tyler Heinonen, a pairing I like a lot more. Sturos and Hietala are more grinders. Playing with skill guys like Johnstone and Heinonen allows them to make plays, and Pietila to use his strength to clean things up, like he did on his first period rebound goal.

-Some of the credit goes to a very good Michigan Tech power play, but Wisonsin's penalty kill looked really rough tonight. The Huskies finished 3-7 on the man advantage--effectively 4 for 7 since Hietala scored one seconds after a power play had expired, or even 4 of 6 since MTU put their fourth line out on a late power play to not run up the score. There was almost no pressure on the points, and Michigan Tech was able to move the puck at will around the exterior.

-The other thing that really stood out was how many Michigan Tech 2-on-2 rushes were turned into 2-on-1 rushes because the Michigan Tech forward just outskated a Badger defender and beat him to the net. Great effort all night from Michigan Tech and the Badgers had trouble keeping up.

-It's hard to win hockey games when you're not strong up the middle and Wisconsin is shockingly thin at center. Freshmen Adam Rockwood, Cameron Hughes, and Ryan Wagner center the top three lines, and all three look like they could develop into good college hockey players eventually, but none of them are quite their yet.

-All six of Michigan Tech's defensemen are pretty good, but I really like freshman Matt Roy, who has developed a ton since he played U18 AAA with Victory Honda. Roy is solidly built, and while he's not a beautiful skater, he moves the puck effectively, and is one of the better freshman defensemen I've seen this year.

Final Scoring

First Period

3:34 Tanner Kero unassisted (shorthanded) 1-0 Michigan Tech

Kero skated the down the left wing and fired a long wrist shot from the top of face-off circle that fooled Rumpel for the goal.

8:08 Alex Petan from David Johnstone (power play) 2-0 Michigan Tech

Petan skated around the perimeter on the power play to the top of the slot where he fired off a high wrist shot through traffic that beat Rumpel high to the blocker side.

9:48 Blake Pietila from David Johnstone and Shane Hanna 3-0 Michigan Tech

Hanna made a nice play to work his way to the front of the net with the puck. Johnstone took a whack at the loose puck that Rumpel stopped, but Pietila was at the doorstep to tap the rebound back into a wide open net.

Second Period

1:16 Dylan Steman from Joel L'Esperance and CJ Eick 4-0 Michigan Tech

Steman beat his defender to the goal on a 2-on-2 rush and L'Esperance found him with a cross-ice pass that Steman deflected off the post and into the net.

9:48 Blake Hietala from Mark Auk and Matt Roy 5-0 Michigan Tech

Just as a Michigan Tech power play was expiring, Hietala received a cross-ice pass at the left circle and had a wide open net to shoot at. He fumbled the puck a bit, but on second effort, was able to put a low shot underneath a sprawling Landon Peterson.

11:39- Tanner Kero  from Alex Petan and Shane Hanna (power play) 6-0 Michigan Tech

Petan had the puck behind the net and fed a quick pass out to Kero at the bottom of the right circle that he one-timed into the net for his second goal of the game.

19:53 Morgan Zulinick from Adam Rockwood and Grant Besse 6-1 Michigan Tech

Rockwood pulled up at the face-off dot of the right circle and fed a streaking Zulinick who made a nice power move around Phillips for the goal.

Third Period

5:15 Blake Pietila from David Johnstone and Alex Petan (power play) 7-1 Michigan Tech

The puck was bouncing around on a Michigan Tech power play shooting gallery and bounced to Pietila in the slot, who one-timed a rebound-snapping his stick in half on the play-that beat Peterson over the right shoulder.

12:09 Malcolm Gould from Tanner Kero 8-1 Michigan Tech

On a 2-on-2 rush into the Wisconsin zone, Gould beat his defender to the net