Michigan Tech freshman Redmond looks like the answer to Huskies’ crease woes

angus_redmondPutting faith in a freshman goalie may have saved Michigan Tech’s season.

After eight games the Huskies were 1-5-2 and their goalies had a combined .873 save percentage. It wasn’t the goaltenders’ fault that the offense was inconsistent, but the Huskies weren’t getting the timely save they would need once they got into the meatier part of the WCHA schedule.

So freshman Angus Redmond was given an opportunity and he hasn’t let go.

After making his first career start against Northern Michigan on Oct. 28, a 2-0 shutout victory, Redmond has started ten straight and the Huskies have gone 8-1-1 during that time. Redmond has only allowed more than two goals once (Nov. 4 against Michigan State, his only loss), while he has a .933 save percentage and 1.46 GAA — his stats would be even better if he hadn’t allowed two goals on seven shots in a relief appearance on Oct. 14 against Alabama-Huntsville.

Redmond lost the goaltending battle in preseason to senior Matt Wintjes and sophomore Devin Kero. Wintjes and Kero then split the starts early, and neither really seized the crease.

At the same time, Redmond worked on his game in practice. He got more comfortable with the speed of the college game, and he was hard to score on in practice.

“We got to a point where we just needed to give a chance in a game, and once he got in a game and got the shutout his first game, I think he got the confidence in himself. Our team got confidence in him and he’s just continued to play well,” Huskies coach Mel Pearson said earlier this month.

Focus is a key for the 6-foot-1 freshman. Michigan Tech has only allowed 21.7 shots per game in his starts, but he doesn’t get lost mentally with the relative inactivity and he bails out his defensemen when there is a breakdown.

Redmond’s movement has also been key to his success. He moves extremely well side to side, something he worked on in practice before he finally got his first start, and he’s one of the better puck handling goalies in the WCHA. His ability to play the puck allows Michigan Tech to play tight defensively, and Redmond helps thwart some chances and clears the zone before opponents can even develop possession.

The freshman goalie is the piece Michigan Tech needed to compete in the WCHA, a league that is often won and lost by goaltenders.

Bemidji State and its elite goalie Michael Bitzer have surged to the top of the WCHA standings this season, but Michigan Tech has remained closed enough to set up an interesting battle over the final three months of the season that starts with a head-to-head clash this weekend in Houghton.

Nonconference woes continue

To say it’s been a struggle for WCHA teams in the nonconference would be an understatement.

This past weekend’s games encapsulated that. Three WCHA teams played non league series and managed just one win between them.

Lake Superior State, which has been resurgent this season, was responsible for the victory. The Lakers went into Ann Arbor, Mich., on Friday and stunned instate rivals Michigan 3-1. It was their first win at Yost Arena since 2005, and snapped LSSU’s five-game losing streak.

Saturday’s game, though, was a 4-1 Michigan victory and was more emblematic of the rest of the nonconference games this past weekend.

Bemidji State, fresh off their then No. 10 USCHO poll ranking, hosted winless Princeton in Bemidji at the Sanford Center and lost both games, 4-1 and 3-1.

Northern Michigan did manage a 2-2 tie with Omaha on Friday, but couldn’t get anything past the Mavericks Saturday and lost 4-0.

This wouldn’t be so concerning if it wasn’t one isolated weekend. But WCHA teams are currently 12-32-3 out of the conference. And only two teams — Lake State and Minnesota State — have winning nonleague records (both the Lakers and the Mavericks are 3-1-0).

The league’s chances at improving its nonconference record and thus its Pairwise status are dwindling — this weekend is the first this season that all 10 teams are in action in conference play at the same time.

Ice Chips

-Alabama-Huntsville, who had last weekend off, enters the week fourth in the nation with 231 blocks as a team, led by junior Brandon Parker. He’s in a three-way tie for second in the NCAA with 36.

-Alaska-Anchorage earned one point last weekend at Bowling Green, tying 3-3 before losing in 3-on-3 overtime Friday then losing 3-0 Saturday. In 14 games, the Seawolves have been shut out three times.

-Alaska scored just two goals last weekend as they fell to Michigan Tech 4-1 and 2-1. Ross Heidt and Marcus Basara accounted for the Nanooks’ scoring.

-Although Bemidji State was swept by Princeton, the Beavers’ penalty-kill unit was 4-for-6 Friday to move to 55-of-62 (.887) overall. BSU is ninth in the country on the PK.

-Bowling Green, which is 7-7-2 overall, is an undefeated 5-0-2 when scoring first. The Falcons are 6-1-1 this season when tallying 30 or more shots on goal.

-Despite scoring just nine goals in their last two series and 18 goals in their last eight games, Lake Superior State continues to lead the WCHA with a 3.43 goals per game average.

Players of the week

This week’s WCHA players of the week were Bowling Green junior forward Mitch McClain (offensive), Michigan Tech freshman goaltender Redmond (defensive) and Lake Superior State freshman forward Luke Morgan (rookie).

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