Huskies Secure 2nd Seed in WCHA Tournament with NMU Split
MTU earned three WCHA conference points on the weekend, and with the Minnesota State loss on Friday, are now the number two seed in the WCHA playoffs. This means that Tech owns a guaranteed home ice advantages in the first and semifinal rounds. The Huskies were graced with several great plays from seniors during the last weekend of the regular season, including an 18-second peppering round resulting in a Cliff Watson goal on Friday, and a couple of offensive moves by seniors on both Friday and Saturday. Angus "Beef" Redmond was relieved in Saturday's match up in favor of senior Matt Wintjes, who made five saves after the Huskies had clinched #2 seed. The Huskies will host the Lake Superior State Lakers next weekend.
Exciting Goals by Seniors Give Huskies Friday Win
Even though Saturday was Senior night, the guys must have thought it was Friday. The Huskies received two exciting goals from seniors in Marquette Friday to propel them to a 3-2 victory. After dropping down 1-0 to NMU early in the first, Tech was able to maintain significant offensive pressure on the forecheck and create hard-fought scoring chances.
One such exciting chance occurred at 11:38 in the first period, when a Jake Lucchini (So., F) shot deflected high out of play. This lead to an offensive-zone face off and Husky control. Joel L'Esperance (Jr., F) received the first scoring chance taking the puck directly from the face off and skating to a point blank far side shot on Wildcat goaltender Atte Tolvanen (So.). Alex Gilles (Jr., F - MTU) received the rebound, and with a tight-angle shot put the puck back into scoring position into the crease. From here, both teams scrambled hard as the referee watching the play from behind saw that Tolvanen was unable to cover. Alex Smith (Fr., F) flew into the play and took three quick slaps at the puck, at which point Tolvanen lost his stick and the pile of bodies in front of the crease grew. The puck bounced around NMU and MTU skates before bouncing out again to L'Esperance, now positioned around to the right side of the play. L'Esperance took his second shot of the peppering, received his own rebound in close, and slid the puck out to Mitch Reinke (Fr., D) for space. Reinke looked twice and passed to his defensive partner Cliff Watson (Sr., D) who fired to the high corner. The whole episode was 18 seconds of MTU scoring chances from face off to goal. Watch the battle at the 0:20 mark of the video below.
The second senior goal of the night came after Thomas Beretta (Fr., F) and the Huskies had already taken a 2-1 lead and were looking to get an insurance goal toward the end of the 2nd. Shane Hanna (Sr., D) pinched into the play for Jake Lucchini who chased down a loose puck down and kept the offensive zone. Hanna made a power move from the right circle into the high slot and fired a sharp shot on Tolvanen's glove side. Hanna's goal is available at the 1:04 mark of the above video.
Matt Wintjes Sees Ice Time Saturday
With MTU's win Friday, and a Bemidji State victory over Minnesota State, the Huskies were ensured their #2 seed position going into Saturday's contest. Coach Pearson, likely wanting to make sure all seniors saw some action as well as likely wanting to pull Angus "Beef" Redmond (Fr., G) for giving up four goals on 16 shots, played Matt Wintjes (Sr., G) for his first ice time since October 22nd, 2016 in Ann Arbor. Wintjes stopped all five shots he faced in 15:17 of ice time in the 3rd period, endeding his senior campaign with a 3.02 GAA and an .867 SV%.
THG Three Stars of the Weekend
Looking at three Seniors for weekend honors this week, however there was hustle evident from many more seniors than listed here
- Shane Hannah (1G Friday, 3 weekend SOG) - Hannah's beautiful offensive pinch and power move led to the type of goal the Huskies have been searching for all year. Hannah now has six goals on the year
- Cliff Watson (1G Friday, 5 weekend SOG) - Watson's goal following the 18-second rapid fire peppering on Tolvanen was a huge momentum swing in Friday's game. The Huskies have struggled this season capitalizing on juicy scoring chances, so let's take that goal as a good sign heading into the playoffs.
- Chris Leibinger (Sr., D/F) (1A Saturday) - Leibinger has played both forward and defense interchangeably and as needed all season. This weekend, Leibinger was back to forward an
Honorable mention: Reid Sturos (Sr., F) (1A Saturday, 5 weekend SOG). - Sturos led all seniors in scoring this 2016-2017 regular season with 19 points (8G, 11A = 19pts).
Cover photo credit Bob Gilreath.