HOUGHTON, Mich. — Michigan Tech suffered its first home loss of the season Saturday night as the Minnesota State Mavericks doubled up the Huskies, 6–3. On a night when 500 free tickets for kids pushed attendance to 3,618, costly turnovers and penalties committed by the Huskies let the visitors hang around long enough to mount a spirited three-goal charge in the third period to break a 3-3 tie and put the game out of reach.
“We gave up more odd-numbered rushes this weekend than we might have all year combined,” Coach Mel Pearson said. “When you get three goals at home that should be enough to win. That’s why I keep harping on playing without the puck and playing good rock-solid defense. We gave up way too much tonight.”
The Mavericks opened the scoring on a power play midway through the first period after Riley Sweeney was assessed a tripping minor – apparently for the misfortune of being the nearest skater when one of the Mavericks forwards lost an edge and fell down. It was the first of a pair of goals for J.P LaFontaine, Minnesota State’s shifty freshman scoring leader.
Jacob Johnstone tied the game a few minutes later, streaking into the slot to bury a pass from behind the Maverick net from Dennis Rix. Less than a minute after Johnstone’s goal, Blake Pietila got behind the Minnesota State defense to collect a long lead pass from Brett Olson, and wristed a quick shot over Austin Lee’s glove.
The first period scoring flurry was capped by Minnesota State captain Michael Dorr’s generating a turnover and breaking in alone on Michigan Tech goaltender Josh Robinson. Robinson seemed to make one of his patented highlight reel saves on the play, but the puck trickled in late to make it a tie game.
The teams traded goals again late in the second period. LaFontaine scored his second of the game during a 4-on-4 situation, and less than two minutes later Tanner Kero scored his fourth goal of the young season when he collected a rebound to the left of Lee’s net, made a quick toe-drag across the top of the crease, and flicked a backhand shot past traffic into the open corner.
The third period started going downhill for Tech less than four minutes in, when both Aaron and Blake Pietila found themselves sharing the penalty box to give the Mavericks a long 5-on-3 power play. Minnesota State took advantage as Matt Leitner scored the winning goal. “We took two penalties, bang-bang, and that was the difference,” Pearson said. “We just could not get back in the game after that.”
Lee turned away every Husky shot in the third period, and the Mavericks, smelling a chance for their first WCHA win of the season, played with a desperation that Michigan Tech just didn’t have in them to match. Minnesota State got an insurance goal from Mat Knoll halfway through the third, and an empty-netter from Leitner capped it.
“I don’t think we played with that desperation we need to as a whole,” Johnstone said after the game. “We’re going to learn from this, and move forward to next week and the week after that.”
Front page image courtesy of Bob Gilreath.