Looking to recover from two hard-fought, physical non-conference series, the Huskies opened Western Collegiate Hockey Association action with a pair of games with rival Northern Michigan. The Wildcats used a fast start on Friday to skate away with a 2–0 win in Marquette, while the Huskies used a quick start of their own on Saturday to come away with a 4–1 victory at home.
In front of a packed house Friday night, the hometown Wildcats got a goal from Stephan Vigier just 4:55 into play. After the goal was scored, the Huskies struggled to keep their composure during the rest of the opening frame, and began taking penalties. As senior Dennis Rix’s penalty came to an end, co-captain Brad Stebner took the first of two consecutive penalties. During that advantage, Brock Maschmeyer extended the lead to two.
Sophomore Pheonix Copley was a bright spot for the Huskies, making 31 saves on 33 Wildcats’ shots.
“It’s hard on the road,” Huskies’ head coach Mel Pearson said. “You’re not going to get many calls on the road. We haven’t been getting any bounces on the road.”
The Huskies made three key lineup changes for Saturday night’s game, inserting freshman Max Vallis, senior Daniel Holmberg, and freshman Reid Sturos into the lineup. Vallis and Holmberg both had a hand in the Huskies’ win.
Vallis chipped the puck out to himself before feeding Blake Hietala at center ice. The duo worked a nice give-and-go into the offensive zone before Vallis found Hietala for a one-timer at 6:33 of the first. Hietala struck again just over a minute later on the power play when Holmberg won the faceoff to junior David Johnstone. Johnstone fed Hietala, who attempted to make a pass before firing the puck past the Wildcats’ Mathias Dahlstrom.
Sophomore Alex Petan and Johnstone both added second period tallies to help the Huskies to a three-goal lead, which they held on to the rest of the night. Mike Neville and Shane Hanna both assisted on the pair of Huskies’ goals.
“I thought we were ready to play tonight,” said Pearson. “We got a couple of bounces early and we got the lead. It’s a good win for our team.”
Copley, starting for second consecutive night, made just 14 saves to earn the win.
This weekend’s Stick Salute goes to winger Blake Hietala. With his two-goal night on Saturday, the redshirt junior has five points in five games to lead the Huskies in scoring. What is more impressive about Hietala’s early numbers are the fact that he does not play a lot of power play or penalty kill minutes.
“Mel preaches defense first, and that’s kind of my role,” said Hietala. “I’m just out there trying to get pucks out of our zone, block shots, get in behind their defensemen, and go to work. The puck’s been finding me this year, so I’m going to keep doing that.”