The Michigan Tech Huskies returned home looking to build off of their road sweep over the Alaska Nanooks. They had their sights set on a Bemidji State Beavers squad that sat ahead of them in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings, but came in missing goaltender Andrew Walsh. Instead, freshman Jesse Wilkins stopped 74 of 78 Huskies’ shots as both teams skated to 2-2 ties both Friday and Saturday nights.
The Huskies peppered Wilkins with 14 shots in the first 20 minutes, but the youngster kept his team in the game until they could grab the lead about midway through the middle frame. After two periods, it was clear the Huskies needed a stronger effort, and that came just a couple of minutes into the third.
Senior Daniel Holmberg and sophomore C.J. Eick both scored just 37 seconds apart to lift the Huskies into the lead. Holmberg’s goal came in the slot off a pass from freshman Brent Baltus. Eick’s came on a shot that ringed off the post, off of Wilkins and in. Things looked great until freshman Cliff Watson’s stick exploded during a slap shot attempt, launching the Beavers back down the ice to tie the game.
“It’s just one of those unfortunate bounces,” said Huskies’ head coach Mel Pearson about the broken stick. “I thought we could have played the one-on-one better. Our defenseman backed off. [Ward] has nine goals, he can shoot.”
On Saturday, the Huskies got to Wilkins early when assistant captain Tanner Kero intercepted a clearing pass, deked through a pair of Beavers’ defenders and beat Wilkins with a shot just over six minutes in. After the Beavers tied the game, the Huskies nearly regained the lead when freshman Tyler Heinonen fired a shot that beat Wilkins, but not the post.
The Huskies did regain the lead in the second period when co-captain Brad Stebner stepped into a drop pass from sophomore Alex Petan and blasted a shot that beat Wilkins. Unfortunately, the Huskies could not solve him again, however. The Beavers would snatch up a rebound goal in the third to even the game again.
“Not much to choose between the two teams,” said Huskies’ head coach Mel Pearson. “We wanted more and thought maybe we deserved more, but at the same time I thought our players played hard.”
This week’s Stick Salute goes to sophomore winger C.J. Eick. Since joining freshman Mike Neville and Petan on the new-look top line for the Huskies, Eick has done nothing but put up points, notching a goal and four assists in four games. With his assist on Stebner’s goal Saturday night, he now has eight points on the season, one more than he had all of last year. His confidence appears to be growing exponentially.
“Lucky bounce,” said Eick, when discussing his goal Friday night. “[Neville’s] pass kind of handcuffed me a little bit. But I got enough on it and it hit the post. I think it even bounced off his leg before it went in.”