What happened last weekend?
For one night last weekend, the Michigan Tech Huskies straightened nearly everything they had been struggling with all season as freshman Reid Sturos struck twice, including once on the power play, and co-captain Blake Pietila potted three assists as the Huskies defeated No. 6 Ferris State, 3-2. Bulldogs’ head coach Bob Daniels shook up his squad on Saturday night, starting Charles Williams in place of starter C.J. Motte, and all Williams did was stop all 25 Huskies’ shots en route to his first win of the season, 3-0.
The WCHA’s third-place Bowling Green State hosted the Lake Superior State Lakers Friday night but, after grabbing a 2-0 lead, took the second half of the game off, allowing the Lakers to strike five times in the game’s final 31 minutes to skate away with a 5-3 win. The Lakers struck just two minutes in on Saturday before the Falcons struck five consecutive times to earn the split, 6-2. The Falcons outshot the Lakers, 42-27, for the game.
Wait, what? Did you say the Huskies scored on the power play?
The much-maligned Huskies power play, which has limped to an effectiveness of 10.4% thus far, took the ice Friday night in a game the Huskies trailed, 2-1. With Sturos planting himself squarely in the slot, freshman defenseman Shane Hanna blasted a shot that Sturos got just enough of to beat Motte.
“He did a good job,” said head coach Mel Pearson. “He’s a big body and he understands what he’s there for. He’s done a good job coming into that role.”
For Sturos, the WCHA’s Rookie of the Week, it was his first goal of the season. After channeling his best Johan Franzen imitation, the youngster clearly had a huge boost of confidence. He worked a well-timed give-and-go in the third period with Pietila before striking a second time.
“It was a good give-and-go,” said Pearson. “They enjoy playing with each other. You need that, you know.”
Was this a perfect storm?
Certainly it seemed Friday night like everything that the Huskies needed to happen, did. Power play success notwithstanding, the Huskies got a goal from junior David Johnstone, two from Sturos, and three points from Pietila.
Sophomore Jamie Phillips shut down the Bulldogs after Chad McDonald’s goal just 1:58 into the middle frame as well.
“I thought he was good,” said Pearson about Phillips’ performance on the weekend as a whole. “I don’t he really to be a factor in either game. We’re still searching for one of the goalies to grab the job and run with it.”
So, what the heck happened on Saturday then?
Good question. In a lot of ways, the Huskies actually played with more poise and confidence on Saturday. Unfortunately, so did the Bulldogs, who were working to break a three-game slide.
Still, Pearson was relatively happy with what he saw on film after giving the game a couple of days to sink in.
“As I watch the game back and take the emotion out of the game, we probably weren’t as bad as I thought we were,” said Pearson. “As the game was played live, you could sense that there was something missing in our team.”
There was not as much flow to Saturday’s game as there had been the night before. Part of that was due to the sheer number of penalties whistled against both squads.
The Huskies went zero-for-six on the man advantage. While that number looks disappointing on paper, it does not show what really happened. At least half of those power plays were ended early by Huskies’ penalty. Another potential advantage was wiped out by a late hit from Johnstone after the whistle had blown.
Despite all the mistakes and the frustrations, the Huskies reviewed the game film on Monday before getting to work on putting it behind them. Pearson has been very impressed with how his troops have responded, so much so he made Wednesday’s skate optional.
A deeper look at the Falcons
The Falcons, who are 10-7-3 in conference play, sit just two points ahead of Alaska-Anchorage and three ahead of Bemidji State. All in all, it has been a successful transition for head coach Chris Bergeron and his crew.
Junior Dan DeSalvo leads the team in assists (21) and points (27). Senior Bryce Williamson has been excellent all season, posting 10 goals and 23 points. Sophomore Mark Cooper leads the team in goals (12).
Health has been an issue for the Falcons all season. After missing all of the 2012 portion of the schedule, junior Ryan Carpenter has been back for the last four games. In the four games since his return, Carpenter has three goals and an assist.
Sophomore Tommy Burke has solidified the goaltending situation for Bergeron’s staff. In 17 appearances, Burke sports a 9-3-5 record, a 2.18 goals against average, and a 92.1% save percentage.
The Huskies will need to take a chapter out of Ferris State’s playbook from Saturday if they want to be successful this weekend as the Falcons are 8-3-2 at home this season.
Both games will start at 7:07 p.m.