After a pair of home losses to the Alaska Nanooks put not only their home ice but also their playoff hopes in doubt, the Michigan Tech Huskies responded to the adversity they faced by beating rival Northern Michigan both at home on Friday, 7-4, and Saturday in Marquette, 3-2. Freshman Reid Sturos led the offense all weekend with his hat trick on Friday and his goal early on in Saturday’s contest. The two wins moved the Huskies back into third place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings.
The Wildcats took a page out the Nanooks’ playbook in the early going and their aggressive style helped them get on the board just 34 seconds into the game. The lead stood until the Huskies got a late period power play. Junior David Johnstone unloaded a blast from the left point that may have changed direction in close to tie the game at 18:37. The Wildcats broke the tie just 4:19 into the second, but the lead was short-lived as Sturos scored his first of the night 10 seconds later. Less than three minutes later, Sturos would strike again to give the hosts their first lead. Assistant captain Tanner Kero added to the lead a little less than five minutes later at 12:03.
Freshman Shane Hanna notched his third point of the night when he scored on the power play 14:16 into the third. The Wildcats matched that goal less than a minute later. Junior Blake Hietala regained the three-goal lead at 15:38. The Wildcats would again cut into the lead with a short-handed goal before Sturos capped the scoring with his hat trick tally on the power play at 19:24.
“I’m really pleased with how we bounced back from a tough series here last weekend,” said head coach Mel Pearson. “I’m most happy for the seniors. You want to play well and send them out with a win.”
Senior night certainly went off with a bang for the Huskies, who got the key win in front of 3.062.
The Wildcats came out aggressively again at home, and appeared to score the game’s first goal about a minute into play. A quick whistle negated the goal, however. Sturos skated in on the back door to catch a pass from co-captain Blake Pietila to give the Huskies the lead at 3:56. The Wildcats appeared to tie the game about midway through the period, but as there was no definitive angle to help the referees make the call, the play was ruled no-goal.
The Wildcats would tie the game on the second of two consecutive second period power plays. Senior Daniel Holmberg broke the tie at 14:04 when he one-timed a pass from Hietala in. The Wildcats would again even the game on their third power play of the period. Kero would break the tie for good 4:49 into the third when sophomore Alex Petan faked a slap shot and turned it into a pass to Kero.
“I didn’t think tonight was our best game,” said Pearson. “I thought Pheonix Copley really rose to the occasion. It wasn’t our best game, but we will take the win.”
Copley made 37 saves to lift the Huskies to the victory.
This week’s Stick Salute could easily be given to the Huskies’ high-flying trio of Blake Pietila, David Johnstone, and Reid Sturos, who combined for five of the Huskies’ 10 goals on the weekend. However, this week, we are going with freshman defenseman Cliff Watson. The quiet blueliner who joined the Huskies after the offseason coaching change at Ohio State, has been nothing short of excellent for the Huskies. He picked up his fourth assist of the season Friday night. Saturday, he kept the Wildcats’ forwards at bay all night on the larger ice surface at the Berry Events Center while finishing +2. For the season, Watson has four assists and is a +4 in 36 games.