The Michigan Tech Huskies earned a single point against the Minnesota State Mavericks in their final regular season weekend. That point guaranteed the Huskies a trip to Bowling Green instead of one to Alaska, both opponents the Huskies swept on the road this season. Unfortunately, this time around, history did not repeat itself as the Huskies dropped both games to the Falcons despite strong play throughout the weekend.
The Falcons struck first on the power play just 5:55 in when a long shot beat sophomore goaltender Pheonix Copley. Junior David Johnstone responded with a power play marker of his own at 10:12. Johnstone’s goal was set up by a nice pass from freshman Shane Hanna, the Huskies’ lone representative on the WCHA All-Rookie Team. The tie score lasted just under two minutes when the Falcons struck again.
Once the Falcons reestablished their lead, they were content to sit back and trap the Huskies throughout the neutral zone, keeping the visitors from getting good scoring chances or even good looks at scoring chances. The Huskies managed to fire 13 shots at the Falcons’ Tommy Burke, but were unable to find another hole before falling 2-1.
“Disappointing, but one game does not win a series,” said head coach Mel Pearson. “There’s not much to choose between the two teams. Here’s where the importance of home ice becomes critical. Our guys played hard. I thought as the game wore on we got better.”
Saturday night’s game saw the Falcons again jump out to a 1-0 lead on a breakaway. It appeared as though co-captain Blake Pietila tied the game on the power play late in the first, but freshman Reid Sturos was whistled for holding, negating the goal. A second penalty to freshman Cliff Watson about a minute later led to a five-on-three goal for the Falcons. The hosts struck again in the second to extend their lead to three.
With possibly 20 minutes left in their season, the Huskies needed a response and got one from Sturos just 29 seconds into the third on the power play. The Falcons regained their three-goal lead a minute and a half later. The lead held until a key mistake by Mike Sullivan ended up in his own net at 8:42. Sophomore Malcolm Gould was credited with the goal for the Huskies. The Huskies could not find another goal and were forced to pull Copley with about two minutes remaining. The Falcons managed to pot one in the empty net to seal the win for the hosts.
“It’s a game of momentum,” said Pearson. “There’s a point in the first period there where the defense makes a real bad read on a rush. Shortly after, we take a penalty to negate a power play and another to put us down five-on-three. That’s where game management is huge. It’s really difficult to get behind on the road and claw your way back. It takes a lot of energy.”
This week’s Stick Salute goes to sophomore winger Alex Petan. With a pair of assists over the weekend, Petan upped his season point total to 28, good for a tie for tops among Huskies’ skaters. While his numbers as a sophomore are slightly less than those of his rookie campaign (34), he was a catalyst for the Huskies’ offense all season.