In a battle of Top-10 teams at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena, the No. 9 Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs won the Friday night matchup, 3-1. They did so by outplaying the No. 4 Michigan Tech Huskies in most facets of the game. On Saturday night, the Huskies jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead and then hung on to win 4-3. With the win, the Huskies improved to 13-3-0 heading into another break week before the Great Lakes Invitational tournament.
Both teams started out well, but that did not last. The Bulldogs earned a pair of power plays before the first 20 minutes were up and took advantage of their second one. To make matters worse for the hosts, the Bulldogs outshot the Huskies 20-6 for the period. Things did not get much better in the second period when the Bulldogs scored again on a four-on-four situation.
The Huskies did play better in the third, and they were rewarded early as freshman Dylan Steman tipped a shot from assistant captain Cliff Watson at 6:16. The Huskies got a power play less than a minute later, but their advantage was cut short by an untimely penalty. After the four-on-four, the Bulldogs scored again to ice the contest.
“Obviously Duluth played a heck of a game,” said coach Mel Pearson. “You can see why they are a Top-10 team. I thought we were better in the second half of the game.”
The Huskies made several lineup changes after having lost their third consecutive home game. In the lineup went junior Max Vallis, sophomore Mike Neville and freshman Mark Auk. The team responded to the changes right away as sophomore Tyler Heinonen scored just 3:33 into the game with a backhand shot. Junior C.J. Eick tried the same play two shifts later and was stopped, but freshman Alex Gillies buried the rebound.
Leading 2-1 in the second, sophomore Shane Hanna ripped a shot towards the far post that regained the two-goal lead at 12:05. The Bulldogs took control of the game in the third, scoring twice to tie the game. Things remained that way until Heinonen found Neville crashing the net with 19 seconds left to win the game for the hosts.
“I am proud of our team,” said Pearson. “It was a struggle in the third period. It seemed like we couldn’t do anything right at that point, but we found a way to hang in there.”
This week’s Stick Salute goes to Mike Neville. Several Huskies had strong weekends, but the story that is Neville’s odyssey was something very special. After missing several days of practice due to his grandfather’s death, Neville was held out of Friday night’s game. On Saturday, he was back in the lineup and scored the game-winning goal. The goal was his first of the season and fourth of his career.