Needing another strong weekend at home against a tough Alabama-Huntsville Chargers team that recently swept the Northern Michigan Wildcats, the No. 8 Michigan Tech Huskies got just that, using their power play to their advantage to roll over the visitors 5-0 on Friday and 11-1 on Saturday. With the win on Saturday, the Huskies secured their first 20-win season since 1987-88 and had two skaters reach the century mark in career points, Blake Pietila and Tanner Kero. The Huskies also saw the return of Mike Neville to the lineup, which helped their penalty kill. With the wins, the Huskies opened up a six-point cushion on Bowling Green for second place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
A scoreless tie through 21 minutes ended when assistant captain Alex Petan scored on the power play 1:08 into the second period. Pietila added a power play tally of his own at 2:32. Winger Malcolm Gould extended the lead to three at 5:21.
The game remained 3-0 until winger Joel L’Esperance’s top shelf backhand 15: 21 into the third. Center Dylan Steman capped off the scoring at 19:15. The Huskies went two-for-five on the power play. Jamie Phillips made 20 saves to earn the shutout.
“I thought our team did a real good job,” said Huskies coach Mel Pearson. “I’m really proud of our players being dialed in and ready right from the get go tonight, even though we didn’t score in the first period, I thought we had a real good start and carried the play.”
It took the Huskies just 33 seconds to score on Saturday as Kero found the back of the net. Petan added a power play goal on the ensuing advantage at 1:17. Things remained that way until the beginning of the second when Gould scored on the power play 10 seconds in. Winger Max Vallis scored at 4:41. The Chargers cut the lead to 4-1, but winger Brent Baltus regained the four-goal lead at 18:19.
The Huskies had a five-minute major start the third. Kero and L’Esperance both scored on the advantage. L’Esperance struck again at 12:25, on the power play again. Vallis scored his second of the night at 14:45. Assistant captain Cliff Watson scored a goal against an actual goaltender at 16:28. Baltus capped the scoring at 19:08 with a rebound goal.
“At the beginning, when it is a close game, it’s a good game,” said Watson, who would later score one himself. “When it starts getting out of control like that it gets tough to kind of stay in it defensively.”
This week’s Stick Salute goes to the two skaters who earned their 100th career points this weekend. With a point on Friday and four on Saturday, Kero earned his milestone point on the game’s final goal, getting the initial shot before Baltus buried the rebound. Pietila had two points Friday and three on Saturday, but nothing was prettier than the setup he had for Gould in the opening seconds of the second period on Saturday.
“I am really happy for Tanner and Blake to reach that milestone,” said Huskies coach Mel Pearson. “They are two guys who are committed to this program and came in here and really led us.”