Michigan Tech opened up with a first period blitzkrieg and hung on to beat Boston College 4-3 to advance to the finals of the inaugural Ice Vegas college hockey tournament. The Huskies tallied three goals in the first period to take a 3-0 edge and never gave up the lead.
The game largely turned out to be a special teams battle. In the first ten minutes, the WCHA/Hockey East matchup was a feeling-out process, as both the Huskies and the Eagles probed each other for weaknesses. Slowly, Tech seemed to take control, and, after a goal mouth scramble where an Eagle covered the puck in the crease, Dylan Steman scored on a penalty shot, whipping a forehand shot through the five hole on BC goalie Ryan Edquist at the 14:29 mark of the first period.
With BC parading to the penalty box, Tech found themselves with a 5 on 3 soon after. Mitch Reinke made a nice play to set up Brent Baltus in the slot, and the Huskies were up 2-0. Gavin Gould got the second assist.
Less than three minutes later, with Tech still holding the advantage as a result of a BC major and game misconduct to Jacob Tortora, Steman made a nice pass from behind the net to Mark Auk. Auk then made a perfect setup to Alex Smith, and he buried it from the left side at 19:45 to give the Huskies three goals via BC penalties.
In the second period, the Eagles seemed to get into rhythm, and proceeded to mount a manic attack in the Tech zone. BC controlled the play for long stretches until Mitch Meek was penalized for hooking. The Eagles then converted on the power play at 9:37 on a miscue by goaltender Devin Kero behind his own net to close the gap to 3-1.
With momentum clearly moving to the easterners’ side, Dane Birks was whistled for high sticking just 46 seconds later. With the penalty nearly killed, BC potted their second goal with a bit more than 8 minutes left in the second on a nice crossing pass that gave Kero little chance to stop the puck.
Now it was 3-2 and all five goals had been scored on power plays or penalty shots.
BC continued their pressure, but the Huskies seemed to regain their balance a bit. Cooper Watson hit Joel L’Esperance with a great stretch pass for a clear breakaway, but Edquist stoned the senior from Brighton.
The Eagles continued to press and Kero made several fine saves to keep Tech ahead. With the period nearly over, Steman took a roughing penalty, and the Huskie faithful at the T-Mobile arena were worried that the Eagles would roll once the third period started.
Joe Shawhan’s squad stepped up to the challenge, though, and killed the penalty at the start of the third. Kero continued his strong play with several solid saves, and slowly but surely, Them Dogs started to get control of the flow. Finally, defenseman Reinke, who was strong all night, started a breakout with a nice cross ice pass through the neutral zone. Defense partner Seamus Donohue took it along the left board, and chipped it into the middle. Gould zoomed in, picked up the puck and ripped it over Edquist’s shoulder on the blocker side for a huge goal with 8:16 left in the game.
The Tech fans, who outnumbered BC fans at least 5 to 1, erupted in joy as Tech regained a two goal advantage. The next six minutes were back-and-forth, with Tech trying to control the play and keep the Eagles from getting anything started on the offensive end.
BC’s legendary coach Jerry York pulled Edquist with a bit more than a minute and a half left, and the move paid off as the Eagles put one through from the point at the 18:49 mark. Kero had little chance on the shot, as there was a dense screen in front of him.
That left the Huskies faithful biting their nails and squirming in their seats, but Tech, with Kero ever-steady between the pipes, weathered the storm to finish with a 4-3 victory. Kero was a big factor in the game, stopping 27 of 30 Eagle shots, while consistently managing rebounds, dump-ins and goal mouth scrambles.
All in all, it was a great victory for Tech, as they advanced to the championship round of a tournament for third straight time this season. The Huskies will face the Arizona State, who shocked Northern Michigan 7-3 in the other semifinal on Saturday night, with a chance to notch their second tourney championship of this season.