Michigan Tech started this weekend’s home series in the same fashion it ended the last one: with a tie against a nationally-ranked opponent.
Three weeks ago, the Huskies earned a 3-3 tie against defending NCAA champ Minnesota. This time, they put a disastrous road trip to Colorado College behind them with a 3-3 draw against No. 3 Denver on Friday night at MacInnes Arena.
Sophomore Bryan Perez benefited from a mistake by Pioneers’ All-American senior goaltender Wade Dubielewicz to score the game-tying goal during a two-man advantage 7:38 into the third period.
Dubielewicz went down at the right post to cover a puck that had been directed to him off the stick of one of his own players. But the puck hit his stick and somehow slid through his legs and across the crease to a wide-open Perez.
“It’s an unfortunate goal,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said.
Dubielewicz had apparently injured himself in the second period but decided to see if he could finish the third. He was in discomfort, however, and had signaled to the bench that he was coming out at the next stoppage.
“I think he was already thinking he was on his way to the bench,” Gwozdecky said. “As a result, he didn’t quite concentrate on the puck, and it slipped through.”
Frank Werner and Chris Conner also scored for the Huskies (1-4-3, 0-3-2 WCHA), who got 35 saves from Cam Ellsworth.
“Cam made a couple key saves, and our confidence grew with it,” Tech head coach Mike Sertich said. “Our play in front of him started to pick up, and we reflected him.”
Kevin Doell had a goal and two assists for Denver (8-2-1, 3-1-1). Dubielewicz exited with 15 saves. His replacement, Chicago Blackhawks’ draft choice Adam Berkhoel, made six stops in relief and will get the start on Saturday.
After suffering 5-1 and 9-0 defeats at Colorado College two weeks ago, the Huskies rebounded with a much better effort, perhaps showing that the miserable road trip was merely an aberration.
“It wasn’t a fluke, because we got what we deserved,” Sertich said of the trip.
But the tie was a step in the right direction for the Huskies, especially considering Denver won the WCHA regular-season title and postseason tournament last season, winning all six meetings with Michigan Tech along the way.
“The teams that finished in the bottom half of the league last year have closed the gap on the teams that finished in the top,” Gwozdecky said. “Parity is something that is alive and strong in the WCHA.”
The Huskies took a 1-0 lead at 9:50 of the opening period when Werner cut across the top of the crease, picked up the rebound from a Brad Sullivan shot and flipped a backhander high into the net.
Denver evened the score at the 12:16 mark on a goal by Connor James, but the Huskies regained the lead 26 seconds into the second period on Conner’s third goal of the season. The freshman took a long pass up the middle from Justin Brown, fought off a defender and beat Dubielewicz through the five-hole.
“Brownie threw it up to me, I kept my feet moving and went wide,” Conner said. “The goalie opened his legs and I put it through.”
Said Sertich: “(Conner) made a great play to score a goal, but he got a great pass. It was a great play.”
Denver tied the score once again at 9:50. Just as time expired on a penalty to Tech’s Colin Murphy, Denver’s Greg Barber walked untouched from the left circle into the slot and beat Ellsworth.
The Pioneers took their first lead of the game 2:44 into the third period when Doell took a nice feed from Kevin Ulanski and beat Ellsworth with a wrister from the slot.
But Denver opened the door for the Huskies to get the tying goal when Max Bull was given a five-minute major for checking from behind and a game misconduct for a hit on Perez. Less than two minutes later, Gabe Gauthier was whistled for interference, giving Tech a two-man advantage for a full two minutes.
Although the Huskies’ execution during the power play “leaves a lot to be desired,” according to Sertich, Perez was able to capitalize on the lucky bounce to get the tying goal.
“We deserved one,” Sertich said of the break.
“Ellsworth played very well, and they did a nice job of playing around him,” Gwozdecky said. “We’ve got to find a way to score a few more goals tomorrow night.”
The series finale takes place Saturday at 7:05.