The scoreboard said it was a tie, and the standings will reflect that. But there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that it was a moral victory for Michigan Tech.
The Huskies completed an improbable third-period comeback from a two-goal deficit to earn a 3-3 tie with second-ranked Colorado College Friday night at MacInnes Arena.
With goaltender Cam Ellsworth pulled for an extra attacker and the Huskies on the power play, Jon Pittis scored with 42 seconds left in regulation.
Frank Werner and Chris Durno also scored for the Huskies (5-12-4, 3-8-3 WCHA). Hobey Baker candidate Peter Sejna, the nation’s leading scorer, had a pair of goals for the first-place Tigers (16-2-5, 9-1-5).
After allowing the tying goal in the final minute of last Saturday’s game at Minnesota State-Mankato and then losing on an overtime penalty shot, Friday felt like a victory for MTU.
After Bryan Perez was ejected for checking from behind midway through the second period, forcing converted defenseman Josh Singer to be moved up to the second line with Brett Engelhardt and B.J. Radovich, it felt like a victory.
After losing to Colorado College by 5-1 and 9-0 scores in October, it felt like a victory.
“We knew it would be tough, but we made it tough on ourselves,” CC coach Scott Owens said. “This is a loss as far as I’m concerned.”
Freshman defenseman Mark Stuart, a likely first-round pick in this summer’s NHL draft, was whistled for holding after hauling down Colin Murphy with 52 seconds left.
“My stick broke,” Stuart said. “I pulled the guy down.”
Then, after defenseman Clay Wilson’s shot from the point was blocked, Pittis turned around in the slot and fired a shot through traffic that beat CC goaltender Curtis McElhinney, igniting a wild celebration on the ice and in the stands.
“(Coach Sertich) just wanted us to control the corners and crowd the front of the net,” Pittis said. “We did that, and the puck just came loose.”
Ellsworth rebounded from a rocky first period with arguably the best performance of his collegiate career. He finished with 39 saves, including a combined 20 in the third period and overtime.
The Huskies scored first when Chris Durno tipped Justin Brown’s shot from the point through McElhinney’s legs at the 6:56 mark of the opening period.
But the lead was short-lived. Colin Stuart scored on a breakaway to tie it at 8:08. Then, Ellsworth got caught up behind the net and Marty Sertich, the nephew of Tech head coach Mike Sertich, threw it out front to Sejna, who dumped it in the empty net.
The game got a bit chippy in the second period, and the Huskies paid the price. CC played with a man-advantage for 9:12 in the period, a stretch that included a pair of two-man advantages. But the Tigers came away with only one goal, a bullet of a one-timer by Sejna that Ellsworth had little chance of stopping.
After some relentless forechecking deep in the CC zone, Werner scored a blue-collar goal at 6:56 of the third. Seniors Durno and Greg Amadio, another defenseman converted to forward, drew the assists.
“We tried to lead by example,” Durno said. “We might not be the most talented guys on the team, but we try to go out there and do the intangibles, do the little things right. I think we helped create some chances tonight, and it helped out on the score sheet.”
Tech may need to move somebody back to defense. Freshman defenseman John Scott left with a separated shoulder and is out indefinitely.
“When you compete, it doesn’t really matter where you play,” Sertich said. “If a kid wants to compete, there’s a position for him to play. This game isn’t rocket science. They all played forward growing up. Do you want to compete? Singer and Amadio obviously do.”
The teams conclude the series Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at MacInnes Arena.