The No. 14 Michigan Tech Huskies played a much stronger game Saturday night than they had on Friday, but despite outshooting the visiting Alaska Nanooks 51-19, the Huskies still needed overtime to come away with a 3-2 win at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
“I really liked our game tonight,” said Huskies coach Mel Pearson. “I thought we played much better than we did last night, even though it was a close game all the way through. I just liked our effort.”
Great pressure by the Huskies in the offensive zone in overtime led to the game-winning goal. Assistant captain Shane Hanna took a pass at the left point from junior Tyler Heinonen and shot the puck along the ice toward the net. Co-captain Alex Petan skated across the crease and slightly redirected the puck into the net 2:29 in.
“It is a huge win, obviously,” said Petan. “Every point is so crucial right now with only a couple of games left. We have a chance to win the league, so a win is what we needed. I thought we earned it tonight.”
With the win, the Huskies guaranteed themselves a home playoff berth for the second straight year. The last time they managed that was 1981-82 and 1982-83.
The Huskies came out hard to start the game, and held a 6-2 advantage in shots on goal just 3:30 into the contest. Three minutes later, freshman Jake Jackson got the puck off a faceoff and skated around the top of the right circle before wristing a shot that Davis Jones grabbed.
Just under two minutes later, sophomore Dylan Steman got loose in front of Jones, but his quick shot got up faster than he expected, allowing Jones to shrug it off. Jones finished his night with 48 stops.
“Davis Jones was strong in the net when we needed him to be,” said Nanooks coach Dallas Ferguson. “Michigan Tech threw a lot of pucks at the net tonight and our guys battled hard.”
The Huskies broke through later that same shift as Heinonen set himself up in the slot. A shot from sophomore Mark Auk rebounded right out to Heinonen, who quickly fired the rebound into the net at 8:21.
The Nanooks (8-20-4 overall, 6-16-4 WCHA), who had three shots on goal through the first 11 minutes of play, tied the game on their fourth shot. Off a faceoff to Jamie Phillips’ right, the puck came back to Nick Hinz at the left point. He wired a pass across to Josh Atkinson, who blasted a low shot that snuck through Phillips at 11:54.
Late in the period, the Huskies line of freshman Jake Lucchini, Jackson, and junior Brent Baltus had a strong shift in which Lucchini had a chance in the low slot. The rebound bounced back out front to co-captain Cliff Watson, who fired a quick shot. Lucchini had another look, but could not quite get the shot off.
The teams went back and forth to open the second with neither getting much of an advantage until the Huskies (19-8-5 overall, 16-7-3 WCHA) had a sustained attack about three minutes in. As the shift came to an end, the Nanooks got loose the other direction and struck.
Nolan Huysmans took a clearing pass from Zach Frye and flew up the ice as quickly as he could. Getting around Auk just outside the Nanooks’ blue line, Huysmans skated in alone on Phillips, deked to his backhand, and scored at 3:53.
During the end of a major power play late in the period, the Huskies evened the game when Heinonen caused a turnover. Senior Max Vallis got the puck, skated out of the right corner and fed the puck across the crease to Joel L’Esperance on the back door, who buried a quick shot at 19:13.
During a four-on-four situation for two full minutes, the Huskies had a scoring chance when senior C.J. Eick outskated everyone to a loose puck, skated to the net and fired a shot from the slot. Less than a minute later, the Nanooks had a nice chance when Peter Krieger attempted a wraparound, but his backhand was stopped.
Huskies co-captain Alex Petan tried a wrap of his own a minute later, but was stopped by the leg of Jones.
Phillips finished his night with 17 saves to earn the victory.