Jake Jackson and assistant captain Reid Sturos combined for three goals and three assists as second-seeded Michigan Tech defeated No. 7 Lake Superior State in the opening game of their WCHA Quarterfinal matchup Friday night, 6-4.
It was a game that featured a little bit of almost everything as the Huskies struck twice early on nearly identical plays, and then struck four times in a row to blow the game open, only to have to the Lakers make things interesting in the third.
“We were ready to play,” said Huskies coach Mel Pearson. “I thought our guys did an excellent job just moving the puck, using their speed. I thought the goals were all good goals. We got away from the game a little bit, but not much.”
After center Alex Smith struck just 3:34 into the game off a pass from winger Joel L’Esperance, Sturos found the back of the net at 4:54 to put the Huskies up 2-0 off a pass from assistant captain Shane Hanna.
Sturos enjoys skating with Jackson and assistant captain Michael Neville. The trio have been the Huskies’ most consistent line throughout the season and have begun to click offensively in recent weeks.
For Sturos, it all starts with how well they dedicate themselves to the defensive end first.
“I think we just like playing with each other,” said Sturos. “We all work hard. I think that we think defense first and I think that is how our offense is created.”
After Mitch Hults cut the Huskies’ lead in half at 7:28, they went right back to work. Winger Alex Gillies answered Hults’ tally with one of his own just 2:07 later.
On their first power play, defenseman Mitch Reinke put the Huskies up 4-1. Jackson followed that goal with his first of the night just 40 seconds later when he deked around Gordon Defiel and deposited the puck in the back of the net. Sturos picked up an assist on the play.
Jackson was pleased with how hard the Huskies skated for much of the first two periods of play.
“I think for the first two periods, we were getting the puck deep,” said Jackson. “(We were) playing Husky hockey. We were taking advantage of their defensemen.”
Luke Morgan cut the Huskies’ lead back to three, 5-2, before the end of the opening frame with a goal during a 5-on-3 power play at 15:36.
Jackson struck again just 1:19 into the second period when Neville’s attempted wraparound rebounded right to him as he crashed the net to support Neville.
Jackson, who has three goals in his past two games, is feeling better about his game.
“It feels good when your legs feel good and your linemates are working down low as hard as these guys do,” said Jackson. “It makes it easier on me to go to the net when they get me the puck. Neville thought he should have scored that one, but it worked out for me. I had a tap-in.”
Gage Torrel and captain Gus Correale pulled the Lakers back within two with goals just under a minute and half apart early in the the third. The Lakers then earned a power play just two minutes later, but could not solve goaltender Angus Redmond again.
No. 1 Bemidji State 3, No. 8 Northern Michigan 0
Leo Fitzgerald, Zach Whitecloud, and Kyle Bauman all struck in the second period as the Beavers turned a scoreless game into a 3-0 win. Michael Bitzer stopped all 30 shots he faced.
No. 3 Minnesota State 3, No. 6 Alaska 0
Sean Flanagan struck just 2:05 into the contest. Parker Tuomie then added a pair of goals – one in the first period and another in the second to lift the Mavericks to the win. Jason Pawloski stopped all 23 shots the Nanooks sent his way.
No. 4 Bowling Green 6, No. 5 Ferris State 1
Matt Pohlkamp struck twice and added two assists to help the Falcons earn a win in their series opener. The Falcons turned a 2-1 game in the second period into a 6-1 game thanks to goals from Pohlkamp, Sean Walker, Alec Rauhauser and Luka Craggs. Stephen Baylis also scored for the Falcons. Jared VanWormer picked up the lone tally for the Bulldogs.