Every time Michigan Tech and Minnesota State get together in the WCHA playoffs, the games are tight-checking where neither team finds easy ice. Friday night’s semifinal series opener was no exception.
The second-seeded Huskies and the No. 3 Mavericks were tied, 1-1, after 40 minutes of play. The Huskies then exploded for four unanswered goals in the final frame to win, 5-1, at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
Huskies assistant captain Reid Sturos, who scored the winning goal 3:31 into the third, continued his hot hand, as he now has three goals and six points in three playoff games. Playing with confidence has benefitted himself and his teammates.
“I think it is just momentum,” said Sturos. “Once the first one goes in, the guys have a little bit more confidence and start shooting to score. I think a lot of guys on the team can score and it is coming out at the right time.”
Sturos took a lead pass from from winger Alex Gillies, skated the puck into the right faceoff dot before beating Mavericks goaltender Jason Pawloski over the glove for the goal.
The moment where the Huskies broke the Mavericks came about three and a half minutes later when winger Jake Jackson pounced on a rebound and knocked it home at 6:55.
“You have to be able to take a punch,” said Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings. “(We) got punched. I thought we didn’t have a lot of push back at that time.”
With goals from Sturos and Jackson, the Huskies’ hottest line, which is centered by assistant captain Michael Neville, added to their impressive playoff run as the trio has combined for seven goals and eight assists for 15 points during the postseason.
Huskies coach Mel Pearson said the trio is playing with confidence, and that has allowed them to continue to drive the Huskies’ offense.
“That line is really good,” said Pearson. “They are really confident. When you get confidence like they do, it is tough to stop them. They are leading this team right now.”
Winger Gavin Gould scored a goal similar to Sturos’ to put the Huskies up 4-1. He snuck behind the Mavericks’ defense, took a pass from defenseman Mark Auk and skated in alone, beating Pawloski with a wrist shot at 10:07.
Auk had already scored a goal for the Huskies in the first period before picking up the primary assist on Gould’s tally. Auk was set up in the offensive zone by a pass from center Alex Smith. He skated to the top of the left circle before firing a wrist shot that beat Pawloski at 14:55.
Charlie Gerard evened the score for the Mavericks less than three minutes later when he crashed the net and a shot from Clint Lewis bounced off his hand and past Huskies goaltender Angus Redmond at 17:31.
The Huskies added an empty-net goal while shorthanded to seal the victory when defenseman Dane Birks’ clearing attempt hit a Mavericks’ defender and slid down the ice and into the yawning goal at 15:20.
The Huskies will have a chance to eliminate the Mavericks with a win Saturday.
In the other WCHA semifinal series
No. 4 Bowling Green 4, No. 1 Bemidji State 3
Kevin Dufour’s hat trick goal sealed the victory for the Falcons as they stole the opening game from the Beavers. Dufour scored the first goal of the game and was called upon to even the score at 3-3 late in the third. Matt Pohlkamp also scored for the Falcons. Phillip Marinaccio, Myles Fitzgerald and Nate Arentz scored for the Beavers. Chris Nell made 45 saves, including 15 in the third period for Bowling Green.