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HOUGHTON, Mich. – Michigan Tech head coach Mel Pearson had no idea what assistant captain Shane Hanna was doing at the offensive blue line during a 4-on-4 situation in double overtime, but he will not complain about the results.
Hanna, a senior defenseman, who missed the first overtime due to injury, rushed up when he saw Matt Roy get the puck. Seconds later, he placed a shot over the glove of Bowling Green goaltender Chris Nell’s right shoulder for the game-winning goal 6:35 in.
“He’s a defenseman,” said Pearson. “What a goal. I don’t know what he is doing up there at the blue line, but I am not going to ask him tonight.”
Hanna, one of the Huskies’ highest-scoring defenseman, was a natural pick to jump up into the play, and he did what he does in practice, which is shoot instead of skating in and attempting a deke.
“We had good control of it, and I saw they were changing, so I just hopped up,” said Hanna. “(I was waiting) for something to happen, and Matt (Roy) found me like he usually does in practice.”
The game almost did not get to that point.
The first WCHA championship to be played on a campus site had plenty of excitement in the first overtime. Huskies center Alex Smith beat Nell with a wrist shot but hit a crossbar with just 4:50 left in the first overtime, and Falcons winger Lukas Craggs beat Huskies goaltender Angus Redmond with 7.1 seconds left in the same overtime but hit the far post rather than the netting.
The Huskies pushed the Falcons to the brink of elimination with a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes of play thanks to second-period goals from wingers Joel L’Esperance and Jake Jackson.
L’Esperance drove hard to the net to get his just 4:53 into the middle frame. Winger Alex Gillies set up the goal by snatching a loose puck in the offensive zone and driving hard to the net before feeding the puck out front to L’Esperance, who had outmuscled Falcons winger Shane Bedard to get a stick on the pass and tip it home.
From there, the Huskies played more loose than they had in the first 20 minutes.
“I think it helped to score that goal,” said L’Esperance. “I think everybody kind of relaxed a little bit and started to play their game after that.”
Jackson’s tally came less than eight minutes later during the game’s first two-minute 4-on-4 situation. He had attempted to find Hanna down low, but his pass was blocked. He snatched the puck back up and skated it down near the net before beating Nell with a wrist shot.
“On that one, I was actually trying to pass it back door to Hanna there,” said Jackson. “It went in and hit their guys’ skates and they fell into each other. Their (defenseman) came out and was going to block the shot, so I faked it and just went around him. I didn’t see that the goalie bit so hard on the fake shot.”
Rather than give up, the Falcons forced overtime by scoring twice in 24 seconds early in the third period.
The first came off the stick of Joe McKeown in the slot at 6:36. The second came off a botched play by Redmond at 7:00, allowing assistant captain Matt Pohlkamp to get the loose puck and beat Redmond back to the net.
“I am extremely proud of our guys,” said Falcons coach Chris Bergeron. “To go down 2-0 in this building and to find a way to keep fighting, that resiliency didn’t show itself enough this year.”
The Falcons controlled much of the third period, outshooting the Huskies, 11-2, but struggled to maintain that pressure in the late stages and into the overtimes. The Huskies got stronger the longer the game went on and outshot the Falcons in the extra time, 13-9.
“We had tons of guys who were cramping up,” said Falcons captain Sean Walker. “So the pace definitely slowed down.”
The Huskies earned the WCHA’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with the victory.