HOUGHTON - Perhaps Friday night wasn't shocking since Michigan Tech beat Minnesota in overtime last year, but the Huskies took it to the No. 1 Gophers again in this year's Western Collegiate Hockey Association opener without even coming close to needing overtime.
Tech scored three first-period goals for the second straight game and led by at least two goals for more than 40 minutes in a 5-3 win at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
"It's a big win. Anytime you get a team with 15 NHL draft choices and as talented as the Gophers coming into your building and you beat them, that's a big feat," Tech coach Mel Pearson said. "I thought Pheonix Copley played a heck of a hockey game and I think that was the difference in the game."
Michigan Tech freshman forward Alex Petan snipes a wrist shot into the top corner against Minnesota netminder Michael Shibrowski, the first goal in the Huskies’ 5-3 win over the No. 1-ranked Gophers. Petan’s second goal of the year was No. 3 on SportsCenter’s top 10 plays from Friday. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
Tech's freshman netminder saved 28 of the 31 shots he faced, and the Huskies' veteran defense blocked 21 other Gopher shots. Minnesota, on the other hand, replaced junior goaltender Michael Shibrowski after he allowed four goals on 14 shots. Freshman Adam Wilcox, Copley's former United States Hockey League teammate, stopped 11 of the 12 shots he faced.
"The defense was great in front of me. They kept a lot of stuff to the outside and helped clean up the secondtopportunities. That made my job a lot easier," Copley said. "It was obviously really exciting, especially to go against a team like Minnesota."
Tech's freshman class kicked things off on the offensive end as well when Alex Petan sprawled out to corral a Jujhar Khaira 2-on-1 pass before quickly getting to his knees and roofing a highlight-reel wrister past Shibrowski just 3:32 into the game.
Minnesota 1 1 1 - 3
Michigan Tech 3 2 0 - 5
First period - 1, MTU, Alex Petan 2 (Jujhar Khaira), 3:32; 2, MIN, Nate Schmidt (Nate Condon, Travis Boyd), 9:13; 3, MTU, Blake Pietila (Ryan Furne, David Johnstone), 14:48 PP; 4, MTU, Dennis Rix 3 (C.J. Eick), 15:10. Penalties - MIN, Seth Helgeson (hooking), 8:09; MTU, Dan Sova (hooking), 8:34; MIN, Brady Skjei (holding), 14:00; MIN, Sam Warning (slashing), 15:10.
Second period - 5, MIN, Nick Bjugstad (Ben Marshall), 2:51; 6, MTU, Chad Pietila (Rix, Riley Sweeney), 6:22; 7, MTU, B. Pietila 4 (Tanner Kero, Brad Stebner), 18:27. Penalties - MTU, Justin Fillion (interference), 15:00.
Third period - 8, MIN, Travis Boyd (Christian Isacks, Condon), 17:50 PP. Penalties - MTU, Stebner (cross-checking), 17:02.
Goalies - MIN, Michael Shibrowski (14 shots, 10 saves), Adam Wilcox (12 shots, 11 saves); Tech, Pheonix Copley (31 shots, 28 saves).
Minnesota answered six minutes later when Nate Condon made a beautiful move to set up a shot Copley saved before Nate Schmidt cleaned up the rebound and deadlocked the contest.
Tech responded six minutes after that with not one, but two goals just 22 seconds apart before the first goal could even be announced through the PA system.
"I thought we had a poor start, but I thought Michigan Tech came out and played very well," said Minnesota coach Don Lucia, who will try again tonight for his 600th career win. "Especially at home when you get out to a 3-1 lead you're in pretty good shape. ... They deserved to win the game."
Blake Pietila tipped a Ryan Furne shot into the upper corner for his third of the year, while suddenly offensive-minded fourth-line forward Dennis Rix also notched his third of the year to cap off another odd-man rush. Rix had seven goals all of last year.
"We were just playing hard, everyone was moving their feet, everybody was prepared to play. We had a good start and played 60 minutes," Pietila said. "I don't think it was a fluke."
Maybe a few fans thought it was in the second period when Hobey Baker hopeful Nick Bjugstad beat Copley from the left circle less than three minutes in.
But, like they did in the first period, Tech scored the next two goals to pull away.
Chad Pietila's top-shelf wrister at 6:22 ended Shibrowski's night, while brother Blake added his second of the night at the end of a beautiful bang-bang-bang passing play from Brad Stebner and Tanner Kero.
"That's what I like about this team. They seem to be resilient," Pearson said. "If we score three or they score three, we have a certain way we need to play. ... I like how we played, even the start of the third, I thought we did a good job the first 15 minutes of the third not giving them much. Then the penalty got us in trouble, and then we held on."
Brad Stebner went off for cross-checking with 2:58 left - only Tech's third penalty of the game - and Minnesota's Travis Boyd made the Huskies pay less than a minute later. The Gophers pulled Wilcox, Chad Pietila missed an empty-net backhand in his bid for a second goal and Copley made several big saves in crunch time to seal the win.
Tech goes for the sweep against the not-for-long No. 1 Gophers at 7:07 tonight at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.