HOUGHTON - The Michigan Tech hockey team had lost three straight games coming into this weekend's series against Nebraska-Omaha, but Friday's fourth straight loss was particularly gut-wrenching.
In a 1-1 game with 2:39 left in the third period, Tech went on the power play with a chance to break the losing streak. Instead, UNO forward Zahn Raubenheimer broke the Huskies' hearts with a shorthanded goal with just 1:10 remaining to lift the Mavericks to a 2-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association win at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
"It was brutal," said Tech senior netminder Kevin Genoe, who saved 26 of the 28 shots he faced in just his second start of the season. "It was really tough, last minute on our power play. It was a big save I needed to make and I didn't make it there. It's a tough way to lose."
Michigan Tech sophomore forward David Johnstone looks for a pass as Nebraska-Omaha’s Andrej Sustr defends during Friday night’s 2-1 Mavericks win over the Huskies at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena. (Mining Gazette/David Archambeau)
But, unlike the eight-goal output his teammates put together in his previous start - an 8-4 win over Lake Superior State - Tech's offense couldn't bury its chances.
"It's tough. They're all tough," Tech coach Mel Pearson said. "When you're not having some success and get in a tight, hard-fought game - we knew it would be - we needed a bounce or a break and we didn't get that. I can't fault our team's effort tonight."
Though it certainly would have helped to start stronger, as Tech only mustered two first-period shots against what Pearson described as the hardest-working team the Huskies have played this year.
Nebraska-Omaha 0 1 1 - 2
Michigan Tech 0 1 0 - 1
First period - No scoring. Penalties - MTU, C.J. Eick (checking from behind), 5:32.
Second period - 1, UNO, Zahn Raubenheimer (Johnnie Searfoss, Brock Montpetit), 5:38; 2, MTU, Tanner Kero 2 (Blake Pietila, Alex Petan), 15:30. Penalties - UNO, Nick Seeler (interference), 0:14; UNO, Andrej Sustr (hooking), 6:44; UNO, Jaycob Megna (checking from behind), 7:56; UNO, TEAM (too many men), 19:31.
Third period - 3, UNO, Raubenheimer (unassisted), 18:50 SH. Penalties - UNO, Sustr (interference), 8:34; MTU, Jujhar Khair (facemasking), 9:07; UNO, Montpetit (interference), 10:52; UNO, Seeler (slashing), 17:21.
Goalies - UNO, John Faulker (22 shots, 21 saves); MTU, Kevin Genoe (28 shots, 26 saves).
"We outshot them 7-2, but I was real impressed that we didn't allow second attempts and our defensemen cleared the puck away," UNO coach Dean Blais said. "That was the biggest difference in the game if there was one area is they didn't get many second and third chances in there."
One of the few times Tech did get a second opportunity, and after a slight change in forechecking strategy, the Huskies deadlocked the game in the second period.
Raubenheimer had opened the scoring with a beautiful partial breakaway five-hole finish past Genoe at the 5:38 mark, but Tanner Kero tied the game after Maverick goaltender John Faulker couldn't corral Blake Pietila's initial shot and Kero banged home the rebound.
But that would be it for the Huskies despite seven power-play opportunities in the game. UNO has now killed off 30 of 32 penalties this year.
"It's kind of a heartbreaker. I thought we worked hard all game, just couldn't get that bounce. They got that one at the end, it hurts, especially since we haven't won in a few games lately. It's tough," Kero said.
Raubenheimer made his second outstanding play of the game to tally the game winner, pulling off a similar move and once against slipping the puck five-hole.
"Everything kind of came together for me," Raubenheimer said. "That move doesn't work all the time, but I was lucky enough this one worked for me. ... To come against a team like Michigan Tech that is very skilled, we have to outwork them. We have to give them credit, they worked hard all night. It could have easily gone to overtime."
Tech could only wish it did.
"It's frustrating," Pearson said. "It's not like it's a breakdown in systems or anything, just their guy made two real good individual plays to beat us."
The Huskies (2-5-0, 1-4-0 WCHA) will fight for a split against the Mavericks (3-3-0, 1-1-1 WCHA) at 7:07 tonight, capping off a Tech sports tripleheader that starts with football at 1 p.m. and volleyball at 4.