HOUGHTON - Michigan Tech got off to the start it wanted Saturday night with a 1-0 lead against Nebraska-Omaha, but the Mavericks scored five goals over the final two periods to hand the hockey Huskies their fifth straight Western Collegiate Hockey Association loss, 5-3, at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
Tech sophomore forward David Johnstone, who was second on the team in scoring last year, finally picked up his first goal of the season to give the Huskies their first lead of the series, but UNO answered with four second-period goals, including two more from the hero of Friday's 2-1 Omaha win, Zahn Raubenheimer.
"Obviously a hard-fought game, Raubenheimer had another good one, but a gritty performance in the third period blocking shots," UNO coach Dean Blais said. "That's how you win, especially on the road. You have to do the little things."
Michigan Tech junior defenseman and assistant captain Brad Stebner fires a shot from the point while being defended by Nebraska-Omaha forward Zahn Raubenheimer. Blake Pietila scored a rebound goal off the shot, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Mavericks Saturday in a 5-3 loss. UNO swept the series at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
Both teams were doing the little things well through the opening 20 minutes with the intensity level through the roof, but Tech roofed many shots over the net, too. Finally, though the Huskies broke through when Johnstone pounded home the rebound of an Alex Petan shot.
"It's nice getting your first goal of the year, especially since I've been struggling as it is," Johnstone said. "Coach has been on me about going hard to the net and doing things simple, and that's what I've been doing the past couple games and I've been close. Tonight was the night where I got the monkey off my back."
Tech had been 2-0 in games when it scored first and 0-5 when its opponent scored first, so the Huskies had to feel good about getting the monkey off their back as a team, too.
Nebraska-Omaha 0 4 1 - 5
Michigan Tech 1 1 1 - 3
First period 1, MTU, David Johnstone (Alex Petan, Justin Fillion), 12:01. Penalties UNO, Andrej Sustr (high sticking), 16:31.
Second period 2, UNO, Zahn Raubenheimer (Johnnie Searfoss), 14:14; 3, UNO, Josh Archibald (Ryan Walters, Dominic Zombo), 7:45; 4, MTU, Blake Pietila (Brad Stebner, Riley Sweeney), 10:03; 5, UNO, Walters (Zombo, Michael Young), 15:03 PP; 6, UNO, Raubenheimer (Searfoss), 15:28. Penalties MTU, B. Pietila (holding), 14:49.
Third period 7, UNO, Archibald (Walters), 16:06; 8, MTU, Petan 3 (Jujhar Khaira, Steven Seigo), 17:25 PP. Penalties MTU, Jacob Johnstone (hooking), 2:20; MTU, Stebner (tripping), 4:08; UNO, Brock Montpetit (interference), 5:37; UNO, Aaron Pearce (interference), 17:01.
Goalies UNO, John Faulkner (27 shots, 24 saves); MTU, Pheonix Copley (27 shots, 23 saves); Kevin Genoe (15 shots, 15 saves).
"I thought it was good for our team to get the lead. I thought it would give us some confidence and some momentum going forward," Tech coach Mel Pearson said.
But UNO quickly stole back that momentum just 4:24 into the second period as Raubenheimer beat Tech freshman goaltender Pheonix Copley after collecting a beautiful pass from Johnnie Searfoss.
Just over three minutes later Josh Archibald beat Copley from the top of the left circle in the top right corner to quickly usurp any leftover Tech momentum.
But this time it was the Huskies who fought to swing the game back in their favor as Blake Pietila's strong effort was rewarded with a rebound goal off Brad Stebner's shot from the point. It came less than 30 seconds after Blais had called a timeout.
But that momentum was short-lived, too, as Pietila went to the penalty box at the 14:49 mark for holding. UNO didn't take long to respond. Just 14 seconds into the Mavericks' first power play of the night, forward Ryan Walters skated from the right corner toward the net and attempted a backhand pass across the crease, but instead it crept inside the right post next to Copley's left pad.
"We're just not scoring enough goals right now that we can give up any type of weak goal. I thought it was a very weak goal and it just really deflated us and we just never seemed to get back on track after that," Pearson said.
Only 25 seconds later Searfoss connected with Raubenheimer behind the Tech D, and, though his initial breakaway shot was saved, Raubenheimer picked up his fourth goal of the weekend on the rebound.
"I think we started out playing really well starting off going into the second period with a lead, but they got a couple lucky bounces there, they worked the puck really well and obviously they were able to execute," Tech defenseman and assistant captain Brad Stebner said. "When they got the pucks in front of the net, they were able to put them in."
Tech senior goaltender Kevin Genoe supplanted Copley going into the third period, but any hopes of chipping away at the 4-2 deficit were eroded by two early Huskies' penalties. Facing what Pearson called the best top-to-bottom defense Tech has seen this year certainly didn't help as the Huskies were outshot 16-7 in the final 20 minutes, and 43-27 overall.
Genoe was pulled with just over four minutes left to give the Huskies even a glimmer of hope, but Archibald's second of the night made it 5-2.
Petan scored Tech's third goal of the game, his third of the season, with less than three minutes left, but all it did was give the 2,981 fans in attendance a little something to cheer about in an otherwise frustrating night.
Michigan Tech (2-6-0, 1-5-0 WCHA) will have a week off to try and right the ship ahead of a Nov. 16-17 series at Bemidji State.