HOUGHTON - Before Saturday's contest with Bowling Green, the Michigan Tech hockey team had gone 13 straight games without scoring four goals in one outing and only managed the feat once in 19 games this season.
That drought finally ended with a four-goal burst Saturday - including two on the oft-maligned power play - but that just made the end result tougher to swallow.
After taking a 4-2 lead with a three-goal clinic midway through the third period, the Huskies coughed up two tallies in the final 2:30 of regulation to a desperate Falcons squad, eventually skating to a 4-4 tie after the gut check.
Michigan Tech’s Brent Baltus and Bowling Green’s Mark Cooper fight for the puck during Saturday’s game at MacInnes Student Ice Arena. The teams played to a 4-4 tie. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
Both BGSU scores came with an extra attacker - and the equalizer, with a controversial tripping non-call that left Tech coach Mel Pearson fuming during and after the game.
"It is pretty disappointing, I think it is a pretty disappointing weekend in general," Tech freshman forward Mike Neville said. "Especially with how we have been having trouble scoring goals this year, usually games like that when you score four goals you will win. Usually you lock it down. That just wasn't the case tonight."
"A tough loss," Pearson began one answer with a Freudian slip before correcting himself. "A tough tie. it feels like a loss."
BGSU 1 0 3 0 - 4
Tech 1 0 3 0 - 4
First period - 1, BGSU - Mark Cooper (Pierre-Luc Mercier, Dajon Mingo), 15:11 (PP); 2, Tech - Blake Pietila (Shane Hanna, Riley Sweeney), 18:47 (PP). Penalties - Tech, Brad Stebner (obstruction-tripping), 1:20; BGSU, Cooper (hooking), 7:28; Tech, Stebner (holding the stick), 7:28; Tech, Blake Hietala (slashing), 14:28; BGSU, Ralfs Freibergs (embellishment), 17:52; Freibergs (elbowing), 17:52; Tech, Tanner Kero (cross-checking), 17:52; BGSU, Marcus Perrier (boarding), 18:25; Tech, Hietala (tripping), 19:27.
Second period - No scoring. Penalties - BGSU, Freibergs (holding), 8:19.
Third period - 3, Tech, Mike Neville (Cliff Watson, Sweeney), 8:20; 4, Tech, Blake Hietala (Tanner Kero, Shane Hanna), 10:10 (PP); 5, BGSU, Mingo (Marcus Perrier, Connor Kucera), 12:14; 6, Tech, Kero (Neville, Brad Stebner), 13:02; 7, BGSU, Ben Murphy (Bryce Williamson), 17:32; 8, BGSU, Williamson (Ralfs Freibergs, Dan DeSalvo), 18:58. Penalties - Tech, Pietila (unsportsmanlike conduct - misconduct); BGSU, DeSalvo (hooking), 8:20; Tech, Reid Sturos (unsportsmanlike conduct), 11:31; BGSU, Freibergs (unsportsmanlike conduct), 11:31.
Goaltenders - BGSU, Tommy Burke (47 shots, 43 saves); Tech, Pheonix Copley (39 shots, 35 saves).
It was the equalizer that no doubt sits the heaviest.
With less than two minutes to play, Bowling Green had thrown everything it had at Tech, bringing in an extra attacker while cycling the puck for a shot.
Freshman defenseman Shane Hanna managed to control the puck amidst chaos, and while he was positioning himself to fire it out of the zone, went down under pressure from behind.
From Pearson's point of view, it was a clear tripping call. The officials' whistles remained silent.
"No question. I mean the guy leaves (his) feet with intention. He just wipes our guy out. That is an easy call," Pearson said. "I asked them both (referees Chris Perrault and Dan Kovarik), and they both gave the old 'well, I didn't see it.' I don't know how that can happen because the puck is right there.
"They didn't ref the game. They reffed the score. And I am frustrated by that."
The turnover immediately resulted in a goal, with top line forward Dan DeSalvo passing quickly to Ralfs Freibergs, who faked a shot before setting up an inch-perfect dish for a one-time goal from Bryce Williamson.
"We ask our guys to play hard. We ask them to play the right way and not to get frustrated with the referees, but when you have a call that is critical like that, especially on a change of possession where it leads to a goal, that is a tough one," Pearson said.
Pearson took to the ice after the overtime ended scoreless to engage in a heated discussion with the officials.
He was candid postgame about the conversation.
"I just told them. We take this serious. We take this very serious. This is my livelihood. I am not part-time. I am full-time. (The refs) can leave the rink and they have another job. It is not full-time for them. And I know they are trying their best, but that is an easy call in that situation," Pearson said.
The comeback marred a night that otherwise would have left the Huskies ecstatic with a week off before the Great Lakes Invitational tournament.
Blake Pietila netted his second goal of the season - the junior scored 14 last year - on a two-man advantage power play, slapping home a rebound with a windup that spoke of week's worth of frustration.
Neville also tallied his second of the year after showing soft hands on a long pass from freshman defenseman Cliff Watson to spring free for a wide-open breakaway.
Neville displayed calm that belied his age, waiting for Falcons goalie Tommy Burke to commit before slotting a wrister past him stick-side.
Blake Hietala added a third from the power play (tipping a Tanner Kero shot) two minutes later before Kero flashed his skill with a dangle and backhand finish two minutes after that.
In all, Tech put 47 shots on goal to come away with its most prolific performance since a win over Northern Michigan in October.
"It is good for our team," Pearson said. "It is good for those individuals (who scored).
"But it feels like a loss," Pearson added. "Any time you have a two-goal lead at home late in the third period, it feels like a loss. It does not leave a good taste in your mouth."