Tech scores 5 goals in 1st period to beat LSSU?6-4 in?Game 1 of WCHA?playoffs
HOUGHTON –It was a game that featured a little bit of almost everything.
The No. 2 Michigan Tech Huskies scored five goals in the first period, but found themselves having to protect a two-goal advantage late Friday as they defeated the No. 7 Lake Superior State Lakers, 6-4, at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena in the opening game of the WCHA Quarterfinals.
For the Huskies, the story of the night was the play of the line of sophomore Jake Jackson and assistant captains Michael Neville and Reid Sturos. The trio combined for three goals and five assists on the evening.
Jackson potted two of those goals, the first on a deke of Lakers goaltender Gordon Defiel in close quarters in the first period. The second came just 1 minute, 19 seconds into the second period on a rebound.
“I think for the first two periods, we were getting the puck deep,” said Jackson. “[We were] playing Husky hockey. We were taking advantage of their defensemen.”
Arguably the Huskies’ most consistent line throughout the season, the trio all play a different style, which gives them a little bit of everything to pick from. Sturos, who scored the Huskies’ second goal of the night off a well-placed pass from assistant captain Shane Hanna, feels the three are very comfortable with each other.
“I think we just like playing with each other,” said Sturos. “We all work hard. I think that we think defense first and I think that is how our offense is created.”
The Lakers (11-17-7 overall) actually
controlled the better part of the play for the first three minutes, but it was the Huskies (19-13-7 overall) who found the back of the net on just their second shot of the night.
Captain Cliff Watson found junior Joel L’Esperance driving into the offensive zone. When L’Esperance got to the left faceoff dot, he dropped the puck back for freshman Alex Smith, who beat Defiel with a well-placed wrist shot.
Sturos drove hard to the net with his stick on the ice 1:20 later and Hanna placed a perfect pass on his stick for the goal.
Huskies coach Mel Pearson liked the fast start his team got off to.
“We were ready to play,” said Pearson. “I thought our guys did an excellent job just moving the puck, using their speed. I thought the goals were all good goals. We got away from the game a little bit but not much.”
Mitch Hults cut into the Huskies’ lead with a tip of a shot from Collin Saccoman at 7:28.
Just when it appeared the Lakers were back into the contest, however, the Huskies exploded offensively.
Junior Alex Gillies received a pass from L’Esperance while parked on the top of the crease. Without looking, Gillies backhanded the puck past Defiel at 9:35.
Then, on their first power play of the night, the Huskies struck again when freshman Mitch Reinke unloaded a blast from the left point that beat Defiel at 10:53. Hanna set up the goal with a well-placed pass.
Lakers coach Damon Whitten pulled Defiel at that point but quickly put him back in after a shift. He was trying to send a message to his team, as he felt that Defiel was not getting much support at that point.
“I didn’t think Gordan was at fault for the goals,” said Whitten. “He got hung out to dry by the team in front of him.
“We don’t have a very veteran group, so we haven’t been through this a whole lot. We need to learn very quickly that you just keep playing, but you have to be great defensively.”
Jackson struck just 1:20 after Reinke and shortly after, Defiel was reinserted into the net. He took a pass from Sturos to set things up.
The Lakers were awarded 1:34 of 5-on-3 power play shortly after and went to work. It took nearly the entire 1:34, but Luke Morgan got them back on the board.
Jackson’s second tally early in the second came on the rebound off a wraparound attempt by Neville, putting the Huskies up four goals, 6-2.
Whitten went back to Nick Kossoff for the remainder of the night, and the sophomore was rock solid, stopping all 30 shots he faced from that point forward.
“I thought Nick went in and did a tremendous job,” said Whitten. “He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities to play this year, but we are confident in his abilities.”
The Huskies held their four-goal advantage into the third period before things went wonky for the hosts for stretch of a minute-and-a-half.
The Lakers cut into the Huskies’ lead at 3:47 when Gage Torrel scored from the blue line. He had just skated over the blue line and was throwing the puck on goal when it slid through goaltender Angus Redmond.
Pearson pulled Redmond at that point in favor of senior Matt Wintjes. That decision backfired almost immediately.
Lakers captain Gus Correale skated the puck below the faceoff dot in the right circle. Looking for an opening, he got Wintjes to drop to a knee and then lifted the puck over his shoulder at 5:12.
Pearson went back to Redmond at that point.
The Lakers found themselves on the power play two minutes later. Despite a wraparound attempt by Correale and a rebound chance in close, Redmond stood his ground to keep the Huskies up by two.
Whitten pulled Kossoff late but 23 seconds later, Correale was assessed a major penalty when he drilled Watson from behind into the boards, ending any chance for the Lakers of getting at least one more.
The Huskies hold a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series. Game Two will be tonight at 7:07 p.m.
Lake Superior 2 0 2 – 4
Michigan Tech 5 1 0 – 6
1, MTU, Alex Smith (Joel L’Esperance, Cliff Watson), 3:34
2, MTU, Reid Sturos (Shane Hanna, Jake Jackson), 4:54
3, LSSU, Mitch Hults (Collin Saccoman, Kris Bindulis), 7:28
4, MTU, Alex Gillies (L’Esperance, Watson). 9:35
5, MTU, Mitch Reinke (Hanna, Lucchini), PP. 10:53
6, MTU, Jake Jackson (Sturos, Michael Neville), 11:33
7, LSSU, Luke Morgan (Hults, Diego Cuglietta), PP, 15:36
8, MTU, Jackson (Neville, Sturos), 1:19
9, LSSU, Gage Torrel (Hults, Bindulis), 3:47
10, LSSU, Gus Correale (Hults), 5:12
LSSU, Defiel 13 1 0 – 14
Kossoff 1 15 15 – 31
MTU, Redmond 8 4 2 – 14
Wintjes 0 0 0 – 0
LSSU: 5/21; MTU: 3/6
LSSU: 1/3; MTU: 1/4