Tech blows out LSSU 8-0 to advance to WCHA semis
HOUGHTON — After scoring six goals to beat the No. 7 Lake Superior State Lakers on Friday, it seemed far fetched that the No. 2 Michigan Tech Huskies could top that offensive output in the sequel on Saturday. Not only did the Huskies have another five-goal period, they scored at even strength, shorthanded, on the power play and even 4-on-4 to earn an 8-0 win.
With the victory, the Huskies won their WCHA Quarterfinal series with Lakers, 2-0. Tech will host the Minnesota State Mavericks this weekend.
The Huskies’ offense was impressive, with eight goals from seven different scorers, but according to coach Mel Pearson, the more important number was the zero they gave up defensively. It started with goaltender Angus Redmond, who had given up three goals or more six times in the past 10 games, stopping all 16 shots sent his way by the Lakers.
“First and foremost, it’s good that we got through the weekend,” said Pearson. “I am happy for Angus. He had a real good bounce-back in the game [Saturday].
“I just liked the total team defensive effort. That’s how we are going to have to play going forward.”
For the Lakers (11-18-7 overall), the lack of offense was highly disappointing, especially when coupled with the fact that they had not been held off the scoreboard since Nov. 18.
“I think that is probably the most frustrating part when you look at the score tonight,” said Lakers coach Damon Whitten. “It feels like you take a couple of steps backwards.”
Offensively, the Huskies wanted to get off a similar quick start to the one they had on Friday, in order to apply pressure to the Lakers. Michigan Tech (20-13-7 overall) was able to do just that, 3 minutes, 30 seconds in.
Captain Cliff Watson moved the puck from behind the Huskies’ net to assistant captain Reid Sturos along the right boards. Sturos found winger Jake Jackson in stride through the neutral zone. Jackson carried the puck in deep and circled around the Lakers’ net. He then fed the puck, with a backhand pass, out in front to Sturos, who had raced down the ice to catch up to the play. Sturos quickly released a wrist shot that beat Gordon Defiel.
“It’s fun playing with him,” said Sturos. “Neville and I always joke that he winds it up. It’s nice playing with him.”
In recent weeks, the Huskies had struggled to add another goal once they had the lead. Saturday, they were able to do so late in the opening frame.
On their second power play of the night, the Huskies extended their lead when defenseman Matt Roy fired a wrist shot from the right point with traffic in front. After getting a pass from defenseman Mark Auk, Roy fired a shot that winger Joel L’Esperance tipped past Defiel at 18:38.
“We gave them way too much easy offense again,” said Whitten. “Give them credit, they created the chances. I thought their team speed really hurt us. We didn’t defend their speed well at all.”
L’Esperance added a second tally with just 11 seconds left in the contest to seal the victory.
There was, perhaps, no bigger goal in the game than Huskies assistant captain Michael Neville’s second-period tally shorthanded. Early in the Lakers’ third power play of the night, assistant captain Shane Hanna dumped the puck into the offensive zone in a place where assistant captain Reid Sturos could get to it. Sturos found Neville cutting through the offensive zone and the senior beat Defiel with a deke to his backhand.
Like Friday, where Neville, Sturos, and Jackson combined for three goals and eight points, the trio accounted for two goals and five points Saturday.
“We’re just having fun out there I think,” said Neville. “We are playing with a lot of speed. We are giving defensemen a lot of trouble down low. We are not spending a lot of time in our own end. As soon as we bring puck back up the ice, I think that’s when the game gets exciting for us.”
In the third period, the Huskies did what they could not on Friday, they kept their foot on the gas pedal. It allowed them to strike five times and put the game out of reach.
Hanna got things started with a goal during a 4-on-4 situation just 1:42 in. He beat Defiel with a low wrist shot.
On their second power play of the period, winger Gavin Gould beat Defiel with a wrist shot from the right circle 5:49. Then, 6:07 later, defenseman Mark Auk struck just seconds into a power play as he beat Defiel with a shot right off the faceoff.
“I liked our overall team effort,” said Pearson. “It is good to get some goals and get some confidence. Tonight, things went in, but it wasn’t as easy as last night. We had to continue to grind and battle.”
Only 18 seconds after Auk’s tally, Gould beat a Lakers’ defender to the puck, circled behind the Lakers’ goal and fed center Chris Leibinger for the seventh Huskies’ goal.
Lake Superior 0 0 0 – 0
Michigan Tech 2 1 5 – 8
1, MTU, Reid Sturos (Jake Jackson, Cliff Watson), 3:30
2, MTU, Joel L’Esperance (Matt Roy, Mark Auk), PP, 18:38
3, MTU, Michael Neville (Sturos, Shane Hanna), SH, 8:34
4, MTU, Shane Hanna (Neville, Roy), 1:42
5, MTU, Gavin Gould (Roy, Auk), PP, 5:49
6, MTU, Auk (Smith), PP, 11:56
7, MTU, Chris Leibinger (Gould), 12:08
8, MTU, L’Esperance (Tyler Heinonen, Jake Lucchini), 19:49
LSSU, Defiel 6 11 13 – 30
MTU, Redmond 5 4 7 – 16
LSSU: 8/16; MTU: 6/12
LSSU: 0/6; MTU: 3/8