Michigan Tech tops Union 6-3 for Shawhan’s 1st career NCAA victory

Michigan Tech photo Michigan Tech head coach Joe Shawhan coaches against Union, Friday, in Duluth during the Ice Breaker Tournament. Tech won 6-3.

DULUTH, MN — Getting the quick start head coach Joe Shawhan wanted from his team, Michigan Tech will play for the Ice Breaker title.

Huskies defensemen contributed on both ends of the ice, scoring three first period goals and clamping down a Union comeback to lead Michigan Tech to a 6-3 non-conference win over the No. 16 Dutchmen. Senior forward Joel L’Esperance, meanwhile, netted a pair of goals to help seal Shawhan’s first career NCAA victory.

“I’m just excited that we were able to pull that game out. It gives us an opportunity to get closer to what we want to do, which is advance at the end of the year,” Shawhan said after the game. “That’s the biggest thing.”

Michigan Tech freshman Mitch Meek and Union’s Anthony Rinaldi traded goals in Friday’s opening 7 minutes before the Huskies began to pull away. First, junior Dane Birks beat Union goaltender Jake Kupsky with a one-timer from the point in the closing seconds of a power play to re-take the lead.

Less than three minutes later, senior Mark Auk’s wrist shot from the left face-off circle fooled Kupsky, who finished with 14 saves. To make matters worse for Union the goal came on a play where the team was called for too many men in a period.

“We practiced well. We had a slow start against Wisconsin (last week in the United States Hall of Fame Game) so we had a better start tonight, kind of a flip flop,” said Shawhan, whose team outshot the Dutchmen 12-10 in the first period.

L’Esperance made it 4-1 Huskies 6:15 into the second period, tapping in a pass from linemate Gavin Gould.

Union threatened to come back, putting 28 shots on Michigan Tech goaltender Patrick Munson in the final two periods. The Huskies defense pushed back, however. The blue line were successful getting in front of loose pucks, going 3 for 3 on the penalty kill with Munson getting in front of shots when needed, stopping 35 in a victorious effort Friday.

Still, Rinaldi and Josh Kosack each scored for Union in the opening 5:46 of the third period to make it a one goal game.

“We knew they were going to have a pushback, even when we were up 4-1 we knew they were going to come out hard,” said sophomore defenseman Keegan Ford. “I liked our response and Packy (Munson) made some big saves. Some of our older guys stepped up.”

Michigan Tech only had eight shots on goal during the second and third periods, but made them count. L’Esperance was left wide open for his second goal of the game while Jake Jackson added an empty net goal in the final minute.

“He’s a big strong man,” Shawhan said of L’Esperance, who has three goals in two games. “But tonight instead of it being an individual the guys got him the puck. I thought his linemates did well.”

The Huskies will try to get Shawhan a second win and wrap up the 2017 Ice Breaker title Saturday evening against Minnesota Duluth. The host Bulldogs advanced over their in-state rival Minnesota in the second semifinal with a 4-3 overtime victory.

Puck drop is set for 8:37 pm ET.

“It feels good,” L’Esperance said. “Coach Joe deserves that win. He’s done a good job for us and the team played well.”