Tech sweeps Bemidji State, advances to WCHA semis

Michigan Tech senior goalie Devin Kero (31) stops the puck in the first period of Saturday's WCHA quarterfinal matchup against Bemidji State at the Sanford Center in Bemidji. (Photo by Jillian Gandsey of the Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI , Minn. — Michigan Tech advanced out of the WCHA quarterfinal for the fourth season in a row with a 5-4 win and sweep of Bemidji State Saturday night at the Sanford Center. The Huskies got goals from five different players and Devin Kero had 33 saves between the pipes as Tech improved to 19-15-5 on the season.

Tech will travel to top-seeded Minnesota State in a best-of-three semifinal series. The first game is Friday at 8:07 p.m.

“It means so much for our young guys to win a playoff series,” Tech coach Joe Shawhan said. “It sets a bar for the program going forward, and every guy played a big part in this one. We want to keep playing, and I think we can play with anybody at the point in the season.”

Six of the game’s nine goals were scored in the third period. Tech held a 2-1 lead heading into the final frame.

The home team pressured in the first seven minutes before it was called for a penalty, and Justin Misiak scored to put the Huskies up 3-1. He redirected a shot by Mark Auk for his seventh of the season with Mitch Reinke adding the secondary assist.

Joel L’Esperance gave Tech a three-goal lead 2:15 later when he buried a one-timer from Jake Lucchini as the Huskies went in on a 4-on-2 rush. Dane Birks also assisted on L’Esperance’s ninth of the season with 4:44 left in the third.

Bemidji State (16-14-8) then went to work to climb back into the game, pulling goaltender Michal Bitzer for the extra attacker. Jay Dickman cut it back to a two-goal game with 2:12 remaining.

Dylan Steman thought he scored into the open net moments later, but it was waved off as the Huskies were offside. Mark Auk did bury an empty-net goal with 1:28

on the clock from center ice after Steman won the draw to give Tech its three-goal lead back.

The Beavers weren’t done. Justin Baudry scored with 1:12 on the board and Charlie Combs made it a one-goal game with 56.3 remaining — both being scored with the extra attacker.

BSU had one more redirect out front in the final stages, but Kero was there for the save as the clock struck zero and the large contingent of Michigan Tech Pep Band members and Mitch’s Misfits celebrated with the Huskies.

“We knew they were going to give us everything they had in the third period,” Shawhan said. “We were able to put some pucks in the net, and then it just got goofy at the end there with their goalie out.”

Reinke opened the game’s scoring 41 seconds after puck drop as he shelved a loose puck after a scramble in front of Bitzer. L’Esperance and Lucchini were credited with assists.

Lucchini added to the lead just over 3:30 later, scoring Tech’s first shorthanded goal of the season. He finished off a 2-on-1 with L’Esperance on a backhanded move for his team-leading 16th goal of the season.

Gerry Fitzgerald scored on the power play 11:03 into the second period to make it 2-1.

BSU had a 37-25 advantage in shots on goal. Kero made nine saves in the first, 14 in the second, and 10 in the third. Bitzer finished with 20 saves.

“Devin did a great job tonight,” Shawhan said. “He made some big saves when we needed to get going. He’s not happy with the way the game ended, but I’m proud of him. He bleeds Black and Gold and is just a tremendous competitor. He gave us a chance tonight.”

Tech was 1-for-2 on the power play and 4-for-5 on the penalty kill.

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