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Three-goal third period lifts Beavers over Huskies

HOUGHTON — It is not often that a hockey coach feels good about his team’s effort, but Friday night, No. 18 Michigan Tech Huskies coach Joe Shawhan found himself in that position after his team’s 4-1 loss to the Bemidji State Beavers at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

He had reasons to feel that good. The Huskies drew five power plays. They fired 48 shots at Beavers goaltender Zach Driscoll. The only problem, they came out on the short end when all was said and done.

“I thought our guys played very well,” Shawhan said. “(We) generated plenty of offense to win the game. We held the opponents’ offense down (in terms of) chances, attempts. The score doesn’t go in our favor.

“I am proud of the performance they put in.”

The Huskies (14-7-1 overall, 4-4-0 WCHA) peppered Driscoll with 19 shots in both the first and third periods. Yet, they found themselves tied 1-1 with just over 12 minutes left when two defensive breakdowns turned into scoring chances that the Beavers’ skaters took advantage of.

The first came on a play in the corner to Huskies netminder Blake Pietila’s left. Pietila could only watch as senior defenseman Tyler Rockwell crashed to the ice along with the Beavers’ Lukas Sillinger. With both players down, Alex Ierullo snatched up the puck and fed it back to Brad Johnson, whose one-timed slapshot beat Pietila over the right shoulder at 7:54.

On the following shift, Huskies assistant captain Eric Gotz got tied up with a Beavers creating a situation where junior defenseman Tyrell Buckley fell and the Beavers could get to a loose puck. Aaron Miller got to the puck, skated it behind Pietila and fed it out front to Ethan Somoza, who beat Pietila after the sophomore over-committed coming across the crease to attempt the save at 8:40.

“I’m not too happy on one of them,” said Gotz. “I felt I kind of got held up there, but give credit to them. They got pucks off the wall. They found guys in the slot. They capitalized on their chances when they had them.

Somoza added another to seal the win for the Beavers at 15:55 when he found a soft spot in the Huskies’ defense and buried a pass from Brendan Miller.

A bright spot for the Huskies came in the form of a line change in the second period. Shawhan switched freshman winger Blais Richartz off a line with freshman center Nick Nardella and junior winger Brian Halonen in favor of sophomore winger Tristan Ashbrook. The new trio set to work and found the back of the net at 13:12. Halonen chased down a puck in the corner to Driscoll’s right. He fed it to Nardella, who drove to the crease before passing to Ashbrook, who had set up in the slot. Ashbrook, a transfer from RPI, scored his sixth goal as a Husky in his 12th game.

“He scores,” said Shawhan. “He has scored six since Christmas. He is a scorer.”

The Huskies had several quality looks at Driscoll, but none was better than at the four and a half minute mark. Captain Alec Broetzman, parked near the Huskies’ bench while shorthanded, got a long pass and skated in on a breakaway. He tried to beat Driscoll with a wrist shot, but ended up hitting the Beavers goaltender in the chest.

“I thought we controlled play in a lot of aspects,” Gotz said. “We had 50 shots. Their goalie played well; got comfortable. I wish we could have had a couple of bounces.

“It’s going to happen. It’s going to click. We’ve had shots. We’ve had chances there. We just have to find the back of the net there.”

Shawhan felt that his team still has a lot to learn about beating teams whose talent level matches or exceeds their own.

“That is part of learning how to win,” he said. “We’ve shown that we can beat the teams that, probably, people think we should beat. What we haven’t done is show that we can beat the teams that we need to beat in order to prove ourselves to be a top echelon team.

“This is part of the growing process.”

The Beavers (8-6-3 overall, 3-3-1 WCHA) got on the board just 1:16 into the contest when Tyler Kirkup won a draw in the offensive zone back to Elias Rosen. Rosen wired a wrist shot over Pietila’s left shoulder for the game’s opening goal.

BACK AT IT SATURDAY

The Huskies do not have much time to lick their wounds from Friday night. They will face the Beavers again Saturday with the opening faceoff set for 6 p.m at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

Scoring

BSU 1 0 3 – 4

MTU 0 1 0 – 1

First period

1, BSU, Elias Rosen (Tyler Kirkup), 1:16

Second period

2, MTU, Tristan Ashbrook (Nick Nardella, Brian Halonen), 13:12

Third period

3, BSU, Brad Johnson (Alex Ierullo, Lukas Sillinger), 7:54

4, BSU, Ethan Somoza (Aaron Miller), 8:40

5, BSU, Somoza (Brendan Harris, Will Zmolek), 15:55

Saves

Driscoll, BSU 19 9 19 – 47

Pietila, MTU 3 8 10 – 21

Power plays

BSU: 0/1; MTU: 0/5

Penalties

BSU: 5/10; MTU:1/2

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