Fourth line comes to play

After Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Northern Michigan Wildcats, the No. 18 Michigan Tech Huskies hockey coach Joe Shawhan was quick to praise a trio of forwards. The Huskies’ fourth line of sophomore Levi Stauber, junior Nick Nardella and junior Tyrone Bronte logged a regular shift the entire night.

“Wow,” said Shawhan. “I mean, wow. That is all I can say. They were incredible.”

Shawhan sometimes slid sophomore Marcus Pedersen onto the line in place of Bronte, and the results were much the same. Shawhan felt that the adjustments the team made between Friday night and Saturday night were ultimately the difference.

“We got everything we wanted out of some adjustments we made,” he said.

Two of the three, Stauber and Nardella, were on the ice at the end of the game, as the Wildcats pulled goaltender Beni Halasz, looking for two goals in the game’s final minute.

Shawhan continued to sing the praises of the line when discussing the game’s final seconds.

“I’m very proud of the way they played,” he said. “Look who we had out when they pulled the goalie. We had Nard’s line out there. I mean, that sends a really good message to the group.”

Throughout the night, Nardella’s line found ways to contribute at both ends of the ice. Some shifts were just about getting the puck out of harm’s way, other times were about forechecking aggressively, trying to pin the Wildcats in their own end.

Assistant captain Ryland Mosley, who scored twice in the contest, spoke about the line after the game.

“Guys stepped up like Stauber, Nards, and Bronte,” Mosley said. “They had a good game, and they gave us good shifts every time they were out there.”

They were rewarded for that effort 5:16 into the second period. The Huskies had just spent four minutes of a major power play actually on a 5-on-3 advantage, but had not come up with a goal. Shawhan and his staff turned to Nardella’s line following the lengthy power play, and the puck was deep in Wildcats territory.

Stauber crashed into the corner near the Zamboni doors hard, causing Wildcats defenseman Michael Van Unen to make a mistake as he picked up the puck. That mistake gave Nardella time to get in and get his stick into a passing lane. Nardella tipped the puck into the slot.

Bronte, who was looking for Van Unen to play the puck behind his own net, saw Stauber make the initial contact, and he changed his direction because of it. Bronte turned into the slot with speed, arriving quickly as the puck squirted to him.

Looking to just get the puck on net, Bronte wasted no time unleashing a slap shot that climbed over Halasz’s glove and in.

“I remember flying down the side, and I was going to try and pressure behind the net if the puck was going to come around from the other side of the net,” said Bronte. “Then it turned up ice, so I didn’t want to get caught. I turned, started skating up ice like coach says, reload through the middle. Cliche, but, I just found myself in the middle and the puck kind of creeping towards me.

“I know Nardella and Stauber did a great job on the forecheck, so the puck came right out to me. I just essentially closed my eyes and hit it as hard as I could.”

While he was joking about closing his eyes, Bronte knew he made a great play immediately as the puck hit the back of the net just a second after he hit it.

The play was the direct result of the pressure that Stauber and Nardella put on Van Unen, and when asked about it after the game, Bronte talked about starting to find some success with his linemates.

“I think it was most of what we’ve been doing the past couple of games,” he said. ‘We’ve been really putting an emphasis on offensive zone pressure, offensive zone plays, and getting behind their (defense), making plays. So, that’s what we had to do tonight. We kind of did it in Northern, to no avail. We didn’t score, but we had opportunities. It’s a bit bigger ice, so it’s harder to find the guy sometimes. Tonight, it paid off.”

Bronte was also quick to point out that it did not matter to him, or his linemates, what combination of the four of them hit the ice, they all found ways to work together.

“When you have a roster like ours, you can play with anybody, and you’re gonna have success,” he said. “Sometimes, you might gel better with one guy one night, or a line one night, but everyone is capable of jumping on any line, and doing a really good job. We had successes as a line. We basically had four guys in our line tonight. Marcus gave everything he had and had a hell of a shift, multiple times he had really good shifts. We all made it hard on coach to make a decision on who to put out there, so it’s a good problem.”

The Huskies need to continue that type of effort from their fourth line if they want to continue to build on their 10 wins through their first 17 games of the season.


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