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College Hockey: Defense folds in Huskies’ loss to Lakers

Michigan Tech sophomore center Zach Noble (11) battles Lake Superior State freshman center Louis Boudon (29) for the puck on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, in Houghton, Mich. (David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — Michigan Tech’s defense collapsed in a 7-3 loss to Lake Superior State on Friday.

The Huskies scored first, but Lake Superior State answered with three straight goals in a six-minute span that gave the Lakers the lead for good.

Michigan Tech (15-14-3, 10-11-2 WCHA) outshot the Lakers all night by a 42-30 margin, but Lake Superior State simply had better quality scoring chances.

Part of that, Huskies head coach Joe Shawhan said, was due to Tech’s “worst overall defensive game of the year,” a sobering reckoning given the Huskies’ defense has been a top-10 defense in the country all season.

But Friday was the Lakers’ first time all season scoring six or more goals. It was also Tech’s first time giving up at least five goals in a game this season.

“Very disappointing. A lot of good things from a lot of players, but a lack of attention to detail,” Shawhan said. “I saw a lot of timidness in players and really, a lack of awareness. In a two-game total goal set where you have to have complete focus, complete dial-in, we probably played our worst overall defensive game of the year. Not that we weren’t in proper areas, but our execution was very poor — a lot of loose guys standing around the net.”

Trailing 5-2 going into the third, the Huskies made it a two-goal game with freshman center Logan Pietila’s seventh goal of the season. Trenton Bliss and Colin Swoyer assisted the goal.

But the Lakers (9-19-3, 6-11-3-3) responded with a pair of goals by junior right wing Chase Gamelin and freshman defenseman Arvid Henrikson, the first goals of the season for both. Henrikson’s first career goal, a seemingly harmless wrist shot from the point with 2:40 remaining in the game, deflected off a Tech defender and into the net, prompting many among the 3,381 in attendance to head for the aisles.

“We’ve had a good locker room. I thought our leaders did a good job,” Lake Superior State head coach Damon Whitten said. “We talk a lot about not getting too high, too low. Then our senior goes out and scores about two minutes later. That at least balanced the crowd out a little bit. I think we were up 3-1 start of the second period and they scored early into it and the crowd was back into it, tight game. I think our guys just kind of sticked to our plan, sticked together and just kept pushing.”

Whitten, a former Michigan Tech assistant, said Friday was a matter of weathering Tech’s offensive chances and doing their best to get their own scoring opportunities.

“I didn’t think we were as good as we wanted to be defending our net, playing within our structure and d-zone. Offensively I think it was a good job,” Whitten said. “I hear Coach Shawhan talk about how they want to get to the net more — it’s the same for us. I think our guys are really buying in and doing that. Miroslav Mucha gets a goal there going right to the net. That’s where you have to play and we did a good job of that.”

Michigan Tech had gotten the start it wanted with a go-ahead goal five and a half minutes into the first from sophomore left wing Alec Broetzman. He took a pass from the right corner by senior center Alex Smith, skated to the far post and beat a sprawling Mitens with a backhand shot just inside the left post. The goal was Broetzman’s team-leading 13th of the season.

But the Huskies, who have struggled to maintain focus and energy for a full 60 minutes this season, fell apart shortly after.

Lake Superior State senior center Brendan McKay tied the game two minutes after Broetzman’s goal. The Lakers added a short-handed goal by sophomore right wing Ashton Calder for the lead four minutes after that, and then senior right wing Max Humitz scored his team leading 17th goal two minutes after that.

Shawhan said Calder’s short-handed goal underscored Tech’s lack of mental focus and hockey awareness all night.

“We’re behind the net, we knew their guy fell down. We knew he’d be late coming back in the zone and we just gave them the puck right away,” Shawhan said. “That’s like letting a guy come out of the box and get a breakaway. That’s just total unawareness of attention to detail in the game. I think that was a real point of emphasis.”

Shawhan pulled senior goaltender Matt Jurusik in favor of freshman Blake Pietila after Calder’s goal. Jurusik allowed two goals on nine shots. Pietila was thrown into the fire, and allowed a goal on two shots, the score coming from Humitz on a point-blank rebound.

Pietila finished with 16 saves on 21 shots.

Mitens finished with 39 saves.

The Huskies’ 42 shots consisted of some quality scoring opportunities. Swoyer, a sophomore defenseman, showed Tech’s offensive capabilities when defenseman get actively involved in scoring chances. As players sucked up to the puck along the left side of the ice in the neutral zone, Bliss sent a cross-ice pass to Swoyer, who was streaking along the right wing. Swoyer skated into the Lakers’ zone and cleanly beat Mitens with a wrist shot high stick-side that made it a 3-2 game just 58 seconds into the second period and breathed new life into the dejected crowd.

But the Lakers answered back with two more. Calder picked up his second goal of the night followed by Miroslav Mucha’s second of the season.

The win was only the Laker’s fifth since the Huskies swept them Nov. 15-16. The loss was the Huskies’ fifth in their last 11 games going back to New Year’s Day.

The Huskies have the early Saturday game for revenge. Puck drop is at 5:07 p.m. But with the Winter Carnival series being a two-game total goal battle, Shawhan said he’s seriously considering a starting goalie change.

“I’m seriously looking at a goaltending change for sure. I can see doing that,” Shawhan said. “In the two-game total goals, it’s 7-3. Know what I mean? I’ve got to think about our future in giving us the best chance of still performing in the playoffs. This defensively was a real setback for us. Maybe we grew offensively out of it and you’ve got to look at the bright side. I’m not going to beat these guys up. It hurts bad enough. It should anyways. I’m not going to play head games with them.”

Lake Superior State 3 2 2 — 7

Michigan Tech 1 1 1 — 3

First Period–1, MTU, Broetzman (Smith, Halonen), 5:38. 2, LSSU, McKay (Miura), 7:23. 3, LSSU, Calder (Riedell, Mitens), 11:38, sh. 4, LSSU, Humitz (Riedell), 13:59. Penalties–LSSU, Manz (holding), 10:20. LSSU, Eriksson (hooking) 14:10.

Second Period–5, MTU, Swoyer (Bliss, Donohue), 0:58. 6, LSSU, Calder (Riedell), 7:17. 7, LSSU, Mucha (Manz, Miura), 11:50.

Third Period–8, MTU, L. Pietila (Bliss, Swoyer), 3:30. 9, LSSU Gamelin (Anderson), 8:10. Penalties–MTU, Ford (holding), 5:35.

Shots on Goal–LSSU 11- . MTU 14-

Power-play Opportunities–LSSU 0 of 1. MTU 0 of 2.

Goalies–LSSU, Mitens 13-15-11–39. MTU, B. Pietila 1-7-8–16. Jurusik 7-0-0–7.

Penalties-minutes–LSSU 2-4. MTU 1-2.

A–3,381. T–2:10.

Referees–Robert Lukkason, Brady Johnson. Linesmen–Jamie Grace, Eric Froberg.

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