Sinclair gets 1st win as a Husky, Tech sweeps UAH
HOUGHTON — Mark Sinclair got a rare start and beat his former team Alabama Huntsville 2-1 on Sunday and completing Tech’s weekend sweep.
Sinclair made 19 saves in his first win as a Husky. It’s the Huskies’ fifth straight win and second straight sweep.
Sinclair, a senior, transferred to Tech after playing the previous three years at UAH. Sunday was Sinclair’s fourth appearance of the season, first since Dec. 12 at Bemidji State and his first start since the Nov. 21 season opener at Lake Superior State.
“It was nice to get a win,” Sinclair said. “The guys played great in front of me. Made my job pretty easy. I think it was a full team win.”
The Huskies (6-3-1) got off to a quicker start offensively than Saturday, scoring two first period goals. Tech then held off second and third period pressure from UAH (0-4-1) to hold on for the win.
The sweep gives Tech early momentum in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association as the matchups now count towards conference standings.
Michigan Tech head coach Joe Shawhan said he liked Sinclair’s performance Sunday.
“Very happy for Mark Sinclair playing his old team and we weren’t able to get any separation for him,” Shawhan said. “Every shot he faced down the stretch was a critical shot and he made some good saves for us. Happy for him, that’s not an easy thing in a tight game. If we had a couple goal cushion or something like that, it would’ve been a little bit more relaxing for him. I thought he stood tall in there.”
The Huskies got off to a quick start, scoring two goals in the first five minutes of the game.
Senior Tyler Rockwell scored on the power play 3:14 into the game with a shot from the point. Alec Broetzman and Eric Gotz assisted.
A minute and a half later, sophomore defenseman Chris Lipe also scored from the point, with assists from Arvid Caderoth and Brian Halonen.
Alabama Huntsville answered nine minutes later at the tail end of a strong forechecking shift. The Chargers had two forecheckers behind Tech’s goal line, pinning Tech defensemen with the puck. Noah Finstrom came up with possession and centered the puck to the slot, but it deflected off a Tech player at the edge of the crease and between Sinclair’s legs.
“They came out pretty hard. They were throwing the body around pretty good,” Sinclair said. “I think our guys did a good job battling back. Throwing a couple hits as well. The goal, little bit of a tough one, but those bounces happen every once in a while.”
Shawhan said he was happy with the win, but the Huskies lacked focus on the weekend.
“I thought this weekend was a step back for us coming off the break,” Shawhan said. “Hopefully the intensity and focus will be a little stronger for us next weekend.”
Sinclair sought transfer opportunities after UAH announced it cut funding for the hockey program last year. Donors and supporters stepped up shortly after, generating enough funding for the Chargers to play this season, but Sinclair was out.
“Kind of had a couple teams reach out. I talked to (Huskies head coach) Joe (Shawhan) for a bit,” Sinclair said. “I always enjoyed playing here, even as the opposing team. I thought it was a lot of fun, good atmosphere. I knew Tech had a really good program, very professional. Just wanted to be a part of that kind of program, so lucky enough to come here.”
Sinclair said he was excited for the opportunity to play against his former team, where he played the first three years of his NCAA career.
“I just treat it like any other game. It was a little different seeing those jerseys across the ice,” Sinclair said. “Other than that, I just settled in kind of nicely. I was looking forward to it.”
Sinclair made strong saves after Tech took the early 2-1 lead in the first. Much like teammate Blake Pietila, carrying one of the nation’s top save percentages this season, Sinclair appeared calm and fluid in goal. Early in the third, UAH got the puck in close around the crease and Sinclair pushed across to his left, keeping his right pad out for a toe save.
Freshman forward Nick Nardella sparked the Huskies to a 4-0 win on Saturday by notching a goal and an assist in the win.
He picked up his first college point 6:42 into the second period by setting up a goal for junior winger Brian Halonen. He then added a goal of his own less than six minutes later when his shot banked off a Chargers defenseman and into the net.
Huskies alternate captain Trenton Bliss and senior defenseman Tyler Rockwell combined to pick up the game’s final two goals. Bliss scored first on the power play with 1:38 left in the second period before Rockwell scored 13:22 into the third.
Sophomore Blake Pietila made 18 saves in earning his second shutout and fifth win of the season.
Fans at the Mac
An attendance of 200 people were announced for each game of the weekend series at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena, all of which being players’ families.
The Huskies visit Minnesota State. The Huskies and Mavericks split last time in Houghton on Dec. 6-7. Minnesota State is coming off a sweep at Northern Michigan, winning 5-0 and 4-0.
Alabama Huntsville hosts Ferris State.