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Sinclair stops 32 shots as Huskies shut out Wildcats

HOUGHTON — It would have been easy for the Michigan Tech Huskies hockey team to take yet another weekend off after their series against the Lake Superior State Lakers were unable to travel to Houghton due to COVID-19 protocols.

Instead, the Huskies scrambled late Friday to come up with a series against the Northern Michigan Wildcats on Saturday and Monday.

The decision proved important for the Huskies (7-3-1), who were able to play their first game since Jan. 3. Despite spending the first 40-50 minutes shaking off the rust of a lengthy pause, the Huskies found a way en route to a 2-0 win over the Wildcats at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena on Saturday.

The win was Tech’s sixth straight.

While his team played anything but a masterpiece, head coach Joe Shawhan said he was happy to see his team fight hard through the game’s final 10 minutes to seal the win.

“It was great to watch them and it looked a lot, at times, like we hadn’t played in a couple of weeks,” he said. “We were pretty good, for the most part, in the first. The second period I thought flipped a bit. I thought we showed fatigue and didn’t execute very well for the second period and really the start of the third. I was really happy with the way we played the last 10 minutes of the third.”

A big part of the reason for the victory was the play, especially during the first 10 minutes of the final frame, of goaltender Mark Sinclair. The senior transfer from Alabama-Huntsville earned his first Huskies win over his former team on Jan. 3, and was just happy to be a part of the win Saturday. He stopped 32 shots for his second shutout of the season.

“After 10 days, it can be tough,” Sinclair said. “You do whatever you can. For myself, it is just stretching. It can be tough, but I think we handled it well. I am just trying to help out whenever I can. It’s always nice to get a shutout.”

With the Huskies leading 1-0 heading into the third, Sinclair had to be sharp. About nine minutes into the period, he made perhaps his biggest save of the night when he stopped defenseman Tim Erkkila’s blast from the high slot. Wildcats captain Joseph Nardi drove hard behind the Huskies’ net before feeding the puck through traffic to Erkkila, who quickly unleashed a hard shot.

Without sophomore goaltender Blake Pietila available for the game, Shawhan said he was really proud of the effort Sinclair gave throughout the contest.

“There’s nothing I didn’t like about him,” Shawhan said. “It was a pleasure to watch him. He was ahead of the play. He was waiting for pucks. He anticipated the play well.”

Pietila was not the only Huskies player who missed the contest, assistant captain Trenton Bliss and junior winger Tommy Parrottino also both sat out due to COVID-19 protocols. With two of his top forwards out, Shawhan was looking for others to step up.

One of the forwards who took advantage of the situation was sophomore transfer Tristan Ashbrook. Playing in just his second game since joining the Huskies, Ashbrook took advantage of a situation that developed off a defensive zone faceoff that he turned into his first goal as a Husky.

Taking a pass off the right boards from freshman defenseman Brett Thorne, Ashbrook exploded up the ice. As he crossed into the offensive zone, he was joined on the rush by freshman forward Blais Richartz. The two skated in on a 2-on-1. Ashbrook waited until the Wildcats’ Ben Newhouse dropped onto his stomach before firing a wrist shot that beat Wildcats goaltender Nolan Kent at 13:06, sealing the win.

“It was a cool play,” Ashbrook said. “Thorne gave me a great pass. Blais did a really good job of hustling up so the (defender) had to make a decision.”

Ashbrook, who is from Manistique, is very familiar with the Michigan Tech/Northern Michigan rivalry.

“I was even happier to pair that with a win over the biggest rival in the U.P.,” he said.

Ashbrook showed patience waiting out Newhouse until he attempted to cut off the passing lane, something that Shawhan fully expected to see from one of his newest additions to the roster.

“If he gets a good look, the goalie is going to have to make a great save,” Shawhan said. “That’s why we were so fortunate to get him. He can score and we sometimes struggle to score.”

The Huskies’ first goal of the night came just three minutes into the game. On an early-game power play, sophomore winger Jake Crespi and assistant captain Eric Gotz worked the puck back and forth at the top of the left circle trying to open things up. Once a lane opened, Crespi moved the puck down to freshman center Arvid Caderoth to Kent’s right. Caderoth attempted to find captain Alec Broetzman in the slot, but the pass bounced over his stick and sailed back to Gotz. Gotz fired a wrist shot that found its way through traffic and past Kent.

The Huskies were awarded a rare lengthy power play later in the first when Colby Enns was assessed a tripping penalty and a major penalty for checking from behind in the same sequence. The ensuing seven minutes of power play time did not yield a goal for the Huskies, who lost two minutes in the middle of it when assistant captain Colin Swoyer took an elbowing penalty.

The two teams will return to action at 5:07 p.m. today at the Berry Events Center.

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