No. 20 MTU ends losing streak, beat LSSU 4-1

Michigan Tech freshman Nick Nardella celebrates his goal against Lake Superior State on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Houghton, Mich. (David Archambeau/For the Gazette)

HOUGHTON — Ice melted off Keweenaw roads, and with it, Tech’s scoring freeze thawed out.

No. 20 Michigan Tech scored three goals in the second period, ending a three-game losing streak with a 4-1 win against No. 18 Lake Superior State on Tuesday.

Tech scored four goals in 27 shots through the first two periods. The flurry of scoring was a relief for the Huskies after scoring just three goals in 118 shots the previous three games.

Tuesday was the first time the Huskies (15-8-1, 4-5 WCHA) scored first in more than a week. With it, the flood gates opened.

Late in the first period, junior left wing Trenton Bliss scored his 11th goal of the season on a rebound from the initial shot by freshman defenseman Brett Thorne. The shot was tipped by sophomore left wing Logan Pietila before it bounced off Lakers goalie Mareks Mitens. Thorne had received a pass from junior right wing Tommy Parrottino at the top of the faceoff dot to set up the shot.

Huskies defenseman Tyler Rockwell said scoring the first goal helped the team relax and stick to their systems.

“You could tell it really helped the confidence of the team and once we got rolling we knew that the way that we were playing that we’d win each night especially these past couple games,” he said. “Just kept our foot on the gas and had to close that one out.”

Tech’s first win since Feb. 13 against Ferris State also put an end to the Lakers’ five-game win streak.

“We needed it,” Michigan Tech head coach Joe Shawhan said. “We’re all concerned about the psyche of the players when you keep doing what’s right, doing what’s right, doing what’s right and the result, even though you’re doing everything you need to do, you don’t get the result. I think I give credit to the players. I think they’re just performing because they love the game. They just kept grinding and tonight, some goals went in for us and that was the difference. The other nights they didn’t and tonight they did.”

Lake Superior State (12-5-3, 6-4 WCHA) tied the game seven minutes into the second period. Pete Veillette received a pass on the weakside across the slot from Jack Jeffers, who got Tech goaltender Blake Pietila to commit on a fake shot. Veillette was left with a wide open shot.

Tech responded immediately.

The flood gates opened in the second when Tech scored 33 seconds after the Lakers. Junior right wing Brian Halonen got to a loose puck in the crease and whacked at the loose puck past Mitens for his sixth goal. Chris Lipe and Tristan Ashbrook got the assists.

The play was reviewed for a potential goaltender interference, despite the Lakers having already used their challenge prior, which it lost along with their timeout. The Lakers had challenged Bliss’ goal for a potential offsides in the first.

“There was a scramble so we didn’t see it very well,” Shawhan said. “On the replay it was pretty clear. I’m not sure what took so long. First of all I’m not sure why they looked at it because (LSSU) had already used their timeout. The referees decided they wanted to take a look at it, so immediately you get a little concerned.

“Even if you were looking to get it overturned, it would’ve been difficult because he never made contact with the goalie. Really what happened, it looked like Mitens backed in off the initial stop and then from that point it was just hack and whack. We just happened to get the right whack in and put it in the net.”

After Halonen’s goal, the Huskies added on. Freshman center Nick Nardella scored his second of the season on a tap-in at the top of the crease from a pass behind the goal line by Ashbrook.

Tech then got a 2-on-1 from a stretch pass by Lipe to sophomore right wing Parker Saretsky, with captain center Alec Broetzman up the middle. Saretsky passed across to Broetzman, who fired a wrist shot that popped Mitens’ water bottle straight up.

The Lakers raised their intensity in the third, but Tech held on. Sophomore Huskies goaltender Blake Pietila stopped 33 shots for his 12th win of the season.

“I had a feeling the offense would be clicking after we got the first one in the first period,” Pietila said. “I feel like it just took one goal to get the floodgates open and thankfully it did tonight. When your team’s playing good in front of you, it gives you a little cushion on defense. It’s always great when guys are scoring goals.”

Mitens stopped 32 shots.

Tech hosts Northern Michigan on Friday and visits the Wildcats Saturday. Rockwell said the locker room is already in a playoff mindset with WCHA playoffs around the corner.

“It’s always a playoff game when we play them,” he said of NMU. “They don’t like us, we don’t like them.”


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