No. 20 Huskies win in OT, sweep Wildcats again
HOUGHTON — It is never easy to beat an opponent five times in a season, yet that is exactly what the No. 20 Michigan Tech Huskies did Friday night with a 6-1 victory over the visiting Northern Michigan Wildcats at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
On Saturday, the Huskies made it six times with a 3-2 overtime victory for their third straight sweep against the Wildcats this season and fifth sweep in their last six series.
Tech (17-8-1, 7-5 WCHA) has won eight straight against the Wildcats (8-15-1, 6-7-1) including Saturday’s win.
On Friday, the Huskies found the scoresheet three times on the man advantage, once shorthanded, and once during a delayed penalty. Coach Joe Shawhan was pleased with the efforts of the Huskies’ special teams throughout the night.
“I don’t think it was a 6-1 game,” he said. “I thought it was a lot more even than that. A lot of things happened on special teams. We were able to come out on top on the special teams.”
With the six goals Friday after scoring four on Tuesday against Lake Superior State, the Huskies’ offense, which struggled last weekend against Bemidji State, looks to be back in sync.
“We went through a little bit of a slump there not being able to put the puck in the net,” said sophomore winger Jake Crespi. “The chances were there for us. It was a big focus for us to start to bare down and put those in the net.”
Crespi chipped in with the shorthanded tally 16:47 into the middle frame. He grabbed a pass from a Wildcats forward near his own blue line, chipped the puck off the boards around a Wildcats’ defender and skated in alone, beating goaltender Rico DiMatteo with a wrist shot.
For Crespi, the goal was the result of hard work.
“I just tried to come over the top and take away some options,” he said. “He put it right on my tape. I just had to chip it behind their (defense) and get on my horse.”
Shawhan has been happy with Crespi’s development as he continues to grow into his role.
“Being able to use him on the penalty kill now says a lot about his growth as a player,” Shawhan said. “That means he is defending well for us.”
Another Huskies skater took care of a personal milestone in the contest. Freshman Brett Thorne scored his first career goal just 5:49 into the contest to give the Huskies the early lead. He scored by driving around Wildcats defenseman Tim Erkkila and then banking a shot off of DiMatteo’s right skate and in.
Freshman winger Ryland Mosley, who played juniors with Thorne at Carleton Place in the CCHL and scored his first goal as a Husky off a pass from Thorne, shared the special moment with his teammate by crashing the net prior to the puck crossing the line.
“Maybe we have some weird connection where we can only make things happen when we are on the ice together,” said Thorne. “It’s definitely a good experience.”
Captain Alec Broetzman scored the Huskies’ first power play at 19:34 of the first period when he banged a rebound off a shot from freshman center Arvid Caderoth past DiMatteo. Broetzman added a second power play marker 15:33 into the third on a major power play.
Senior Tyler Rockwell scored the Huskies’ third power play goal on that same major when his shot from the top of the circles beat DiMatteo at 18:29, sealing the win.
Junior winger Brian Halonen added the other Huskies’ goal. With the Wildcats’ Garrett Klee about to be called for hooking, Halonen found a soft spot in the left circle. Sophomore defenseman Chris Lipe fed the puck across to him for a one-timer at 9:36 of the second period.
The Wildcats pressured the Huskies in the first period early and often, and finished the opening frame with a 12-10 shot advantage. Shawhan felt that the statistics did not bear out just how important goaltender Blake Pietila was to his team in the opening 20 minutes. Pietila finished the night with 29 saves.
“He was outstanding,” said Shawhan. “They had several scoring chances of various types, screens, deflections, rebounds where we missed coverage. He was there. He stood tall.”
Pietila found out earlier in the day that he was named one of nine finalists for the Mike Richter Award as the best goaltender in the NCAA this season.
Crespi scored two minutes into overtime on Saturday to lift the Huskies to their third straight win.
The goal was Crespi’s fifth of the season.
The Wildcats overcame a 2-0 deficit and struck twice about four and a half minutes apart in the third period to tie the game and force the overtime.
Tech built is lead previously with goals by Tommy Parrottino and Colin Swoyer.
Junior forward Brian Halonen had two assists. Swoyer also had an assist. Thorne assisted Swoyer’s goal four minutes into the third.
Pietila stopped 27 shots for the Huskies.
DiMatteo made 26 saves for Northern Michigan.
The Huskies travel to Minnesota State to close out the regular season. The Mavericks split against Bemidji State during the weekend.