Huskies take four points from Mavericks on weekend

Michigan Tech right wing Tristan Ashbrook lifts a puck over Minnesota State goaltender Keenan Rancier during a shootout Saturday at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton. (David Archambeau/For the Gazette)

HOUGHTON — Coming into the weekend, No. 20 Michigan Tech Huskies hockey coach Joe Shawhan felt that if his team could earn a split, that would be a very successful weekend against the No. 10 Minnesota State Mavericks at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

“We’re playing for the split to start with, and then whatever happens from that we go with,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.

Friday night, thanks in large part to a 25-save third period from senior goaltender Blake Pietila, the Huskies (9-3-3 overall, 5-2-3 CCHA) came away with a 3-2 win. Saturday, Pietila made 21 saves in the third period, and got the Huskies within 39 seconds of a sweep. At the end of the night, they had to settle for a 2-2 tie, where the Mavericks (8-5-1 overall, 5-2-1 CCHA) earned the extra league point in the shootout.

The Huskies dressed a roster that was missing two senior defensemen in Ryan O’Connell and Chris Lipe on Saturday night, along with sophomore Trevor Russell, which made things even more complicated. O’Connell also missed Friday’s game. Still, Shawhan was proud of his team’s efforts.

“Obviously, if you would have told me before the game, with what we had dressed on defense tonight, I’d have been very happy with getting the point,” Shawhan said after Saturday’s tie. “It’s a hard pill to swallow, the way it ended. Guys played hard.

Shawhan felt that Saturday’s third period was better than Friday’s even though the shot totals by the Mavericks were very close.

“We played better in the third period tonight,” he said. “They were throwing everything at the net. You see what our level is of being able to manage the puck and get it up ice.”

Late goal forces tie on Saturday

The Huskies had goals from senior wingers David Jankowski and Tristan Ashbrook on Saturday to give them two one-goal leads, but it was not enough as the Mavericks got two points each from Ryan Sandelin and David Silye to force overtime and a shootout.

Coming off a win on Friday, the Huskies looked tentative early on Saturday, as the Mavericks pushed their way into the offensive zone multiple times, but each time, Pietila was there to make the stop. He finished the weekend with 77 saves, 43 of which came Saturday.

Jankowski got the Huskies on the board 14:48 in when he cashed in on his own rebound. Freshman winger Kash Rasmussen had passed the puck down to co-captain Arvid Caderoth, who took the initial shot that rebounded to Jankowski.

The Mavericks answered with a rebound goal of their own 8:34 into the third during a lengthy 4-on-4 situation, when Silye set up in the left circle. Andy Carroll blasted a shot off of Pietila’s blocker that kicked right to Silye, and the Mavericks’ leading goal scorer struck for the second time in the weekend.

Ashbrook responded for the Huskies 3:14 later when he took a lead pass from senior winger Logan Ganie, and he wired a wrist shot over Keenan Rancier’s shoulder to regain the lead.

“Gainey (was) coming through the middle of the ice, and he sent one over my way,” said Ashbrook. “I had a step on the defender, and I just kind of pushed it out and tried to find a little room upstairs.”

Pietila settled back in after Ashbrook’s goal and kept the Mavericks at bay until freshman winger Kyle Kukkonen took a tripping penalty at 18:33.

The Mavericks pulled Rancier, and after co-captain Cade Borchardt won a puck battle in the corner to Pietila’s right, he skated out and fired a shot that rebounded right to Sandelin, who was able to get a shot over the Huskies’ goaltender to even things at 19:21.

Both teams had scoring chances in the overtime as each team put up six shots, but neither found the net. The Mavericks scored twice in the shootout to earn the extra conference point.

“(The) first impression is still pretty frustrated,” Ashbrook said. “I thought we were playing good hockey. We, obviously, had the lead a couple of times, and they made some good plays to tie it up.”

Shawhan referred to the result as a teachable moment.

“It’s a learning experience,” he said. “We’re asking guys to play out of position. I’m happy. It’s all growing. It’s all growing experiences, both goals.”

Huskies hold off Mavericks Friday

On Friday, Ganie and Kukkonen put the Huskies up 2-0 after 40 minutes of play, but the Mavericks dominated the third period and nearly evened things up late before Pietila closed the door and earned the team’s 10th win of the season.

Ganie buried a pass from senior center Parker Saretsky for the game’s first goal 17:01 into the contest.

The Huskies outskated and outshot the Mavericks in the opening frame, 18-3. That advantage continued into the second period, as the Huskies continued to test Rancier before eventually finding a way to strike again.

On the power play, co-captain Brett Thorne fired a shot that bounced off of Rancier and out into the slot. Kukkonen got to the puck and buried it at 6:20.

The Huskies held a 28-9 advantage in shots after two periods.

“I thought we played very well (in the) first two periods,” said Pietila. “(If you) play that, I feel you can play with anyone in the country. I mean, I don’t know if they had a scoring chance. If they did, it was one or two.”

A turnover less than a minute into the third changed things significantly.

Christian Fitzgerald stole a clearing pass and skated in alone on Pietila, burying a quick shot just 46 seconds in. From there, the Mavericks acted like sharks in blood-infested water, circling every Huskies’ puck carrier, forcing turnovers, which led to more scoring chances.

“I don’t think a whole lot changed in the third, other than I thought that we got a little bit easier to play against, well, a lot easier to play against,” Shawhan said. “Once they got that goal in the first minute, it’s a fragile group in that regards.”

Co-captain Arvid Caderoth agreed with his coach.

“We couldn’t break out the puck as well as we did in the first two periods,” he said. “That was probably the reason, and then we panicked a little bit. We’re like a young team. We have a young team. It’s the first time we’re playing against Mankato.”

Shawhan was very proud of the effort put forth by Caderoth, who challenged his teammates as the period progressed. With Rancier out of the next in the game’s final minutes, Shawhan went back to Caderoth’s line, and the move paid dividends.

Caderoth pushed the puck forward off a faceoff with just over two minutes remaining in the contest. Jankowski jumped in and quickly moved it over to Rasmussen, who took advantage of a pinching Mavericks defender. He skated down and deposited the puck into the empty net at 17:53.

The Mavericks pulled Rancier again and found the net with 53 seconds remaining, but that was as close as they got.

Up next

The Huskies will face another top team in the CCHA as they take on their rival, Northern Michigan, in a home-and-home series. Friday night’s contest will be at the Berry Events Center in Marquette, while Saturday’s contest will take place at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.


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