MANKATO, Minn. — Don’t tell the Michigan Tech Huskies they’re underdogs.
Don’t remind them that they’ve lost the last six games against Minnesota State-Mankato. Neither fact mattered to MTU as it outplayed the host Mavericks for a 4-2 victory on Friday.
The Huskies (8-18-3 overall, 6-15-2 WCHA) received solid goaltending from sophomore Brian Rogers, who made 31 saves, and three assists by captain Matt Ulwelling. Special teams also led the way for the Huskies as they killed Mankato’s only two power plays and went 3-for-6 with a power play that has suffered this year.
It took a goal late in the first period by the Mavericks (17-13-1 overall, 11-11-1 WCHA) to really get Michigan Tech going. The Huskies scored two goals in the next two-and-a-half minutes and never looked back.
The first period started with both teams limiting chances for their opponent. The goalies for both sides also made several key saves early on. Rogers stopped Mankato’s B. J. Abel on a breakaway attempt, and Maverick goalie Eric Pateman made a brilliant save off a one-timer by Husky Jaron Doetzel.
The Mavericks got their first goal after an excellent save by Pateman. MTU defenseman Tom Kaiman fired the puck on Mankato’s net. Pateman turned away the shot, but forward Paul Cabana gathered the rebound and found himself all alone with an empty left side to shoot at. Pateman slid across the crease and made a brilliant split save to keep the puck out.
The Mavericks turned the puck up ice and generated numerous scoring chances. Then, as Michigan Tech had a delayed penalty impending, Pateman came off and Nate Mauer came on for the sixth skater for Mankato.
Mauer took the puck as he came in the zone, drifted in and fired the puck from inside the right circle. The puck trickled through Rogers’ five-hole at the 15:27 mark.
But MTU came right back. At 16:39, defenseman Justin Brown fired the puck from the blue line and it was deflected by forward Jon Pittis past Pateman to tie the game at 1.
“We responded well,” said Huskies coach Mike Sertich. “Up until that point, we weren’t doing that well. Right then, there’s a little better attitude.”
Said Mavericks coach Troy Jutting: “That should have been a goal that lifted us, and I think it lifted them.”
The Huskies kept the pressure on and scored 1:08 later. On the power play, the puck bounced into the crease and seemed to surprise Pateman. Pateman was unable to cover up the puck, and MTU’s Frank Werner came in untouched and tapped the puck in to take the lead.
After Rogers made two saves on Mankato’s Justin Martin and Tyler Baines, the Huskies scored again on the power play. With Minnesota State’s Peter Runkel off for holding, defenseman Clint Way brought the puck into the zone. He dumped it off to teammate Brett Engelhardt, who made a crisp pass cross-ice to Cabana, wide open on the left side.
Cabana one-timed the puck and found the back of the net to pad MTU’s lead.
The Mavericks played the rest of the period very sloppy and couldn’t get a good scoring chance. They also failed to convert on their second power-play chance in the second. They finished 0-for-2, after going 0-for-15 against Minnesota last weekend.
Michigan Tech scored its fourth goal again on the power play in the third. After Rogers stoned Andy Hedlund on a shorthanded slap shot, Tech’s Mat Snesrud fired the puck from the point. The puck hit the crossbar and went in for the senior’s fifth goal of the year.
Minnesota State was able to come within two as defenseman Ben Christopherson fired the puck in the slot over Rogers’ right shoulder. However, Rogers and Michigan Tech’s defense was able to hold off the Mavericks, even when they pulled Pateman for an extra man with 1:42 left in the game.
Jutting wasn’t happy with his team’s performance, but he also said that Michigan Tech played well.
“I give them credit. They played hard. I think they did a good job of doing what they needed to do, and obviously we did not,” Jutting said. “We need to come with a little more intensity to begin with and a little better work ethic. We also have to kill better.”
Sertich was happy with Rogers’ play.
“He had a good game,” Sertich said. “He’s been pretty solid over the past four or five games.”
After his three-point performance, Ulwelling, the senior captain, was extremely happy with his team’s play.
“We knew we had to stay out of the penalty box, and the power play and penalty kill had to do well tonight,” Ulwelling said. “I thought we did an excellent job on both sides. Being aggressive on the penalty kill was really key tonight.
“Our forecheck was also good. I thought we did an excellent job of not allowing their defensemen to beat us up the ice.”
The two teams will finish their series Saturday at the Midwest Wireless Civic Center.