HOUGHTON, Mich. — After a violent head-first crash into the end boards left him with 10 stitches and a sore neck on Friday night, Michigan Tech’s Bryan Perez was doubtful for Saturday’s rematch with St. Lawrence.
But when Perez showed up to the rink on Saturday morning, the excitement he saw in his teammates as a result of the previous night’s victory was simply too much to keep him out of the lineup.
Perez ended up playing, and his team is certainly glad that he did.
The redshirt freshman and New York Islanders’ draft pick had a goal and an assist as the Huskies completed a weekend sweep with a 4-1 win over the visiting Saints before a crowd of 2,444 at MacInnes Arena.
“We got tied up pretty good, and I ended up still trying to make the play,” Perez said of his injury. “Next thing I knew I was right on the boards and head-first in. I didn’t know I was bleeding right away, but I ended up rolling over and there was a nice little puddle of blood.
“With all the excitement in the locker room, the guys just really got me going. I really wanted to get back. I was ready to go today.”
Brett Engelhardt and Justin Brown each added a pair of assists for the Huskies (2-0-0), and goaltender Brian Rogers made 28 saves.
Charlie Daniels scored for the Saints (0-2-0), while goaltender Mike McKenna
made 38 stops in his collegiate debut.
St. Lawrence head coach Joe Marsh, who was disappointed with his team’s undisciplined play in Friday’s game, saw more of the same in the opening period of Saturday’s contest.
Although the Saints managed to kill off a 5-on-3 disadvantage early in the first period, the Huskies grabbed a 1-0 lead when freshman Colin Murphy scored on the power play at 17:49. With Jim Lorentz serving a hooking penalty, Murphy stationed himself near the right post, where he jammed the rebound from a Perez shot past McKenna.
The Saints evened the score 8:05 into the second period. After Allie Skelley’s shot from the point was blocked in traffic, Daniels backhanded the loose puck between Rogers’ legs for his second goal of the weekend.
SLU couldn’t keep the momentum for long, though, as the Huskies needed just 1:43 to regain the lead. Jon Pittis crashed the net and banged in his first goal of the season after McKenna had failed to control the rebound of Engelhardt’s heavy shot.
The Huskies then took a 3-1 lead when Engelhardt’s shot from the left point
appeared to hit Perez on its way past a surprised McKenna.
“He’s so skillful,” Michigan Tech head coach Mike Sertich said of Perez. “Our program needs kids like that. Bryan brings a lot out there. He’s in control and when he’s got the puck, things happen. Guys are learning to play off him and he makes such great decisions with the puck.”
In the third period, Rogers made a huge save to preserve the two-goal margin when he slid across the crease and robbed Sean Muir, who had just received a feed from twin brother Mike Muir.
Later, while the Saints were shorthanded, Robin Carruthers picked up the puck after Justin Brown had fallen down, raced in and left a drop pass for Bartlett, who was denied by a composed Rogers.
“He made the big saves when we needed them, especially on the penalty kill,” said Sertich.
Tech’s Chris Durno ended the game with a shorthanded, empty-net goal from Greg Amadio as time expired.
Michigan Tech was 1-for-5 on the power play, while St. Lawrence failed to score during any of its five opportunities.
Sertich credited his team’s success on special teams to assistant coaches Mark Maroste and Pete Wilkinson. “They did a great job with our special teams, getting them prepared and getting them to execute,” said Sertich, who is in his first full season behind the Tech bench.
The Huskies’ boss was also thrilled the play of his speedy fourth line, which consists of Frank Werner, Rob Rankin, and Jaron Doetzel. “If you are going to do a training film for forechecking, you want those three guys to be subjects because they execute it so well, they read it so well, and they anticipate it so well that they almost make it look easy,” Sertich said. “It’s frustrating to play against because they’re not physical players. It’s like when you’re on a camping trip and you’re swatting at a mosquito in a tent at night.”
St. Lawrence will make the 16-hour bus trip back to New York before returning to the Upper Peninsula to play Lake Superior State next weekend.
Michigan Tech will begin WCHA play next weekend when the Huskies travel to St. Cloud State to renew a rivalry that has gotten a bit nasty over the last couple years.