HOUGHTON, Mich. — Paul Cabana has a big way of breaking out of scoring droughts.
The senior forward ended a 10-game scoreless streak with a pair of goals as Michigan Tech snapped an eight-game losing skid with a 5-4 win over Minnesota State-Mankato Friday night at MacInnes Arena.
In December, Cabana ended a 13-game slump with two goals in a 5-3 win over Northern Michigan.
Despite his pair of goals, however, Cabana is going to hold off on shaving his scruffy beard. A few weeks ago, a frustrated Cabana decided that he wasn’t going to shave until he scored — but a teammate issued a Cabana a challenge.
“After I scored my first one, Colin Murphy told me I had to keep it on if I scored a second,” said Cabana. “It might upset a lot of people, but I told them I might have to keep it until I score another one.”
And although Cabana’s goals put the Huskies in position to win, it was an unlikely stop by freshman goaltender Cam Ellsworth that saved the day.
With less than 25 seconds left in the game, the puck bounced to a wide-open Jerry Cunningham at the edge of the left circle. With Ellsworth sprawled out in the crease, Cunningham had the whole net to shoot at, but the goalie somehow managed to throw his leg up, and, as coach Mike Sertich said, make a “Hasek-style” save.
“I just saw the guy had the puck all by himself,” explained Ellsworth. “I was down and out. It was just desperation, throwing everything I had at it.”
The victory gave the Huskies their elusive eighth win of the season, matching last season’s total. Michigan Tech (8-23-2, 4-19-2 WCHA) had won just twice in its last 17 contests.
“We can play spoiler,” said Sertich. “We can write our own conclusion to this season, as miserable as it’s been at times. The pen is in our hand and the notebook is completely empty. If we want to write the story, we have to choose to do it.”
Mankato took a 1-0 lead on a fluke goal 1:42 into the contest. Tech defenseman Clay Wilson tried to kick the puck into the corner and out of harm’s way, but instead directed it past Ellsworth.
The Huskies evened the score on a goal by Jon Pittis at the 15:36 mark. Murphy tipped a cross-ice pass by Brett Engelhardt to Pittis, who beat Mavs goaltender Jason Jensen with a slapshot from the left circle.
Tech took a 2-1 lead at 11:10 of the second period when Cabana scored his seventh of the season. Fellow senior Brad Patterson carried the puck into the Maverick zone and left a drop pass for Cabana, who found some open space and blasted a shot past Jensen from the right faceoff dot.
The Huskies opened up a 3-1 lead on Chris Durno’s seventh goal at 17:12 of the middle period. The play started with Jaron Doetzel blocking a shot in his own end and ended with Durno taking a pass from Frank Werner and beating Jensen with a high shot.
MSU-Mankato pulled within a goal 3:59 into the third period when Dana Sorenson buried a pretty pass from Shane Joseph.
The Mavericks tied the game at 8:37 when Joseph raced alone up the left side, cut to the front and then beat Ellsworth while being hauled down by Engelhardt.
But the Huskies regained the lead with a shorthanded goal at 10:38. Engelhardt picked the pocket of defenseman Steven Johns in the left circle, cruised in all alone and whacked his own rebound past Jensen. The goal was Engelhardt’s team-leading 14th of the season, giving him 30 points.
The Huskies took a two-goal lead on Cabana’s second of the night with 7:15 left in the game. Freshman Ryan Markham fired a shot that Jensen couldn’t quite control and the puck fell right to Cabana on the doorstep.
“Ryan Markham did a good job and just threw the puck on net,” said Cabana. “It kind of caught the goalie by surprise and he didn’t know where it was. It ‘s nice to get a break like that finally going my way.”
Mavs’ forward Tim Jackman got his team right back in the game when he scored 22 seconds later.
Murphy was then sent to the box for holding with just under three minutes remaining, giving Mankato a chance to knot the score. With under a minute left in the game and 30 seconds left with the man-advantage, the Mavs pulled Jensen for an extra attacker.
But thanks to a few blocked shots and some heroics from Ellsworth, the Huskies held on for the exciting and much-needed victory.
Ellsworth finished with 28 saves, while Jensen stopped 27 for MSU-Mankato (14-17-2, 10-15-2).
The two teams will meet again Saturday at 7:05 p.m. Bob Olson, who has been the radio voice of the Huskies for 31 seasons, will broadcast his final game from MacInnes Arena. Olson, along with Michigan Tech’s five seniors, will be honored.