HOUGHTON, Mich. — Clay Wilson was due for a break. And the Michigan Tech sophomore defenseman finally got it.
Wilson scored off a turnover with 1:58 left in overtime Friday night to give Tech a 4-3 win over 12th-ranked St. Cloud State at MacInnes Arena.
“It was a real gutsy play because they had about five guys going up the ice,” he said. “I saw that (SCSU defenseman Tim Conboy) didn’t have full control so I went for it. I put it on my backhand and tried to stuff it far-side.”
During the final minute of a Jan. 11 game at Minnesota State-Mankato, Wilson errantly iced the puck when he should have skated it out of the zone. The Mavericks scored the tying goal off the ensuing faceoff to force overtime. In overtime, Wilson pushed the net off its moorings, resulting in a penalty shot. The Mavs’ Shane Joseph scored on it, giving MSU-Mankato a 5-4 victory.
“I had some bad luck at Mankato,” Wilson said. “It’s coming around and we’re starting to get things going.”
In the first period of Friday’s game, Wilson stole the puck from winger Konrad Reeder and raced in alone on a breakaway. He put a nice deke on St. Cloud goaltender Jake Moreland, but the goalie was able to stick his right pad out and stuff Wilson at the last second.
“If you stay around long enough, retribution comes,” Tech coach Mike Sertich said.
The victory was Michigan Tech’s third straight, improving the team’s record to 5-3-1 in 2003. The five wins in January are the most by a Tech team since 1988. The game also snapped a 10-game losing streak to St. Cloud, which came into the contest seventh in the PairWise Rankings.
“We’re starting to learn how to win,” captain Brett Engelhardt said. “It gets easier once you start to figure it out.”
Michigan Tech, which got a goal and two assists from Colin Murphy, is 8-13-4 overall and 5-9-3 in the WCHA. Cam Ellsworth made 32 saves.
“We’re just going to have enjoy this moment and get ready for (Saturday),” Sertich said.
The visitors took a 1-0 lead at 8:34 of the opening period. Conboy’s shot from the blue line was blocked in traffic, but Joe Motzko was able to chop a shot that trickled through Ellsworth’s legs for a power-play goal.
The Huskies did get even at 15:16 when Murphy sent a pass from along the boards to Jon Pittis at the top, inside edge of the right circle. Pittis whipped a low shot that found its way past an outstretched Moreland’s glove.
Pittis, who sat out last weekend with a shoulder injury, had a chance to give Tech the lead early in the second when his shot ricocheted off the inside of the left post.
Murphy did give the home team a 2-1 lead when he scored from close range at 8:47 of the second period.
Chris Conner nearly put the home team up by a pair of goals when he got behind the St. Cloud defense and appeared to be loose on a breakaway. But defenseman Colin Peters, who had lost his stick, tied up Conner and hauled him down. Although the infraction seemed to meet the criteria for a penalty shot, Peters was given a simple two-minute minor for holding.
But that worked just as well anyway, as Josh Singer’s blast from the right point beat Moreland on the ensuing power play, giving Tech a 3-1 lead.
The visitors pulled back to within a goal when Laurium, Mich., native and Houghton High grad Jeff Finger followed his own shot to the net and buried the rebound at 17:24.
Tech’s Greg Amadio had two point-blank chances early in the third period, but a sprawled Moreland was able to thwart him while flopping around in the crease.
St. Cloud tied it during a power play at the 9:23 mark of the third period. Conboy’s shot banked off the end boards and bounced right onto the stick of Jonathan Lehun, who easily stuffed it into an open net.
Moreland made 29 saves for St. Cloud (12-10-3, 8-8-3).
The teams conclude the series Saturday at 7:05 p.m.