MANKATO, Minn. — Sometimes a goalie can make all the difference in a game. Michigan Tech’s Michael-Lee Teslak proved that Saturday night.
The freshman goalie made sensational game-changing plays, and MTU (6-11-3 WCHA, 7-18-3 overall) was able to hold off host Minnesota State 3-2 in front of 4,009 at the Midwest Wireless Civic Center.
Despite being outshot 40-13, the Huskies rode Teslak’s back to earn the WCHA series split.
“It was a good game for us in terms of showing a lot of character and getting the win, but we didn’t generate a lot of offense,” Michigan Tech coach Jamie Russell said.
Teslak’s play was so good that he left MSU coach Troy Jutting searching for words after the game.
“I can’t remember giving up 13 shots on net and losing a game. In this league, thatyou knowwow,” Jutting said.
Twice in the second period, Teslak made saves on shorthanded MSU opportunities. Teslak’s teammates rewarded him by cashing in soon after.
With MSU (8-11-3 WCHA, 12-14-4 overall) already up 1-0 midway through the second, Kyle Peto led a shorthanded two-on-one rush and fired from the right side. Teslak made the save, and the Huskies went up ice. Senior Brandon Schwartz fired from the point, and sophomore Tyler Shelast was able to deflect the puck past Dan Tormey.
“Guys see that he (Teslak) is going, so you want to help him out. Everyone feeds off each other,” MTU’s Taggart Desmet said.
Later in the period, David Backes had a shorthanded chance all alone in the MTU crease. Teslak made a quick glove save. Again, MTU turned up ice and scored. Mike Batovanja cashed in on Michigan Tech’s second power play as his shot from the top of the right circle deflected off MSU’s Chad Brownlee and into the net, giving the Huskies a 2-1 lead.
In between the goals, Teslak made an unbelievable save on Travis Morin. Morin got the puck on the right side and flipped it towards the upper portion of the net. Sliding on his side, Teslak reached up and gloved the puck.
“He’s been playing great,” Desmet said. “Unbelievable here in the last little stretch. We came off the break, and he didn’t cool off at all. He played well last night, and he sure played well tonight.”
The Huskies started the third the right way by doubling their lead. After Jimmy Kerr freed the puck in the corners, Desmet got the puck and cut across the slot. After Tormey flopped to the ice, Desmet had a wide open net to bury the puck and make the score 3-1 at 1:57 of the third.
“I just kind of had a monkey on my back for a long time,” Desmet said. “Jimmy gave it to me out of the corner. I just kept walking and tried to get the goalie to freeze. The defenseman jumped in front, and I thought it was going to hit him, but I guess I just snuck it through.”
Desmet hadn’t scored since December 16 against MSU in Houghton, Mich.
MTU came close to scoring again and taking an insurmountable lead. Forward Chris Conner, who was shut down all weekend, made a nice move in the MSU zone, faked Tormey, and shot the puck. However, his shot missed the empty net wide right.
The Mavericks turned their own transition trick as MSU grabbed the puck and went down ice to score. Kurtis Kisio found Rob Rankin’s rebound in front of the net and put it high past Teslak at 9:21 of the third.
Minnesota State seemed poised to notch the equalizer as two MTU penalties put MSU on a five-on-three power play for over a minute at 12:50 of the third. With the crowd urging on the home team, the Mavericks put shot after shot on net.
But Teslak saved his best for last. He robbed Ryan Carter twice and shut the door on Backes’ slap shot from the left side.
“They were just moving it around a lot,” Teslak said. “Backes was teeing them up pretty good from right there, so I was just trying to get in front of them and do what I could to stop them.”
Teslak’s job wasn’t done until the last few seconds. After an MSU timeout, a set play off a faceoff in the Maverick zone sent Jeff Marler in on a breakaway against Teslak. The MTU netminder turned away Marler’s chance.
Teslak then stopped Carter’s chance with 8.3 seconds left, and he withstood one last fury as time expired to earn the victory.
“I thought we dominated that game, start to finish,” Jutting said. “Unfortunately, in hockey, it’s a sport where you can dominant a game, and one guy can win the game. And that’s what happened tonight.”
The first period saw numerous offensive chances, but because of hot goaltending, only one goal was scored.
MSU defenseman Jon Dubel stole the puck inside the Michigan Tech zone and fired a shot on net. With teammate Ryan McKelvie screening, Teslak was unable to make the save, and the Mavericks took a 1-0 lead at 18:54 of the period.
“He didn’t let a good goal in on the first goal, and I thought he showed a lot of character and was mentally strong to bounce back and play a great game,” Russell said of Teslak. “He had a lot of terrific saves for us.”
Next weekend Minnesota State will challenge the Pioneers at Denver. Michigan Tech will return home to host the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the annual Winter Carnival.