HOUGHTON, Mich — Searching for their first win over the No. 20 Northern Michigan Wildcats since 2003, the Michigan Tech Huskies needed a pair of third period goals to skate away with a 2-1 victory in the season opener at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena Friday night.
“I felt that the guys really deserved that tonight,” said Huskies head coach Jamie Russell. “I thought we showed a lot of character being down going into the third period.”
Sophomore forward Justin St. Louis gave the Huskies the win as he netted the biggest goal of his career with just three seconds left in regulation, giving the 4,014 faithful in attendance plenty to cheer about.
“This is something I will definitely cherish,” said St. Louis. “The puck went back to John Schwarz, and he got the shot off quickly, and I was just in the right place at the right time.”
The Huskies jumped out to a quick start, but couldn’t find any chinks in Wildcat goaltender Bill Zaniboni’s armor, as they fired 13 first period shots on net. They followed that performance with another 14 in the second period.
“I thought Bill played really well, really well,” said Wildcats head coach Walt Kyle.
The Huskies showed a tightened up defensive scheme as well, keeping the Wildcats from getting a shot on net until the 5:05 mark of the first period, and for the first 3:28 of the second period.
“It was tough not getting many shots early on,” said Huskies goaltender Michael-Lee Teslak.
The Wildcats turned to their captain to help alleviate some of the Husky pressure. He came through 7:09 into the second period. He was fed a perfect pass from Mike Santorelli which he buried behind Teslak.
Teslak had a tough time swallowing that goal.
“I let the whole bench down when I let that one in,” said Teslak.
The Huskies netted what appeared to be the game tying goal at the 14:43 mark of the second when sophomore forward Derek Kitti beat Zaniboni up over the shoulder, but upon further review, the goal was called back as the puck hit the post.
“Coach Russell stressed getting shots on net all night,” said St. Louis.
Heading into the third period, the Huskies lead in nearly every statistic, except on the scoreboard. That would all change just 4:35 in.
Senior Tyler Skworchinski, skating toward the net after winning the faceoff, redirected a Mark Malekoff shot past Zaniboni with the softest of tips. Junior forward Jimmy Kerr assisted on the goal.
“It was just a broken play off of the draw,” said Skworchinski. “I just went the net and got my stick on the puck, and luckily it squeaked in.”
Kyle was very complimentary of the Huskies play.
“They came out and they outworked us,” said Kyle. “When you get outworked, that’s what happens.”
The Huskies finished with 41 shots on Zaniboni on 74 attempts. The Wildcats were held to just 20.
Neither team could find the net on the power play with the Huskies finishing zero for nine and the Wildcats finishing zero for six.
The Huskies are now 24-14-3 all time when starting the season at home.
The series shifts to the Berry Events Center in Marquette, MI for Saturday night.