HOUGHTON, Mich. — The last time the Michigan Tech Huskies swept a home series was January 24 and 25, 2003. The victim — the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. Looking to finally repeat that feat, the Huskies (5-1-0 overall, 2-0-0 WCHA) needed a pair of goals from junior forward Tyler Shelast to earn a 4-2 victory over the Seawolves (2-2-2 overall, 0-2-0 WCHA), at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena Saturday night.
“We didn’t have the jump tonight,” said Huskies head coach Jamie Russell. “We were in the hockey game in the third period and found a way to win.”
Junior forward Tyler Shelast sent the crowd of 2,479 Husky faithful into a frenzy when he pushed the puck over the goal line at the 17:00 mark of the third period. Sophomore forward Malcolm Gwilliam made a great play getting the puck to the net. Freshman forward Alex Gagne also assisted on the goal.
“Malcolm took it to the net, the puck took a couple bounces off of (Nathan) Lawson, and was just spinning on the goal line, and I was able to knock it in,” said Shelast.
From the opening faceoff, the Huskies appeared ready to follow a 9-0 win with a similar performance, however, this time the Seawolves were ready. Shutting down the Huskies early, the Seawolves took the play to Huskies goaltender Rob Nolan, but Nolan was equal to the task.
The Huskies struck when junior forward Jordan Foote made a great individual effort from behind the Seawolf goal. After taking a pass from junior forward Jimmy Kerr, Foote took the puck out from behind the net, and powered his way to the net, beating Seawolf goaltender Nathan Lawson on his own rebound chance. The goal which came at 4:03, was also assisted by junior defenseman Jake Wilkens, who got the puck in deep.
Freshman defenseman Nils Backstrom had a couple of solid opportunities from the blueline for the Seawolves, but Nolan stood tall for the Huskies.
Nolan’s biggest save in the first period came around the seven minute mark when freshman forward Paul Crowder was left all alone in front and fired a one-timer off a pass from the right corner, but Nolan wasn’t fazed by the opportunity.
The Seawolves were able to finally break the 84:03 of futility for the weekend on the power play when senior defenseman Mark Smith found the back of the net at 4:03 of the second period. Sophomore forward Jay Beagle took the initial shot before Smith buried the rebound past Nolan. Crowder also assisted on the goal.
Continuing some strong play, Beagle gave the Seawolves their first lead of the weekend when he buried a shot from the slot at the 7:59 mark. Junior forward Merit Waldrop and senior forward Justin Bourne both assisted on the goal.
The Huskies came out of their funk, having been outskated most of the period, when, with an extra attacker on the ice for a delayed penalty, junior Shelast fought his way to the net and beat Lawson to his right at the 15:03 mark of the second period. Freshman forward Phil Axtell took the initial shot that bounced out to Shelast. Sophomore defenseman Geoff Kinrade also assisted on the goal. The goal was hotly contested by Seawolves head coach Dave Shyiak.
“I thought we played much better tonight than last night,” said Shyiak. “Tech got a break on the call and then played well enough to win.”
Looking to break the tie again for the Seawolves with just :30 left, freshman forward Josh Lunden blasted a one-timer that Nolan was perfectly positioned for, keeping the game even after two periods.
With the game tied up at two, Wilkens was left wide open a the blueline before Shelast found him with a perfect pass. Wilkens blasted a slapshot along the ice that eluded Seawolf goaltender Nathan Lawson at the 10:15 mark of the third period.
With Lawson pulled, and trailing 4-2, senior defenseman Chad Anderson cut the Husky lead to just a goal at 19:10. The goal was unassisted.
“You try not to get rattled,” said Nolan. “Luckily, (Jimmy) Kerr got a nice pass from (Tyler) Skworchinski and was able to score.”
Kerr iced the game for the Huskies when he was fed a perfect pass, split the defenders and got in alone on the open net to score his second goal of the season with just :28 seconds remaining in regulation. Co-captain Lars Helminen made the initial pass to Skworchinski.
Nolan finished the game with 23 saves on 26 Seawolf shots for his second win of the season and the first Husky sweep to open the WCHA campaign since the 1993-94 season when the Huskies defeated St. Cloud State.
“I played a lot deeper in my net last year,” said Nolan. “I’m trying to play with more confidence this year.”
Lawson made 19 saves in the losing effort for the Seawolves.
“He’s an experienced goalie and has won some big games,” said Shyiak about the decision to come back with Lawson after the Huskies chased him away on Friday night.
The Huskies finished zero for four on the power play while the Seawolves finished one for three.