HOUGHTON, Mich. — In round two of the battle of the Huskies, No. 10 St. Cloud State (8-3-3 overall, 6-3-3 WCHA) escaped the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena with a hard-fought 3-2 overtime victory over Michigan Tech (6-6-2 overall, 3-5-2 WCHA).
“This was a bank robbery,” said St. Cloud head coach Bob Motzko. “I give (Michigan Tech) a lot of credit as they won all the battles for two periods.”
Assistant captain Andrew Gordon netted the overtime winner, extending St. Cloud’s unbeaten streak to nine games with just 11 seconds left in the extra session. Assistant captain Justin Fletcher and junior defenseman Matt Stephenson assisted on the goal.
“From that position, I didn’t want to shoot toward the far side in case I missed the net,” said Gordon. “I was just thinking I had to put up on that glove side.”
St. Cloud got off to a quick start as Fletcher got the ball rolling with the game’s first shot on goal just 14 seconds in. Michigan Tech sophomore goaltender Rob Nolan was equal to the task, making the first of seven first period saves en route to 20 for the game.
Just over a minute later, St. Cloud senior goaltender Bobby Goepfert was tested as Michigan Tech junior forward Tyler Shelast had two great opportunities just in front of Goepfert, but Goepfert gave his best impression of a wall, stopping both en route to an eight-save period.
“We had a lot more jump tonight,” said Michigan Tech head coach Jamie Russell. “We won a lot of battles to loose pucks, but we needed to bury our opportunities.”
The rest of the first period was up and down the ice with neither team really holding an advantage.
In the second period, Michigan Tech jumped all over St. Cloud, firing 14 shots at Goepfert while holding St. Cloud to five.
“I felt our defensemen really battled tonight,” said Motzko.
Freshman forward Ryan Bunger had at least two golden opportunities to open the scoring for Michigan Tech. Playing alongside junior center Peter Rouleau and sophomore forward Justin St. Louis, Bunger just missed getting a shot past Goepfert when the puck slid through the crease just over five minutes into the period, but he couldn’t quite get it up and over Goepfert.
“I thought that Ryan had played really well for us last night,” said Russell. “He was rewarded tonight by being bumped up to that line with Peter and Justin.”
Almost three minutes later, Bunger nearly struck on a well-timed redirection when St. Louis ripped a shot at the net off a drop pass from Rouleau, but Goepfert again came up strong.
“That’s what All-Americans do, they win one every once and a while,” said Motzko of Goepfert’s performance.
Bunger finally broke through at the 8:07 mark of the second period as Rouleau fed junior defenseman Jake Wilkens in front of Goepfert. Wilkens’ shot sneaked under the leg of Goepfert, and Bunger jumped on the loose puck, burying it in the back of the net.
“It was nice to get that monkey off of my back,” said Bunger. “This weekend I was just working really hard, and I had a feeling it was coming.”
Bunger’s night ended early, however, as he was whistled for checking from behind at the 15:05 mark of the period, giving St. Cloud a golden opportunity to even the game. Try as they might, however, SCSU couldn’t capitalize on the extended man advantage, and couldn’t even get the puck past the Michigan Tech defenders and to Nolan.
“It really seemed that we took those five minutes off,” said Gordon. “It seemed like they six guys to our five.”
Michigan Tech sophomore Malcolm Gwilliam couldn’t find a way to score, getting two great opportunities in the third period to extend the lead, but Goepfert continued to shine. It became only a matter of time before something would break.
St. Cloud was finally able to even the game when junior forward Marty Mjelleli netted his first goal of the season 10:34 into the third. Junior forward Matt Hartman found Mjelleli, who drove hard to the net, and beat Nolan low to the glove side.
“Last year, coach put Hartman, (Michael) Olson and I together up in Alaska,” said Mjelleli. “We just seem to have a lot of chemistry together.”
Mjelleli would net his second goal of the game at the 17:38 mark of the third. Mjelleli, showing a real nose for the net, drove in hard and directed another pass from Hartman past Nolan. Olson, a sophomore forward, also assisted on the goal.
“I was probably the happiest guy on the ice after we scored,” said Goepfert.
Despite the completely silenced MacInnes crowd, Michigan Tech refused to be denied, as sophomore forward Ryan Angelow capped a strong game by evening the score just 23 seconds later, as he cut to the net and buried his fourth of the season. Shelast and sophomore defender Geoff Kindrade picked notched assists on the goal. The 2194 Michigan Tech faithful roared, feeling that their team still had a real shot at coming away with at least a point.
“Down 2-1 late, we really needed to bounce back from that goal they had scored,” said Angelow.
Michigan Tech finished the game with 37 shots, but Goepfert stole the game, something that Motzko felt couldn’t have come at a better time in the season.
“Every once in awhile a great goalie has to steal a game,” said Motzko. “That’s exactly what happened tonight.”
Neither team was able to break through on the power play, with Michigan going zero-for-two and St. Cloud going zero-for-four.
St. Cloud is now 6-0-3 over their last nine games. Motzko owns a career 4-1-1 record against Michigan Tech. The game also marked just the second time this season that freshmen phenoms Andreas Nodl and Ryan Lasch were both held off of the scoresheet.
With the loss, Michigan Tech falls to 4-2-1 at home to open the season. With the assist tonight, Shelast now has four goals and nine points to move into a three-way tie for the team lead in points.