HOUGHTON, Mich. — The Michigan Tech Huskies used a big lift from three seniors and struck in the opening minutes of each period to sting the No. 19 Wisconsin Badgers, 4-2, before a 3,917 crowd at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena Saturday night. It was their first sweep of the Badgers since February, 1998.
“We’re undefeated at home in 2007,” said Huskies head coach Jamie Russell. “We wanted to send the seniors off on a good note and we did that tonight.”
Despite the fact that sophomore center Ben Street won the opening face-off, the Badgers-14-17-3 overall, 11-13-2 in the WCHA-had little go right for themselves for the majority of the game.
Just 49 seconds into the game, sophomore forward Malcolm tipped a pass from junior center Peter Rouleau over a couple sticks and right onto the blade of a charging Tyler Shelast, and the junior forward buried his fourteenth of the season when he lifted the puck up and over senior goaltender Brian Elliot.
“The first goal, I’m still not sure how that went in,” said Badgers’ head coach Mike Eaves.
If things weren’t bad enough for the defending national champs, they got a lot worse in a hurry as the Huskies struck again just 52 seconds later when sophomore forward Justin St. Louis skated the puck into the slot on Elliot’s right, and fired a low wrist shot that eluded Elliot two his left for St. Louis’ second goal of the weekend.
The goal, which came at the 1:41 mark, was assisted by sophomore forward Alex Lord and co-captain Lars Helminen.
“Alex Lord just got the puck up the middle and fed it up the wall to me,” said St. Louis. “I just took it wide and tried to get the shot on net.”
Eaves turned to sophomore goaltender Shane Connelly to stop the bleeding, and try to spark some kind of life from his listless squad.
“The second goal wasn’t a strong goal,” said Eaves. “We needed to refocus, so we made the goaltender change.”
The Huskies (15-14-5 overall, 10-11-5 WCHA) had an opportunity to expand the lead again on the power play about a minute later, but instead, Helminen turned the puck over at the blueline and senior forward Ross Carlson flew down the rink with a golden opportunity only to be thwarted by Helminen skating hard to make up for his mistake.
Both teams seemed to settle in after the initial few minutes’ play. The physical component of the game picked up, however, the Huskies managed to hold a 10-7 advantage in shots by the time all was said and done.
The Huskies picked up right where they left off in the second period, as sophomore center Ryan Angelow, who played outstanding all weekend, grabbed the rebound off a shot from freshman forward Ryan Bunger and buried it behind Connelly just 3:07 in. Freshman forward Phil Axtell, who played in place of the injured Jimmy Kerr, also assisted on the goal.
“We all wanted the seniors to go out on top,” said Angelow. “The goal was a great feeling because they haven’t been coming too often lately.”
Badgers’ freshman forward Michael Davies finally found a way to end Teslak’s shutout streak of 85:18 on the weekend, when his rebound shot snuck up and over a sprawled Teslak and just over the goal line. The goal was assisted by junior defenseman Josh Engel. The goal was the ninth this season for Davies.
Much like the first period, after the two quick goals were scored, the physical play increased with neither team gaining any kind of advantage from the hard play. Connelly was forced to make eight saves, but held his ground while showing that despite the fact that it was just his fifth appearance of the season, he was ready to play.
Teslak came up with ten second period saves, but none may have been more important than the one he made on sophomore forward Tom Gorowsky. Gorowsky took a pass on the right boards in the offensive zone, spun around and carried the puck to the net, firing a quick wrist shot that Teslak gloved out of the air with about five minutes left.
Late in the period, while on their fourth power play of the night, the Badgers managed to cut the Husky lead to just a goal when Davies struck again at the 19:37 mark.
Carlson fired the initial shot on Teslak, who had trouble controlling the rebound for the first time all weekend, and the puck bounced to a waiting Davies who pounced on it. Freshman Jamie McBain also assisted on the goal for the Badgers.
Starting the third period the same way they did each of the first two, the Huskies regained the two-goal lead when co-captain Mike Batovanja fired a shot that somehow found its way both through traffic and Connelly just 19 seconds in. Sophomore defenseman Geoff Kinrade and assistant captain Tyler Skworchinski both assisted on Batovanja’s second of the season.
“My goal wasn’t a pretty one,” said Batovanja. “I had a lane, and I just put the puck on net, and fortunately it went in.”
Unlike Friday night’s third period, the Badgers never really showed any sense of urgency over the final twenty minutes of play. The Huskies controlled much of the play as they outshot the Badgers nine to seven, but only came away with the one tally.
Teslak stopped 23 of 25 Badgers shots for his eighth win of the season. He is also undefeated in his last seven starts, going 5-0-2 over that span.
Connelly made 23 saves in relief of Elliot who had just one before being yanked in the first period.
After the game ended, the “Mitch’s Misfits”, several of whom had painted their chests to commemorate the senior class, led the crowd in a rousing chorus of “Thank you seniors” to celebrate the Huskies’ three seniors who’ve all made a large contribution to the Huskies’ resurgence this season.
The Badgers finished the game 1-5 on the power play while holding the Huskies to no goals on five opportunities.
With the win, the Huskies finish the season with a 10-4-3 mark at home, and now sit alone in sixth in the WCHA standings with 25 points.