COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Michigan Tech got on the board first in Game 3 and left it that way, skating to a 1-0 win over Colorado College in the first round of WCHA playoff action.
The Huskies advance to the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul, Minn., for the first time since the 1995-96 season.
At the 12:59 mark of the first period, Michigan Tech freshman right wing Ryan Bunger got his stick on a loose puck to the right of CC goalie Matt Zaba and found the net. Defenseman John Kivisto’s high shot from the point didn’t make it through traffic and was knocked down in front of the net. It appeared that the puck was lost in traffic for a moment, until Bunger got to the puck and slid it past Zaba.
Bunger’s goal was the only one scored in the first period throughout the three-game series, as both teams netted just three goals apiece on the weekend.
“Tonight it was the first period — they were the aggressor,” said CC coach Scott Owens. They moved on their feet better, had us on our heels and they get the goal.”
Once again the Huskies played a sound defensive game, and Michael-Lee Teslak chipped in with 17 saves.
“As a team it was a strong defensive performance, but Michael-Lee played a heck of a defensive series,” said Michigan Tech coach Jamie Russell.
“Seven straight games and he’s been playing very, very well,” Owens said of Teslak. “They surround him well, block shots, and you saw that down the stretch.”
Teslak is now 8-2-2 in his last 12 games and led the WCHA in goals against average entering Sunday’s game.
The Tigers played the part as aggressor in Game 2, finishing checks in the offensive zone and keeping the Michigan Tech offense in check for three periods. But the Huskies stuck with their shutdown defense in Game 3, forcing CC shooters wide and cutting off passing lanes.
It didn’t appear that there was a sense of urgency for the Tigers, who seemed to be going through the motions during the game.
“You never know what you’re going to get in your third game in three days,” Owens said. “They stuck with their game plan, as methodical as it is, and found a way to win.
“I felt as if we never really got a chance to expose their three young freshman defenseman.”
The Tiger power play, ranked third nationally at 22.8 percent, was 0-for-5 on the evening.
“We’re a team that scores the first goal and we get a lot of confidence. To hold that team to 17 shots on goal was a great effort in terms of team defense,” Russell said. “As a team, the players in that locker room deserve this thing. They’ve worked so hard all year and it’s a great reward going to the Final Five. But the journey has just begun.”
Colorado College’s season is most likely over following its elimination from the WCHA playoffs. Entering Game 3, the Tigers were in a three-way tie for the No. 15 spot in the PairWise rankings.
“It’s very disappointing because it ended so abruptly,” Owens said. “Right now, it’s tough because we worked so hard to get home ice. I just wanted to get to St. Paul with this team and get the experience … but it hasn’t happened.”