HOUGHTON, Mich. — The Michigan Tech Huskies jumped out of the gate like a team ready to play and they took the game to the Minnesota State Mavericks early and often, and were rewarded for their efforts when Alex Lord banged home a goal late in the first period. The Huskies looked very relaxed in the WCHA home opener at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
“This was a gutsy win for us,” said Huskies captain Jimmy Kerr. “We did a much better job playing with a lead tonight.”
Lord, a junior from Magog, Quebec, cut hard to the net shortly after getting out of the penalty box. He took a perfect pass from sophomore winger Ryan Bunger, and buried the puck between Mavericks netminder Mike Zacharias’ legs. The goal, Lord’s first of the season, came at 16:09.
“I thought we had a number of really good scoring chances,” said Huskies head coach Jamie Russell. “It’s nice to see a kid like that rewarded with a goal.
The Huskies dominated the first three minutes of the game, as the Mavericks (0-1-0 overall, 0-1-0 WCHA) looked like a squad that hadn’t been tested yet. Kerr and junior defenseman Geoff Kinrade both had some golden opportunities from high percentage areas, but Zacharias held his ground.
Seeming to settle down after that, the Mavericks young, talented defensemen got the ball rolling as they seemed to relax.
“It was our first night, and we were a little rusty at times,” said Mavericks head coach Troy Jutting. “You learn a lot in your first weekend.”
While the Huskies were on their second power play of the period, Mavericks junior winger Jon Kalinski broke loose on a miscue at the Huskies’ offensive blue line, and took the puck the length of the rink, but fired the puck over goaltender Michael-Lee Teslak’s left shoulder, and over the net.
“Jonny was just a little off a couple of times there,” said Jutting. “Give us a couple of weeks, and you won’t see that.”
It was only a matter of time before the Huskies (2-1-0 overall, 1-0-0 WCHA) found a way to get another puck past Zacharias in the second period. The Huskies controlled the play like the veteran team they’ve been touted to be, and had several chances from high quality areas in front of Zacharias, firing on net 15 times.
“I thought our start couldn’t have been any better,” said Russell. “We stepped to the plate and got it done tonight.”
Kalinski nearly made the game drastically different, however, when he cut in behind Kinrade, took a long pass off the boards, and attempted to deke Teslak shorthanded. Teslak didn’t bite, however, and Kalinski ended up on his stomach with the puck heading the other direction.
After twice being thwarted on the man advantage, the Huskies finally broke through when Kerr tapped in a easy rebound goal into a wide open net. Freshman winger Jordan Baker was sprung for a solid one on one chance, and he slid the puck out to senior center Peter Rouleau from behind the net. The local star fired a shot that forced Zacharias well out of the net, setting the stage for Kerr’s second of the year at 12:10.
“Baker did a great job getting the puck to the net,” said Kerr. “Rouleau just tried to bang it in, but the puck took a nice bounce right to me.”
The Mavericks had a couple of power plays early in the third to try to get on the board, but instead probably wished Huskies defenseman Mark Malekoff had never gotten a penalty. Rouleau nearly made the Mavericks pay shorthanded twice in a fourteen second span. The first was on a breakaway, and the second after the picking up the loose rebound and cutting around the net and back out front at about mid period
“We dodged a few bullets in the third,” said Russell. “I didn’t think we controlled our sticks very well.”
Teslak was tested much more often through the remainder of the third as the Mavericks finally seemed to get their feet underneath them. The Mavericks outshot the Huskies nearly two to one in the third, and Teslak saw several of those with the Huskies down a man.
“We got a little ‘laxed in our systems in the third tonight,” said Kerr. “We let them get a little momentum, but luckily Teslak was back there.”
The Huskies did have some more opportunities to extend their lead to three as junior center Alex Gagne picked up a Maverick miscue, grabbed the puck, and skated it in on Zacharias, who had to make a tough save.
With time winding down in regulation, the Mavericks showed their youth in spades, as they continually failed to get control of the puck in the offensive zone allowing Jutting to get Zacharias out of the net.
On a positive note for Mavericks’ fans, freshmen defensemen Kurt Davis and Ben Youds both showed a lot of potential as they both logged a lot of minutes, especially in the third period.
“I thought they both did a good job tonight,” said Jutting. “They had some jitters, but overall I was pleased.”
Teslak finished the game with 25 stops en route to his fifth career shutout. Zacharias was forced to make 29 stops for the Mavericks.
“I felt that the loss (to Northern) was my fault,” said Teslak. “I wanted to come out better tonight.”
The Huskies finished zero for six on the power play, while holding the Mavericks to zero for seven. The Huskies have held opponents to one for sixteen on the season so far.
The Huskies win was a big one in front of the 2462 Husky fans. Slowly but surely, the Huskies are continuing to get better attendance numbers as the seasons are progressing.
The teams return to the MacInnes tomorrow night for the rematch. Face-off is set for 7:05 Eastern time.