HOUGHTON, Mich. — The Michigan Tech Huskies took a huge step towards re-entering the WCHA home playoff race with a three-goal second period en route to a 5-2 victory over the No. 12 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
Huskies’ senior center Peter Rouleau answered the bell with his biggest night of the season, picking up three goals and two assists before the night was over.
“A lot of guys responded,” said Huskies’ coach Jamie Russell. “Peter Rouleau absolutely stepped up to the plate.”
The Huskies (11-13-5 overall, 7-10-4 WCHA), who spent much of this past week battling more than two weeks’ worth of poor outings, had to fight the flu this week, and it showed in the early stages of the game.
“It’s not a 20-minute game,” said Bulldogs’ coach Scott Sandelin. “When you take undisciplined penalties and you’re ineffective on the power play, what do you think is going to happen?”
The Bulldogs struck first when junior center MacGregor Sharp carried the puck into the Huskies’ zone, cut toward the net, and fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Huskies’ netminder Michael-Lee Teslak. The goal, which came at 5:45, was Sharp’s sixth of the season.
The Huskies earned two power play chances of their own as the period continued, but weren’t able to get much of anything near Bulldogs’ goaltender Alex Stalock. Stalock finished the game with 22 stops.
One brief bright spot for the Huskies came late in the first period when sophomore defenseman Eli Vlaisavljevich electrified the dormant crowd with a great move in the offensive zone off a faceoff. He followed it up with a good pass to senior winger Jordan Foote, who had a nice scoring chance.
“We need that kind of effort every shift,” said Russell. “I thought Eli had a heck of a game.”
The Huskies picked up momentum from the great effort, and were able to even the game in the early stages of the second period.
“It was a good 40 minutes,” said Russell. “I thought we were absolutely god awful in the first period.”
Assistant captain Tyler Shelast moved the puck up ice to Rouleau, who found junior center Alex Gagne charging the net hard and hit him with a pass. Gagne took the puck, deked Stalock to his forehand, and deposited the puck in the back of the net at 6:35.
“I hadn’t scored for a while, so this feels really good,” said Gagne. “Playing with those guys makes the game easier.”
With freshman center Eric Kattelus off for cross checking, the Bulldogs (11-10-6 overall, 7-9-5 WCHA) turned the puck over at the Huskies’ blue line and the Huskies made them pay.
Sophomore defenseman Drew Dobson hit Rouleau in stride at center ice, and Rouleau was off to the races. Getting Stalock to bite on a quick move to the forehand, Rouleau quickly switched to his backhand and beat a sprawling Stalock for his second shorthanded goal of the season at 11:57.
“Coach said (after the first period) that we have to execute our plays,” said Rouleau. “Dobson made a good play to me, and I ended up finishing it.”
With the lead, the Huskies took a string of penalties, but Teslak and company kept the Bulldogs from the tying goal. Instead, the Huskies needed just one more man advantage of their own to extend their lead to two.
Rouleau picked up his second special teams goal of the night when he took a perfect pass from Kattelus near Stalock. With the Bulldogs’ netminder sprawled out to try to make the stop, Rouleau quickly lifted the puck over Stalock for his fifth power play marker of the season at 19:05.
The Bulldogs came out flying on all cylinders in the third, and the strategy paid off, as the Bulldogs controlled a good portion of the play before cutting the Huskies’ lead in half.
Freshman defenseman Chad Huttel took a pass from senior winger Mike Curry at the blue line and fired a shot that bounced off a Huskies’ defender and past Teslak at 5:27.
Russell burned his time out trying to rally the troops shortly after the goal, as the Bulldogs continued to control the play, keeping the Huskies’ defenders on the ice far longer than they should have been.
The Huskies responded to their coach’s strong words. as Gagne cut in on a breakaway four-on-four and forced Stalock to come up big. When Gagne got another opportunity, he didn’t miss.
“I like playing with Alex,” said Rouleau. “He’s a good hockey player, and he put the puck in the net when I got it to him.”
Rouleau earned his fourth point of the night by feeding Gagne on the left side of the offensive zone. Gagne cut to the net and fired the puck over Stalock’s right shoulder to regain the two-goal lead at 11:30.
Sandelin pulled Stalock with a little over two minutes remaining, but Rouleau notched his hat trick goal with 1:22 remaining. Kattelus and Shelast both assisted on the goal.
For Rouleau, the hat trick was the second of his career and first since Oct. 27, 2006.
“He’s a skilled player,” said Sandelin. “He had a good night.”