MANKATO, Minn. — One night after Michigan Tech netminder Michael-Lee Teslak allowed five goals on 28 shots and got pulled after just two periods, it would have been easy for Huskies’ coach Jamie Russell to go with his other netminder, Rob Nolan, for Saturday’s rematch against No. 9 Minnesota State.
The coach showed confidence in Teslak, however, and the junior responded, stopping 23 of 25 Mavericks’ shots to lead Tech to a 3-2 victory at the Alltel Center.
The win vaulted the Huskies back into PairWise consideration and gives Tech an extra bit of confidence heading into next weekend’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs. MSU dropped three spots to 11.
“I didn’t think ‘Tes’ played poorly last night,” Russell said. “I thought the team in front of him played poorly. He’s a kid that although he gave up five goals last night, he’s strong mentally, he’s got great focus and concentration. I knew he’d bounce back.”
“I didn’t really beat myself up too bad last night,” Teslak said. “I just wanted to bounce back and I hoped the guys would play a good game in front of me and they did.”
Russell was disappointed Friday with his team’s play in front of the nets. They were markedly better Saturday, as evidenced by the Huskies’ first two goals, scored just 1:11 apart.
Eric Kattelus’ wrister from the slot beat a partially screened Mike Zacharias at 14:24. Alex Gagne banged home a rebound off a Tyler Shelast shot at 15:35. Tech carried the 2-0 lead into the second period.
“In front of both nets, we were much better,” Russell said. “We kept them to the perimeter and in their end; we scored two goals.”
The Mavericks’ gave Tech a five-minute power play midway through the second, following a checking from behind penalty on Matt Tyree.
The Huskies took advantage less than a minute in on a goal by Geoff Kinrade, his fifth of the season, which would end up being the game-winner. It was Kinrade’s second consecutive weekend with a game-winning goal.
“That’s a huge goal,” Russell said. “It’s big when you can get that three goal cushion.
“I thought [Kinrade] was one of the few bright spots [Friday] too,” Russell said. “He’s a kid who logs an awful lot of ice time, is getting better and better and scored a big goal for us last weekend, too.”
The Mavericks got on the board at 5:33 of the third on a power-play goal by Jason Wiley. Kael Mouillierat pulled MSU within one with a tip-in goal at 14:12.
However, Tech locked down defensively, blocking 23 shots in the game, 11 in the final period alone.
“To see guys step up tonight and block those shots, that was huge,” Teslak said. “That’s what it’s going take for us to be successful down the road.”
“That’s 23 scoring attempts,” Mavericks’ coach Troy Jutting said. “To me, the fact you can hit an eight-inch shin pad when you have 100 feet of width is inexcuseable.”
With Minnesota-Duluth’s win at Minnesota, Michigan Tech finished the season as the No. 9 team in the conference. The Huskies will travel to North Dakota next weekend for a best-of-three series at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
“They’ve been hot,” Teslak said. “But we’ve gone into arenas where we were playing the No. 1 team and walked out with wins. We just have to have confidence and know that in a three game series, anything can happen.”
Minnesota State finished as the No. 4 seed and will host intra-state rival Minnesota in Mankato next weekend.
“I would expect it to be a great environment,” Jutting said. “It’s part of why you play all year long, is for the playoffs. We start a new season next Friday night.”
Both series face off Friday at 7:37 p.m. CST.