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Michigan Tech, Minnesota Duluth Battle to Tie

Tech rallies late in third to earn point

— Teams headed in opposite directions met Saturday night at the DECC, and Minnesota Duluth was hoping to continue that trend to finish play for 2008.

The Bulldogs entered the Western Collegiate Hockey Association game on their best unbeaten streak since 2004, while the Michigan Tech Huskies were on their worst winless streak since 2004.

In a defensive battle, UMD made the most of a five-on-three power play and Michigan Tech countered with its own power-play score for a 1-1 overtime tie before a crowd of 3,795. UMD sophomore Evan Oberg’s slap shot beat freshman goalie Josh Robinson at 6:59 of the third period and Superior native Brett Olson countered with 3:32 left in regulation for Michigan Tech.

“Our expectations are higher than they’ve been and we’re not very happy with a tie,” said UMD senior winger Matt Greer. “You expect a tough game like this against Michigan Tech, but defensively we needed to be better.”

Final shots on goal were 25-25, with UMD getting the only shot in overtime.

UMD (8-4-6 and 5-4-5 WCHA) has allowed just 1.6 goals during its streak, now at seven (4-0-3). Michigan Tech (2-14-2 and 1-11-2) is averaging 1.00 on offense during its winless streak, now at 13 (0-11-2).

“I’m tired of moral victories, but I though we took a step up from losing twice [at home] to Denver last week,” said Michigan Tech coach Jamie Russell. “Our power play was much improved, our penalty kill was better, our goalie was sharp. Both goalies were sharp.

“But we have to face reality; we have a tough time scoring goals, so we have to be a strong defensive team.”

Neither team had much scoring luck as UMD junior Alex Stalock and Robinson stopped just about everything.

There was a scoreless first period as Michigan Tech out-shot UMD 6-5. The Bulldogs had two power plays, but managed zero shot attempts.

The game stayed 0-0 through two, although there were scoring chances. Michigan Tech freshman center Olson pushed a shot just wide of the UMD net 6:20 into the period. Robinson had to turn away MacGregor Sharp and Chad Huttel on consecutive shots with 5:45 left in the period.

Winger Ryan Bunger and defenseman John Schwarz took penalties 24 seconds apart to give UMD their two-man advantage. An Oberg drive from the right circle was deflected, possibly by a Michigan Tech player, for a 1-0 lead. Olson’s third goal of the season also came from the right circle.

“It’s tough to win when you score just one goal; it didn’t seem like we were getting plays to the net, we were on the perimeter, and that doesn’t work in this league,” said Oberg, whose team leads the WCHA in power-play efficiency, but was 1-for-7 on the night.

The three league points in the series left UMD alone in fourth place with 15 points, while Michigan Tech remains in last place. UMD forwards Jack Connolly and Sharp left the ice because of injuries, but both returned to finish the game.

“We came out well in the first period, but the majority of the next two periods, Michigan Tech was the better team,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “We had spurts of good play, but got away from doing the things that make us effective. We were porous. I give Michigan Tech credit for playing well.”

The Bulldogs, exactly halfway through the regular season, are off until Jan. 2 when they face Massachusetts-Lowell in the first round of the inaugural Shillelagh tournament at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill. No. 1-ranked Notre Dame meets Union College in the other game.

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