HOUGHTON, Mich. — After sweeping the Wisconsin Badgers and taking three of four points from the then-No. 2 Denver Pioneers, the No. 16 Michigan Tech Huskies continued working on exorcizing their demons by extending their unbeaten streak at home with a 1-0 victory over the visiting Minnesota State Mavericks Friday night at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
The Mavericks had beaten the Huskies five times in their previous eight meetings.
“No one asks you in March how you won games,” said MTU head coach Mel Pearson. “It might not be the way you want to draw it up. I thought it was a gutsy effort, (but) we have to learn how to win close games.”
Ryan Furne gave the Huskies their lone goal on a man-advantage when his lazy flip into the offensive zone took a strange hop in front of Mavericks netminder Austin Lee at 14:22. The goal, Furne’s second of the year, was assisted by Steven Seigo and captain Brett Olson.
“[We knew] it wasn’t going to be a 6-5 game, it was going to be a hard-nosed, low-scoring game,” said Furne. “Different bounces are going to start going our way instead of going against us.”
Furne and Olson nearly connected just four minutes into the game when Olson fed Furne in front of Lee. Furne’s quick backhand was stopped, but the Huskies served notice that they weren’t going to take the Mavericks lightly.
Less than two minutes later, the Huskies had another golden opportunity to grab the lead when David Johnstone flew down the left hand boards and cut in front of Lee, who made an equally impressive stop.
The Mavericks’ best player throughout the opening 20 minutes, Lee was sharp again two-and-a-half minutes later when Milos Gordic was searching for his fifth goal in three nights. Gordic redirected a shot from Daniel Sova, but Lee was ready for the play and made the tough save.
“I thought both goalies played extremely well tonight,” said Minnesota State head coach Troy Jutting. “I felt bad for Austin on the goal that did go in.”
Jean-Paul Lafontaine had a golden opportunity to tie the game just over two minutes into the second period on a 2-on-1, but Tanner Kero broke up the pass to Lafontaine.
During their second power play of the night, the Mavericks became visibly frustrated as their passes stopped clicking, allowing the Huskies to recover the puck and clear it out of their end. On one such play, Jacob Johnstone found a streaking Carl Neilsen, who cut around a Mavericks’ defender before firing the puck at Lee.
Halfway through the middle frame, Lafontaine found himself alone in the front of Michigan Tech goaltender Josh Robinson, but Robinson made one his 29 stops en route to the first Huskies’ shutout since Dec. 20, 2008, a game Robinson also won, ironically enough.
Lafontaine had another solid chance to tie the game with six minutes left when he found open ice in front of Robinson, but was thwarted on the initial shot and added a second stop on the rebound.
“My job as a goalie to allow one less than the other team,” said Robinson. “I just had to focus on what I was doing in my own end.”
Just five minutes into the third period, the Huskies had an opportunity to extend their lead when Blake Pietila received a pass from Olson in the slot, but his one-timer was stopped by Lee, who would finish the night with 40 saves.
The Mavericks had a pair of good chances to even things up, both off the stick of captain Michael Dorr. On the first play, Dorr grabbed a puck that was misplayed by the Huskies’ defense and nearly found the back of the net. The second time, he made a behind-the-back pass to a streaking Eli Zuck, whose shot was also stopped by Robinson.
Zuck impacted the game in a negative way for Huskies’ fans about two-and-a-half minutes later when he crunched Olson into the boards off a faceoff in the MTU defensive zone.
Lee was called upon to make two more tough saves in the final minutes of action when Gordic got loose and attempted a wraparound. Lee made the initial and kicked the rebound back to Gordic, who fired another shot that Lee snagged out of the air.
Jutting pulled Lee with just under a minute to go, but despite having the extra attacker, the Mavericks couldn’t solve Robinson.
The Huskies finished the night 1-for-3 on the man-advantage while holding the Mavericks 0-for-5.
Video: Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson:
Video: Michigan Tech forward Ryan Furne:
Video: Minnesota State coach Troy Jutting: