HOUGHTON, Mich. — Looking to extend their home unbeaten streak to eight games, the No. 16 Michigan Tech Huskies took a 3-3 game into the final 20 minutes against the Minnesota State Mavericks on Saturday night.
The Mavericks managed to spoil the Huskies’ great run with three third period tallies en route to a 6-3 victory at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
The win was the first WCHA victory for the Mavericks this season.
“I thought (this was) pretty good both ways up and down the ice,” said Mavericks’ head coach Troy Jutting. “Not a lot different from last night, but the result worked out for us tonight.”
With 1:16 of a two-man advantage, the Mavericks picked up the game-winning goal when Matt Leitner scored his first career goal with a low shot through traffic 4:49 into the final frame. Zach Palmquist and Jean-Paul Lafontaine picked up assists on the goal.
“I think it was an even game for the most part again tonight,” said MTU head coach Mel Pearson. “Going into the third period, you have a tie game and then we took two penalties bang-bang. That was the difference in the game.”
The Huskies (6-3-1 overall, 4-3-1 WCHA) nearly found the back of the net behind Mavericks’ goaltender Austin Lee just four minutes in when captain Brett Olson was knocked off the puck in the high slot. Blake Pietila found the loose puck and fired it at Lee, who was equal to the task.
Michael Dorr had the first good scoring chance for the Mavericks (2-6-0 overall, 1-3-0 WCHA) when he took a lead pass and skated in undeterred towards Michigan Tech netminder Josh Robinson shorthanded. Dorr made a quick move to his backhand, but his shot hit the post.
The Mavericks would strike a minute later on a power play of their own when Palmquist made a pass from the right point to Johnny McInnes, who was stationed to Robinson’s right. As Robinson came across to challenge him, McInnes found Lafontaine in front, who pushed the puck into the open net at 11:46.
Looking to even things up, the Huskies had two great chances from Aaron Pietila and Dennis Rix before Jacob Johnstone buried the third shot behind Lee. The goal, which came at 14:26, was Johnstone’s fourth of the season.
“Contributing to the team makes you want to do more for them,” said Johnstone. “It kind of helps with the confidence thing.”
The Huskies struck again less than a minute later when Blake Pietila took a long lead pass from Olson and he fired a long wrister that Lee never appeared ready for. The goal, which was Pietila’s fourth of the season, came at 15:16.
“It was just a hard-fought battle overall,” said Olson. “Some games are going to be like that (and) when that happens, you got to try to find a way to get the win.”
In a near-replay of his previous breakaway attempt, Dorr had another great chance at 16:23 that somehow found its way through Robinson and in. Adam Mueller made the lead pass and crashed the net, ending up on top of Robinson after the puck crossed the goal line.
The Huskies started the second period on the man advantage, but couldn’t quite generate a good scoring chance. They would get a golden opportunity six minutes later when Jordan Baker took a lead pass from Patrick McCadden, but his backhand deke was stopped by Lee.
Lee finished the night with 42 saves.
With Mavericks’ defenseman Evan Mosey off for hooking, Milos Gordic found Baker in the slot, but both his shot and Gordic’s rebound chance were stopped by Lee. The Mavericks exploded in the other direction, and Robinson was forced to come up with a big stop on Mueller.
Robinson made 39 saves for the game.
Lafontaine would briefly put the Mavericks back in the lead at 13:32 when he notched his second goal of the night. Cutting across the crease from left to right, Lafontaine redirected a pass from Joe Schiller past a sprawling Robinson.
The lead would not last two minutes as David Johnstone and Tanner Kero combined to tie the game for the Huskies. After a great forecheck involving both David Johnstone and senior winger Alex MacLeod, David Johnstone cut to the net and fired a shot. Lee kicked the rebound right to Kero, who buried the puck in the back of the net at 15:30 for his fourth goal of the season.
Looking to extend their lead, the Mavericks struck gold again when Mat Knoll found the back of the net with a shot that caromed off the skate of Carl Nielsen and into the back of the net at 9:59 of the third.
Pearson, trying to gain any advantage late in the game, pulled Robinson during the game’s final television timeout, giving the Huskies a six-on-five advantage for the final 2:21, but even with the extra skater, the Huskies struggled to find the back of the net.
Leitner sealed the game for the Mavericks with an empty-net goal from the neutral zone at 18:41.
The Mavericks finished the night two-for-five on the man advantage while holding the Huskies to no goals on five tries.
Video: Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson:
Video: Michigan Tech captain Brett Olson:
Video: Michigan Tech forward Jacob Johnstone: