HOUGHTON, Mich. — Looking to continue their push towards a home playoff spot, the host Michigan Tech Huskies opened their annual Winter Carnival weekend with a 3-3 tie against the visiting Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks.
The Huskies got the early lead, but wound up having to fight back to get the tie in a very evenly-played game.
With the tie, the Huskies improved to 3-0-3 in overtime games this season.
“I thought it was a good hockey game,” said Huskies’ coach Mel Pearson. “I was proud of our guys. I thought we went toe-to-toe with them tonight. [It was] probably fitting that it ended up in a tie.”
The Huskies evened things up with captain Brett Olson and Mavericks’ defenseman Michael Young both serving penalties in the second period. Freshman defenseman Riley Sweeney found assistant captain Jordan Baker in the slot. Baker fired a low wrist shot that eluded UNO goalie John Faulkner to tie the game at 16:47. Blake Pietila also assisted on the goal.
“These are big points in the standings,” said Baker. “We’d like to get the win, but getting a point here, especially late in the season, is big.”
It took the Huskies just 55 seconds to open scoring as sophomore defenseman Bradley Stebner blasted a slap shot from the left point that beat Mavericks’ starting goaltender Ryan Massa cleanly. Assistant captain Carl Nielsen set up the goal with a quick pass across the blue line after receiving the puck from sophomore center Jacob Johnstone.
“The last couple of weekends, we’ve been struggling to come out Friday night,” said Stebner. “Tonight, we knew we were prepared for this team and came out guns a-blazin.’”
Looking to extend the Huskies’ lead, Nielsen hit senior winger Bryce Reddick with a lead pass which Reddick carried into the offensive zone. Firing the long slap shot from right circle, Reddick beat Massa at 5:15. Stebner added an assist by creating a turnover at the Huskies’ blue line and moving the puck to Nielsen.
Reddick’s goal ended Massa’s night and Faulkner entered the game and was challenged shortly after while his team was on the power play. Pietila and Reddick skated in on a two-on-one and Pietila hung onto the puck trying to wait Faulkner out. When he finally shot, Faulkner made the stop.
The Mavericks (12-11-6 overall, 9-7-5 WCHA) began the long process of climbing back into the contest at the 10:11 mark of the opening frame when center Jayson Megna snuck into the offensive zone off a line change and buried a pass from winger Ryan Walters past MTU goaltender Josh Robinson.
“I thought we showed a lot of character, down 2-0, coming back and grinding it out,” said Mavericks’ coach Dean Blais. “That game could have gotten out of control right away when the first two shots go in. A lot of teams would just quit.”
Thanks to a Mavericks’ penalty late in the first period, the Huskies (13-13-3 overall, 10-8-3 WCHA) had a golden opportunity to regain the two-goal lead on a man advantage that would run into the second period. However, it was the Mavericks that gained momentum from the penalty kill and they struck shortly after the penalty ended.
Defenseman Bryce Aneloski tied the game for Nebraska-Omaha after one-timing a pass from captain Terry Broadhurst at 1:27. Broadhurst waited for Aneloski to sneak in from the point before feeding him the puck.
The Mavericks struck again at the 7:30 mark of the middle frame when center Brent Gwidt fired a shot from Robinson’s left. Robinson made the save, but he kicked the rebound out in front to a waiting Walters, who didn’t miss from point-blank range.
Penalties became the name of the game once the Mavericks took the lead. A couple of minutes after their lead goal, the Mavericks had 1:39 of five-on-three play, but couldn’t extend their lead. The Huskies also had another power play of their own, but couldn’t tie things up.
“The penalties were something that messed up the flow of the game,” said Olson. “They picked up their game a little bit. I don’t think they’d started like they wanted to.”
From their tying goal on, the Huskies poured the pressure on Faulkner and the Mavericks. Olson had a golden opportunity halfway through the third when Pietila won the faceoff and put the puck right in Olson’s wheelhouse, but Olson’s slap shot was handled by Faulkner.
Nielsen nearly picked up his third assist of the night two minutes later when he barreled his way into the offensive zone and eventually fed freshman winger David Johnstone for a one-timer, but the quick shot was gobbled up by Faulkner.
In total, the Huskies fired 12 shots at Faulkner in the third period.
The Huskies had two golden opportunities to win the game in overtime as sophomore winger Ryan Furne hit Reddick with a pass on a four-on-two for the first shot that narrowly missed to Faulkner’s right. On the ensuing shift after that chance, Baker tipped a shot just past the right post from in close to Faulkner.