HOUGHTON, Mich. — The race for the final home playoff spots in the WCHA may be a bit clearer after Saturday night’s game between the host Michigan Tech Huskies and the visiting Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks.
Assistant captain Matt White notched a pair of goals to help the Mavericks to a 4-0 win over the Huskies.
“I don’t think it was a 4-0 game at all,” said UNO coach Dean Blais. “[Ryan] Massa made two or three great saves that was the difference in the game and Matt White, for us, was the sniper.”
Massa’s first career shutout proved enough to help the Mavericks win Michigan Tech’s annual Winter Carnival series and move into sole possession of sixth place in the WCHA standings.
White broke a scoreless tie at the 6:54 mark of the middle frame when he took a pass from center Jayson Megna and beat the Huskies’ defense towards the net. White fired a wrist shot that got under the crossbar before MTU goaltender Josh Robinson could get his glove up to meet it.
“I thought our goalie was the big key for the game tonight,” said White. “I think we played an all-around good game and that was good for the road. We battled all 60 [minutes], so it was nice.”
The Mavericks (13-11-6 overall, 10-7-5 WCHA) had the first good scoring chance of the game two and a half minutes into the game when the puck was dumped into offensive corner to Robinson’s left. The puck hit the boards and kicked out front to a waiting Mavericks’ center Dominic Zombo, whose shot was stopped by Robinson.
Robinson made 27 saves for the game.
The Huskies’ first solid scoring chance came with 7:06 left in the opening frame as captain Brett Olson and assistant captain Jordan Baker got loose on a two-on-one. Olson carried the puck in, faked a pass, and then fired a shot that Massa had to work to stop.
Massa made 35 to earn the shutout.
“Obviously, it’s very disappointing to be in the position that we are in,” said Olson. “Credit to Omaha, they came out and played the better game. They deserved to win.”
After White’s goal, the Huskies (13-14-3 overall, 10-9-3 WCHA) nearly managed to even the game a couple of times over the course of the next few shifts. Blake Pietila nearly hit Baker cutting towards Massa, but his pass sailed just in front of Baker. Three minutes later, junior winger Chad Pietila took a lead pass and skated in, firing a backhand, but Massa was in position to make the stop.
The Huskies came out hard to start the third period and Massa was called upon to make several key stops in the early going.
“I’m disappointed with the loss,” said Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson. “After two periods, it’s a 1-0 hockey game. We were right there. We had a good flurry to start the third and we just couldn’t solve Ryan Massa.”
White struck for a second time 5:38 into the final frame when he picked up a loose puck in the offensive zone, skated in on Robinson, and beat him with a shot along the ice that found its way in off the post to Robinson’s right.
If that goal wasn’t enough to quiet the 3,488 Michigan Tech faithful, a goal by Megna at 7:15 did.
UNO defenseman Bryce Aneloski hit Megna with a lead pass as he was splitting the Huskies’ defense. Megna stepped over the blue line and fired a low wrist shot that beat Robinson.
Mavericks’ defenseman Michael Young put the final nail in the Huskies’ coffin at the 13:10 mark when he blasted a long shot from the middle of the blue line past Robinson. Winger Ryan Walters set up the goal by forcing a turnover from an MTU defender in the corner to Robinson’s right before he made the pass to Young.
White’s two-goal performance helped him earn Most Valuable Player honors for the weekend.