HOUGHTON, Mich. — In a game in which the Michigan Tech Huskies were outshooting the visiting St. Cloud State Huskies, 21-13, at one point in the second period, it was St. Cloud that managed to find the back of the net three times in the first two periods en route to a 5-2 victory. Mike Lee stopped 34 Michigan Tech shots to backstop the win.
“I can’t fault the effort, but the goaltending tonight was not up to par,” said Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson. “That was the difference in the game. I thought Mike Lee had an excellent game.”
With the sixth and final home playoff spot in the opening round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association tournament still in question, St. Cloud improved to 15-1 in the last 16 meetings between the two squads, including six straight wins.
“We got a couple of bounces where pucks got in,” said St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko. “It’s easier to play when you’ve got a lead. The guys settled in and did a lot of good things tonight.”
St. Cloud center Nic Dowd gave Michigan Tech a chance to even the game on a power play, but it was the visitors who made use of the advantage. St. Cloud center Travis Novak forced a turnover from Michigan Tech freshman winger Blake Pietila at the St. Cloud blue line. Beating Pietila down the rink, Novak carried the puck from the corner out front and snuck it past Michigan Tech goaltender Kevin Genoe at 7:29 of the second period.
St. Cloud struck first shortly after a brief five-on-three advantage in the opening period. With Huskies’ sophomore defenseman Brad Stebner looking to get back into the play after his penalty ended, St. Cloud winger David Eddy fed the puck across the front of the goal to winger Jared Festler, who roofed it over sprawling Michigan Tech goaltender Josh Robinson at 3:36.
Looking to extend its lead, St. Cloud (14-15-4 overall, 11-11-3 WCHA) did just that less than a minute later when winger Joey Holka got his stick on a shot from defenseman Sam Zabkowicz and tipped the puck past Robinson. Defenseman Taylor Johnson also assisted on the goal. The play ended Robinson’s night for Michigan Tech.
“Once again, we put ourselves down 2-0 very quick in the first period,” said Michigan Tech sophomore winger Ryan Furne. “That’s not a good start for us. It’s tough for us to come into our own building and give up two easy goals like that.”
Zabkowicz put Michigan Tech on the power play three minutes later, and Furne needed 44 seconds to pull his team within one. Michigan Tech freshman winger David Johnstone found Furne on the right side of the St. Cloud goal, and he lifted a one-timer past St. Cloud goaltender Mike Lee at 8:15. Assistant captain Steven Seigo also assisted on the goal.
Looking to even the game less than a minute into the middle period, Michigan Tech (13-16-4 overall, 10-11-4 WCHA) winger Blake Pietila had captain Brett Olson and assistant captain Carl Nielsen joining him on a three-on-two rush. Pietila fed Nielsen, but his shot was stopped.
Michigan Tech, which dropped to 4-13-2 when surrendering the first goal, had another golden opportunity a little over a minute later when a shot from the point kicked out to center Tanner Kero. The freshman’s backhanded rebound sailed just over the crossbar.
Center Joe Rehkamp extended the St. Cloud lead to three just 2:07 into the third period when he took a pass from defenseman Nick Jensen and redirected it past Genoe.
Michigan Tech senior winger Alex MacLeod cut the lead back to two at the seven-minute mark when his shot snuck through traffic and past Lee. Senior winger Bryce Reddick and freshman defenseman Justin Fillion both assisted on the goal.
Garret Milan regained the three-goal lead for St. Cloud at 10:10 when he lifted a shot over a sprawling Genoe. Holka assisted on the goal.
After Milan’s goal, Michigan Tech junior Corson Cramer saw his first action of the season in relief of Genoe. Over the final 9:50, Cramer stopped four St. Cloud shots.