HOUGHTON, Mich. — Two weeks ago, Michigan Tech winger Blake Pietila was helping Team USA win its second World Junior Championship title in four years.
Friday night, he was helping his college teammates pick up their third win in five games as the Huskies downed Bemidji State 4-0 at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
Pietila notched a pair of goals and added an assist to carry the Huskies to the victory.
“I think right from the start, we played really good,” said Pietila. “Overall, it was a real good team game tonight.”
The Huskies struck just 48 seconds into the contest when winger David Johnstone took a lead pass from defenseman Brad Stebner off a faceoff, cut towards the Beavers’ goal and slipped a backhand shot past BSU goalie Andrew Walsh and into the net.
“We were ready to play,” said Huskies’ coach Mel Pearson. “I thought we got off to a real good start. We were aggressive on our forecheck, created turnovers, created a lot of good scoring opportunities. I don’t think we scored on our best opportunities in the first.”
Five minutes later, the Huskies (7-12-3 overall, 4-10-3 WCHA) nearly doubled their lead as captain Carl Nielsen fed a crashing C.J. Eick. The young winger fired a one-timer that Walsh stopped. He then snatched the rebound and fired again, but Walsh was again equal to the task.
“The first period I thought was a snowstorm,” said Beavers’ coach Tom Serratore. “Michigan Tech took it to us in the first period. They scored that goal a couple of minutes in and that really put us on our heels. I was happy with the last 40 minutes.”
The Beavers (5-12-4 overall, 4-8-3 WCHA) did not sustain any puck control until their first power play of the game nearly eight minutes in. However, they were unsuccessful in challenging MTU netminder Pheonix Copley on the advantage.
Copley celebrated his 21st birthday with a 25-save shutout.
“We came out strong,” said Copley. “We obviously came out really hard, we got a goal real quick. Overall, we all played a solid game. We kept it to the outside and made it easy on me.”
On the first shift after the penalty kill, Huskies’ defenseman Steven Seigo took the puck to the net off a faceoff win, but his shot careened off of Walsh’s right shoulder and out of harm’s way.
Beavers’ winger David Boehm’s boarding penalty gave the Huskies a late chance to double their lead and this time, they didn’t waste it as Pietila gobbled up a rebound off a shot from winger Malcolm Gould and deposited the puck behind Walsh at 17:05. Junior winger Milos Gordic also assisted on the goal.
The Huskies started the second period on the power play. It seemed to last almost five minutes, as the Huskies used the momentum of the advantage to continue to pepper Walsh with shots. However, the sophomore was equal to the task, making four of his 28 saves in that sequence.
Bemidji State winger Danny Mattson had two good chances to cut into the Huskies’ lead about six-and-a-half minutes into the frame. The first hit the far post to Copley’s right, the second came shortly after when he picked the puck up, carried it into the slot and fired a shot through traffic that Copley stopped.
The Beavers had another golden opportunity when winger Radoslav Illo took a long lead pass when the Huskies overplayed a puck in their offensive zone. Illo skated in and fired a long blast that Copley stopped.
Pietila notched his second of the night 11:14 into the middle period when winger Alex Petan found him open in the high slot and Pietila fired a wrister that beat Walsh cleanly.
Huskies’ center Tanner Kero had a chance to extend the lead to four while shorthanded late in the period. Carrying the puck from his own end, Kero skated all the way in close before attempting to beat Walsh with a low shot.
Gordic had two opportunities to extend the Huskies’ lead just 20 seconds into the third period when he first tipped a point shot before grabbing a rebound and firing another shot at Walsh. Neither got through, but the Huskies would score 90 seconds later.
Pietila found himself alone in front of Walsh. His shot was stopped, but the rebound kicked to a waiting Gould. The freshman winger wasted no time burying the puck in the back of the net at 2:03.
With the shutout, his third of the season, Copley is now one shy of tying the school record for shutouts in a season.