HOUGHON, Mich. — If the Michigan Tech Huskies could play the Bemidji State Beavers all season long, they might be the top team in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
Instead, they only faced the Beavers four times this season, but have three wins and a tie after Saturday night’s 2-2 tie at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
Looking to tie the game early in the third, Huskies’ center Tanner Kero took a pass off the end boards from winger Alex Petan and made a quick deke. His shot was stopped by Beavers goaltender Andrew Walsh, but the rebound kicked to winger Blake Pietila, who buried it with a quick backhand at 3:06 for his third goal of the weekend.
“We had a tough start,” said Pietila. “I think we got better every period. It says a lot about the guys in the locker room to come back after that tough start and get back to the game plan. It was nice to get a point at least.”
The Beavers (5-12-5 overall, 4-8-4 WCHA) looked for a better start than Friday night, where they gave up a goal just 48 seconds in. They appeared to have learned little in the opening minute and a half, as the Huskies blitzed the Beavers’ defense. For all their effort however, the Huskies couldn’t manage to get a shot through to Walsh, who finished the night with 28 saves.
The Beavers settled in after that initial flurry, and pushed back after receiving an early power play. Their best scoring chance came to a halt when a cross-ice pass in the slot was intercepted by Pietila.
“I just thought we really just played tenacious, a lot like we did against Western Michigan and Michigan on the PK,” said Huskies coach Mel Pearson. “[Blake] made a great play in the first period on the PK. The guy’s open back door and he gets a stick in that lane.”
On their second man advantage, the Beavers had a great scoring chance when defenseman Brady Wacker fired a long shot through traffic that Huskies netminder Pheonix Copley stopped. The rebound sat near his equipment, and the Beavers swung away at the puck, but to no avail. Copley made 31 saves over the course of the game.
After that power play, the next shift saw the Huskies (7-12-4 overall, 4-10-4 WCHA) get a great scoring chance when winger David Johnstone took a pass from winger Malcolm Gould, spun, and fired. Walsh stayed with him however, and made the stop.
“Walsh played well,” said Beavers coach Tom Serratore. “Copley played well, Walsh played well. Two good goaltenders and two guys who are seeing the puck very well.”
The Beavers pushed the puck up the ice late in the opening period, and winger Jordan George nearly had a perfect opportunity to score when his initial shot deflected off Copley. Copley lost sight of the rebound, which dropped right between his feet, but George could not react fast enough.
After a scrum behind Copley’s net led to a Huskies’ power play, the Beavers broke the scoreless tie when captain Ben Kinne took a long lead pass from defenseman Sam Windle, skated in alone, and beat Copley with a wrist shot just inside the left post at 17:08.
The Huskies came out in the second period pushing the play at the Beavers’ defense. In one consecutive sequence, Pietila, Petan, and captain Carl Nielsen all had scoring chances, as Pietila’s initial shot rebounded off of Walsh’s mask to a waiting Petan. The second rebound bounced just over Nielsen’s stick.
After a faceoff loss deep in the Beavers’ zone, Huskies’ winger Ryan Furne picked up the puck in the left corner. He carried the puck out into the slot, waited for Walsh to set up, and then picked the corner over his blocker at 6:01 to tie the game.
Five and a half minutes later however, the Beavers regained the lead when center Aaron McLeod crashed the net and tipped a pass from winger Brance Orban past Copley at 11:25.
The rest of the second period was more of a chess match than a hockey game, as neither team was willing to give up much defensively. Late in the period, the Huskies earned a power play chance, and nearly evened the game when Johnstone and Petan created a two-on-none chance in front of Walsh. Johnstone tried to wait out Walsh, but instead fired his shot over the net.
The Huskies had a golden opportunity to snatch the lead three minutes later when center Dennix Rix skated in alone on Walsh. He made a quick move to his forehand, but was stopped. Winger C.J. Eick had a chance at the rebound as he crashed the net, but he was also stopped.
Both teams traded chances throughout the final 14 minutes of regulation, but neither could solve Copley or Walsh, forcing the game into overtime.
In the extra session, the Beavers jumped all over the Huskies early, but Copley stood tall. After the Huskies got their feet underneath them, they had a chance of their own off the stick of Johnstone.
Kero and Pietila each took penalties late in the overtime, but the Beavers could not muster a shot on goal during the two-man advantage.