OMAHA, Neb. — Michigan Tech forward Mikael Lickteig’s first goal of the season Saturday was one to remember for a variety of reasons.
The senior forward’s tally 2:56 into overtime gave the Huskies a 2-1 win at No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha, giving MTU its first points in four games against UNO this season. What’s more is that it was as gorgeous a game-winning goal as any Tech fans could’ve asked for.
Wristing a laser high inside the far post past UNO goaltender John Faulkner from the left circle, Lickteig salvaged a split of the teams’ weekend series with only his second goal in a Tech sweater.
This one put a big dent in UNO’s hopes of winning the WCHA regular-season championship.
With the win, MTU saw its record improve to 8-13-4 and 5-11-4 in the WCHA. UNO dropped to 16-10-2 and 12-6-2 in the league and the Mavericks are now three points behind first-place St. Cloud State in the WCHA standings.
“I’m really, really happy and proud of our players,” MTU coach Mel Pearson said. “We played a gritty, intense game against a very good hockey team on the road.
“That’s what you have to do on the road. You have to take advantage of your scoring opportunities and you have to get good goaltending and you have to limit their players’ scoring chances and I thought we did most of those things tonight.”
Following a forgettable first period that came and went almost entirely without incident – most of the stoppages in play were due to poorer than usual ice conditions at the CenturyLink Center – both UNO and MTU finally found their scoring touch again in the second.
David Johnstone scored Saturday’s first goal just 78 seconds into the game’s middle frame, entering the UNO zone on a two-on-one, keeping the puck for himself and beating Faulkner high near-side from the left circle.
It was Johnstone’s second goal of the weekend, as he had picked up a goal and an assist in Friday’s 4-3 loss to UNO. With Saturday’s goal, he now has nine points in his last 10 games.
Tech then held the run of play for most of the rest of the second period, but a Josh Archibald breakaway led to a UNO equalizer at 17:34. Archibald’s 15th goal of the season came on a clean breakaway with Archibald deking MTU goaltender Pheonix Copley before backhanding a shot low stick-side past the freshman netminder.
The teams remained deadlocked at a goal apiece until Lickteig sniped home his game-winner in overtime.
It was a goal Faulkner will certainly want back – it didn’t appear as though he had been screened on the shot – but Lickteig put enough torque into his attempt that the puck found the top corner over the UNO goalie’s glove.
Lickteig recently returned from a shoulder injury following Tech’s first Great Lakes Invitational championship in a generation, but you couldn’t have told that from watching him take his chance in Saturday’s extra period.
“I liked Mikael’s game at the GLI and he got injured, but he’s just now getting back into form,” Pearson said. “We’ve seen him shoot the puck like that every day in practice, so I wasn’t surprised by the shot.
“I told the team, ‘Anywhere on the ice in the offensive zone in overtime, get the puck to the net.’ Great shot and good for Mikael Lickteig.”
Copley kept up his end of the bargain at the other end of the ice, ending the night with 36 saves.
Neither goaltender was credited with any saves in the overtime period.
UNO coach Dean Blais was understandably disappointed with Saturday’s result, but he couldn’t fault his team’s effort in the second game of what turned out to be a much more hard-fought series than what many anticipated.
“I thought we played as well, if not better, than last night,” Blais said. “Michigan Tech played well. Their goalie played well. We had 37 shots on net, generated a lot of offense, took care of the puck.
“Certainly disappointed with the loss, but not with the effort. The effort was there and as a coach, that’s all you can ask. You generate shots, but you can’t control the other goaltender.”