HOUGHTON, Mich. — Looking to build off their split last weekend in Omaha, the Michigan Tech Huskies returned home for Winter Carnival. However, it was the visiting Alaska-Anchorage, rookies to the Winter Carnival scene, who drummed up a little magic of their own to snap a 14-game winless streak with a 5-4 win at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
“I am proud of our guys, obviously,” said Seawolves coach Dave Shyiak. “A win’s important for us. More than the two points, is just kind of mentally. It’s been a rough patch with all these ties. To come back on the road, and win the way we did, just says a lot about our guys.”
With the game tied 4-4, Seawolves winger Jordan Kwas fired a shot at Huskies goaltender Pheonix Copley. The rebound kicked out to winger Scott Allen, who fired on goal. The puck hit Kwas and beat Copley, giving the Seawolves their first lead of the game with 45 seconds remaining in regulation.
“Tech obviously had us on our heels in the first half of the game,” said Kwas. “We battled back and got some bounces, which kind of hasn’t been our thing this year. It has been a bumpy season. The boys couldn’t be happier right now.”
The Huskies came out with plenty of jump, clearly fired up about their special weekend, and their efforts were rewarded just 4:28 in. An offensive zone faceoff win by center Dennis Rix led to quick shot from winger Aaron Pietila along the ice. The shot whistled through everyone, including goaltender Chris Kamal, and into the back of the net.
Leading 1-0 already, the Huskies’ all-junior line of wingers Ryan Furne and Milos Gordic centered by Jacob Johnstone got to work. A keep-in at the point by defenseman Riley Sweeney ended up on the stick of Gordic, who fired a shot at Kamal. The rebound kicked right to Furne, who buried it in the back of the net.
“Winter Carnival is a tradition around here,” said Furne. “It sucks not winning tonight. The only thing we can do is put it behind us and go into tomorrow night’s game with more jump in our step.”
After the Huskies’ second goal, Shyiak used his timeout to settle his troops. He also used the break to switch goaltenders, putting Rob Gunderson between the pipes, a move that paid huge dividends for the Seawolves.
The Seawolves (4-16-7 overall, 2-15-6 WCHA) played better after settling down. Assistant captain Matt Bailey deked through two Huskies defenders before firing a shot over a sprawling Copley, beating the netminder at 10:42 to cut the lead to one.
A late power play allowed the Huskies to get back on the board when assistant captain Steven Seigo blasted a shot from the point past Gunderson at 18:30. Wingers David Johnstone and Alex Petan both assisted on the goal.
“We got off to good start,” said Huskies coach Mel Pearson. “We were ready to play. I thought we got off to good starts the first and the second period. Obviously, it’s a close game … and that’s what they want. They’ve come back before on teams.”
The Huskies (8-14-4 overall, 5-12-4 WCHA) started the second period much like the first, as they forced pucks to Gunderson often. Sweeney had perhaps the best early chance just 30 seconds in when he made a quick move to his forehand before beating Gunderson. Unfortunately, he couldn’t beat the post.
A minute later, Petan fed David Johnstone for a one-timer, but again Gunderson was there to make the stop. Shortly after, Seawolves defenseman Scott Warner took his second penalty of the game, and the Huskies made him pay.
Tanner Kero received the puck at the left point. With Jacob Johnstone and Gordic both in front of Gunderson, he ripped a shot that was tipped by Gordic over Gunderson’s shoulder at the two-minute mark.
“We are trying not to change anything,” said Kwas. “We’ve been in those situations countless, at least five or six, times this season. We already have how many losses, so we’re not worried about the outcome. We’re just trying to play our game.”
The Huskies continued to keep the pressure on over the next eight minutes. Kero fed winger Blake Pietila for a one-timer across the front of the net, but his shot was stopped by Gunderson. Pietila was led with a breakaway pass a minute later, but was again thwarted by Gunderson, who made 18 of his 36 stops in the second period.
Copley was equally good on the other end of the rink, as he was called upon to make three stops in the same sequence during a goalmouth scramble.
A late power play gave the Seawolves the shot in the arm they needed, as center Daniel Naslund used his body to redirect a shot from center Blake Tatchell past Copley at 17:25.
With Kero off for slashing almost six minutes into the third period, the Seawolves used the advantage to get within one. Bailey found Kwas alone in front of Copley for his first of the night, as his one-timer beat Copley at 6:58.
The game remained a one-goal advantage for the Huskies until Tatchell got loose in the late stages. Stepping just over the Huskies’ blue line, Tatchell unloaded a shot that snuck underneath Copley’s right leg at 17:51.
The Seawolves had a glorious chance to win the game before Kwas’ second goal when Bailey took a saucer pass from Naslund. Bailey’s one-timer was stopped by Copley, who finished the night with 23 saves.