HOUGHTON, Mich. — What’s the best way to prove you are ready for a rivalry game? The Michigan Tech Huskies answered that question Tuesday night by scoring four goals in each of the first two periods against the Northern Michigan Wildcats.
The Huskies’ Tanner Kero finished the night with two goals and two assists in an 8-2 victory at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
“It’s definitely fun,” Kero said. “Growing up always watching the Northern and Tech rivalry, seeing how good it feels to beat them, it’s kind of fun. … We had to get a few wins and getting the offense going is huge.”
The Huskies (10-14-4) were playing without their hottest scorer of late, David Johnstone, who had scored six points in his last four games but was held out for precautionary reasons.
“It’s huge not having David Johnstone,” Huskies coach Mel Pearson said. “He’s one of our leading scorers, probably our best forward or has been over the course of the last two games. Our other guys stepped up, and that’s what you need to do.”
Just 46 seconds into the game Huskies defenseman Riley Sweeney ripped a shot that hit Kero in front of the Wildcats’ goal. Kero grabbed the puck, spun to his forehand and wristed a shot over Jared Coreau’s left shoulder to give the Huskies the quick lead.
Not quite five minutes later the Huskies struck again when former Wildcats recruit Blake Pietila fed the puck across the top of the crease to a streaking Jacob Johnstone. Johnstone wasted no time burying his first goal of the season at 5:28.
“I came right off the bench from a line change,” Johnstone said. “Blake made a nice play in the neutral zone, chipped it by the defenseman. I went hard to the far post. I honestly didn’t see the puck coming. It felt good to get the monkey off my back.”
Wildcats defenseman Jake Baker was going to going to be whistled for a holding penalty when the Huskies struck a third time. Blake Pietila crashed the net and had the puck bounce off of Coreau and off his skate before going in at 7:34. Former Wildcats winger Chad Pietila and Kero both assisted on the goal, which stood as the game-winner when all was said and done.
On the ensuing power play, the Huskies scored their fourth of the game off the stick of leading scorer Alex Petan. Petan snatched up the rebound off a shot from Steven Seigo and beat Coreau at 8:24. Ryan Furne set up the initial shot by Seigo.
Thirty-five seconds later, the Wildcats (12-14-3) finally got on the board when Erik Higby found himself alone in the slot. Higby got a stick on a shot from Scott Macaulay at the left point and redirected the shot past Huskies goaltender Pheonix Copley at 8:59.
“We were not very good and they were really good,” Wildcats coach Walt Kyle said. “It wasn’t a goaltending issue tonight. I’m sure there were a couple of goals we would have liked to have back, but the reality was they outplayed us.”
On the next shift, Wildcats winger Reed Seckel hammered the Huskies’ Daniel Sova in the Huskies’ defensive zone and was assessed a five-minute major for charging. Michael Doan, who had entered in relief of Coreau, kept the score 4-1 despite three good scoring chances by the Huskies.
It took the Huskies 8:54 to score in the second period. Freshman Walker Hyland took a pass at the point from Blake Pietila and wristed a shot past Doan on the power play.
Another Huskies freshman extended the lead to five when Jujhar Khaira intercepted a clearing pass in the high slot. Khaira took his time, looked for an opening and beat Doan cleanly with a wrist shot at 13:12.
Kero’s second of the game came on the power play for a 7-1 lead. Hyland ripped a shot from the point that rebounded to Kero as he crashed the net. Kero lifted a backhand shot over Doan’s leg at 14:24.
Furne picked up the Huskies’ eighth goal of the night at 15:09. Furne crashed the net and took a pass from Johnstone before burying a one-timer behind Doan. Malcolm Gould also assisted on the goal.
The Wildcats scored the only goal of the third period with 50 seconds remaining when Jake Johnson beat Huskies netminder Jamie Phillips on a rebound chance. Phillips replaced Copley for the final 20 minutes.
Video: Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson
Video: Michigan Tech’s Jacob Johnstone
Video: Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle