HOUGHTON, Mich. — Looking to build on their success from last Saturday against St. Cloud State, Michigan Tech jumped out to an early lead and never looked back in a 2-0 tonight over Colorado College.
The Huskies had a stellar effort from goaltender Jamie Phillips, who was making just his third career start.
“It’s all about defense,” said Huskies’ coach Mel Pearson. “They have a good offensive team, obviously they are the fourth-ranked offensive team in the country. I thought our guys did a real good job taking away their time and space tonight and Jamie Phillips did a great job.”
Phillips finished the night with 22 saves in earning his first career shutout. He has now stopped 58 of his last 59 shots against. He makes it seem as though that is just part of his routine.
“Nothing has really changed; I just battle really hard everyday,” said Phillips. “Pheonix [Copley] has been playing really well and Kevin [Genoe] was playing well at the start of the year. I was just waiting for my opportunity. Now that I got it, I’m just trying to make the most of it.”
The Huskies had the game’s first good scoring chance just 15 seconds into play when Tanner Kero launched a wrist shot targeted for the top corner over CC goalie Joe Howe’s shoulder, but the shot sailed just high.
Michigan Tech had another good scoring chance when Jujhar Khaira snatched up a rebound off a shot from David Johnstone. Khaira’s shot deflected off a Tigers’ defender in front and over the net again.
A minute after killing off the game’s first power play, the Huskies used a fortunate bounce to break the ice. After taking a pass at center ice from Khaira, Milos Gordic drove around a Tigers’ defender before firing a shot at Howe. The rebound bounced off a backchecking Tigers’ forward and back into the goal at 9:40.
The Huskies (12-17-4 overall, 8-15-4 WCHA) had another great scoring chance late in the opening frame when Aaron Pietila skated into the Colorado College zone and dropped the puck for Dennis Rix. The center blasted a shot that Howe struggled to reach before making the save.
Howe finished the night with 31 saves.
“In some areas, I was happy,” said Tigers’ coach Scott Owens. “I thought Joe Howe played well. I thought our penalty killing was pretty good. Our overall team defense was decent. We just didn’t pay the price to generate more scoring chances.”
Gordic had a pair of chances to extend the Huskies’ lead just over a minute into the second period off a wraparound. His initial backhand was stopped and the rebound kicked right back to him, but again Howe stopped his backhand shot.
Just under five minutes into the middle frame, MTU leading scorer Alex Petan took a pass in the slot from Kero and attempted a one-time blast, but Howe positioned himself well to make the save.
Two minutes later, C.J. Eick had another chance to extend the Huskies’ lead when he took a lead pass from Rix. He cut to the Tigers’ net, but ran out of room before being able to make a deke around Howe.
“I think we are playing some of our better hockey,” said Kero. “We are playing really good defensively. I think we will take this really [well] into the playoffs.”
The Huskies earned 1:43 of five-on-three time halfway through the period, but only Ryan Furne was able to challenge Howe with a tough save.
Phillips made arguably the game’s best save off the stick of Ryan Schwartz, who took a pass on the right side of the slot and fired a one-timer that Phillips had to stretch out to stop.
Phillips was called upon to make another huge save on Schwartz 11 minutes into the third. Schwartz took a cross-ice pass to Phillips’ right, but since he is a left-hand shot, he had to adjust before shooting, giving Phillips time to adjust to the play.
The Tigers are now 13-16-5 overall and 10-13-4 in WCHA play.
Gordic had yet another chance to give the Huskies a two-goal lead 12 1/2 minutes into the final period after taking a pass in the slot from Khaira, but his shot was stopped. A minute later, Petan had an open net, but somehow he hit a Tigers’ defender rather than the back of the goal and the game remained a one-goal lead.
The Huskies had another golden opportunity to extend their lead when Petan intercepted a clearing attempt. He waited out Howe before passing the puck to Kero, who fired wide of the goal.
With Howe pulled for an extra attacker, Kero iced the game for the Huskies with 21 seconds left. Blake Pietila took a lead pass from Steven Seigo and carried the puck down the left-hand side of the ice. Instead of shooting for the yawning goal, Pietila fed Kero the puck and he buried it.