HOUGHTON, Mich. — Looking for a better offensive effort than they had on Friday night, the visiting Colorado College Tigers took a huge step forward Saturday. By scoring early and then holding on late for a 4-3 win over the host Michigan Tech Huskies at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena, the Tigers did plenty to build momentum for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs next weekend.
“I thought we competed more tonight,” said Tigers coach Scott Owens. “We had a little more edge. We battled, we competed. We seemed to be in a pretty good place.”
Starting goalie Joe Howe made 20 of his 46 saves for the game in the second period to help preserve the victory.
The Huskies came out of the gates hard, and were rewarded with a great scoring chance just 17 seconds in when Milos Gordic found Jujhar Khaira cutting toward the Tigers’ goal, but Khaira’s shot sailed wide.
“We played hard,” said Huskies coach Mel Pearson. “I thought we pushed the pace. We had a couple of tough breaks on the goals, but for the most part, I was happy with how we played.”
Pheonix Copley make a huge stop off the stick of Tigers forward Alexander Krushelnyski. Pearson chose to give his freshman one last audition before the playoffs.
“Pheonix has played a lot of hockey for us,” said Pearson of the decision to start Copley. “He’s won some big games for us. We just didn’t feel as good for Pheonix to have to sit a couple of weeks and then maybe have to throw him in in the playoffs.”
The Tigers scored first when Andrew Hamburg found Hunter Fejes in the slot to Copley’s left, and Fejes fired a shot high blocker side that Copley could not quite reach at 12:44.
In the second period, the Tigers extended their lead to 2-0 when Copley and Hamburg got crossed up behind the Huskies’ goal, allowing Hamburg to grab the loose puck and feed Cody Bradley, who deposited it in the empty goal at 4:25.
Off a faceoff to start a Tigers power play, Mike Boivin opened up a three-goal Tigers’ lead with a slap shot that deflected off two or three players on its way behind Copley.
The Huskies (12-18-4 overall, 8-16-4 WCHA) responded to the third goal by taking control of the game. A minute later, they were rewarded for their effort with a power play. Steven Seigo moved to the middle of the ice before feeding Alex Petan at the left point, who rocketed a slap shot past Howe at 6:34.
“I think sometimes we try to be a little too cute,” said Petan. “When we throw shots on net, anything can happen. We just have to keep shooting.”
Pouring the pressure on, the Huskies peppered Howe with several scoring chances before Gordic spun around and fired a backhand shot over Howe’s left shoulder at 14:58.
“We had a good push back there in the second,” said Gordic. “This weekend, I’ve just been trying to take the puck to the net. I kind of just backhanded it and it deflected off the stick into the top corner there.”
However, before the Huskies could tie it, Archie Skalbeck, Scott Winkler, and William Rapuzzi broke loose on a three-on-two. Winkler fed Rapuzzi in the slot, and the Tigers captain beat Copley over his right shoulder at 15:33.
Looking to cut the Tigers’ lead back to one, the Huskies flew out of the gates to start the third. Taking a pass from Petan as he cut towards Howe, Tanner Kero fired an initial shot that Howe stopped. The rebound kicked right back to Kero, who drove around Howe and buried the puck in the back of the net just 54 seconds in.
Pearson pulled Kevin Genoe, who started the third period in relief of Copley, with 1:31 remaining, looking for the equalizer. Petan appeared to have it just 10 seconds later, but he could not quite pull the trigger with a Tigers’ defender draped over him.