HOUGHTON, Mich. — Looking to even things up with visiting Northern Michigan, host Michigan Tech snagged a pair of tallies from Blake Pietila en route to a 4-1 victory Saturday night at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
The Huskies were hoping a little home cooking would help them end their winless streak to start the season, but after Mike Neville took a penalty just 24 seconds in, it did not appear as though the change in venue would help.
Fortunately, the Huskies were not only able to kill off the penalty, but they kept the Wildcats from getting anything through to goaltender Pheonix Copley.
Copley, who was making his first back-to-back start of the season, finished the game with 14 saves.
The Wildcats had the game’s first good scoring chance when Stephan Vigier intercepted a Huskies’ defender’s pass. Vigier spun and attempted to feed one of his wingers, but fortunately for Copley and the Huskies, the pass did not connect.
“I think they came out and did a great job putting us behind the 8-ball,” said Wildcats’ coach Walt Kyle. “We made some mistakes, we made some breakdowns, and they capitalized.”
A fast breakout by the Huskies’ Max Vallis set up Hietala’s first marker. After securing the puck near his own blueline, Vallis chipped it past a Wildcats’ defender before skating around him and setting up a give-and-go with Hietala. Two passes later, Hietala was sliding the puck past Mathias Dahlstrom for his first of the season.
“I thought we were ready tonight,” said Huskies’ coach Mel Pearson. “We got a couple of bounces to go our way and we got the lead.”
With NMU’s Mitch Jones off for tripping, Hietala was at it again after taking a pass from David Johnstone. Hietala fired an initial shot, which was blocked, but after grabbing the rebound, he fired again and beat Dahlstrom over the left shoulder at 7:24. Daniel Holmberg also assisted on the goal.
“I’m just out there trying to get pucks out of our zone, block shots, get behind their defensemen and go to work,” said Hietala. “The puck has been finding me so far this year.”
The Huskies nearly made it 3-0 a little over a minute later when Johnstone tipped a shot from co-captain Brad Stebner at the left point, but his redirection was handled by Dahlstrom.
The Huskies struck for the third time in the game just 39 seconds into the middle frame. Neville skated the puck deep into Wildcats’ territory before feeding Alex Petan, who was crashing the net. Petan needed no time to bury a one-timer behind Dahlstrom. Shane Hanna also assisted on the goal, Petan’s second of the season.
Vigier answered that tally 28 seconds later when he picked up the puck in the Huskies’ zone. Cutting across the slot from the right boards, Vigier beat Copley with a low wrist shot on Copley’s glove side.
Johnstone regained the three-goal lead for the Huskies at 7:37 when his rebound found room behind Dahlstrom. Neville found Hanna at the left point for the initial shot, which rebounded to Johnstone, who snatched the puck up and buried it with a backhand shot.
The Huskies continued to pressure the Dahlstrom and the Wildcats at every opportunity in the second, ending the period with a 25-7 advantage in shots through two periods. Seven of their 16 second-period shots came on two separate power-play chances in the latter half of the period.
Keeping the pressure on in the third, the Huskies had a great opportunity to extend their lead when C.J. Eick stole the puck at the Wildcats’ blueline and skate in alone on Dahlstrom, but Dahlstrom held his ground, keeping the Wildcats within striking distance as he made one of his 29 saves on the night.