HOUGHTON, Mich. — Looking for their first sweep of the season in their first full home weekend, the Michigan Tech Huskies used a big overtime goal from Alex Petan to defeat the visiting Michigan State Spartans, 3-2, Saturday night at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
Petan’s goal was setup by hard work from Tanner Kero and Blake Pietila. Kero knocked the puck around behind the Spartans’ goal to Pietila, who fired the puck back towards Will Yanakeff. The puck hit a Spartans defender in front of the net and kicked out to a waiting Petan, who roofed a wrist shot past Yanakeff for the win at 3:52 of the extra session.
“We wanted to keep it simple and play our game,” said Petan. “Tonight we came out strong, but we made things interesting. We got the win, and that’s what counts.”
Almost from the drop of the puck during the opening faceoff, the Huskies were back to doing what had worked so well on Friday night. They pressured the Spartans defense early and often, and Dennis Rix set up C.J. Eick for the game’s first scoring chance just a minute and a half in. Yanakeff was equal to the task.
The Huskies continued the pressure, and at the three-minute mark, their work was rewarded when Cliff Watson fired a long shot from the left point. The shot rebounded to Brent Baltus, who fired a wrist shot that got up over Yanakeff and into the back of the net for his first career goal.
“The first one always seems the hardest,” said Baltus. “Confidence goes way up once you get that first one.”
Nickolas Gatt had the Spartans (3-5-0 overall) first good scoring chance two minutes later. The Spartans took a page out of the Huskies’ game plan and pressured the Huskies defense. The puck was fed to Gatt, but his shot was stopped by Pheonix Copley.
“I thought it was a good performance for our team,” said Huskies coach Mel Pearson. “I think both teams played to win tonight.”
The Huskies recovered quickly, and took control of the game for the next several minutes. Ryan Furne took a pass out in the high slot, but his wrist shot was stopped by Yanakeff’s left arm.
Eick had another good chance when he intercepted a clearing pass from a Spartans defender. Skating in from the right side of the slot, Eick’s shot was stopped again by Yanakeff, who squared up nicely to make the save.
“I thought we had a better effort tonight,” said Spartans coach Tom Anastos. “[We're] certainly disappointed in the end result. We tend to make critical mistakes at bad times.”
The Huskies (3-6-1 overall) flew out of the gates to start the second period, and the line of Rix, Eick, and Malcolm Gould had two scoring opportunities in close to Yanakeff. Fortunately for the visitors, the senior was equal to the task, making two of his 35 saves for the night.
After the slow start, the Spartans did get their skates underneath them, and they began to push back. Joe Cox set up Michael Ferrantino with a pass that set up the game’s tying goal. Ferrantino attempted a wraparound that Copley stopped. The puck laid just out of reach for Copley however, and David Bondra swooped in and lifted the puck over Copley’s shoulder and in at the :57 mark.
Once the Spartans evened the score, the game began to feel more like a volleyball or tennis match, with both teams attempting long breakaway passes as opposed to short, controlled passes. Neither team could gain a foothold in the other’s offensive zone until late in the period when Spartans captain Greg Wolfe took a penalty for interference when he ran over Rix.
On the ensuing power play, Blake Pietila fed Tanner Kero, who had parked himself just to Yanakeff’s left. Kero one-timed the pass past Yanakeff at 19:58. Alex Petan also assisted on the goal, Kero’s second of the season.
A penalty by the Huskies’ Riley Sweeney 3:24 into the third set up the game’s tying goal.
After an attempted clear by Rix hit Wolfe in the leg and kicked back into the Spartans offensive zone, Jake Chelios found Wolfe at the right point with a pass. Wolfe fired a low shot on goal that was redirected in front by Lee Reimer and past Copley at 4:00.
“I think we had a lot more jump tonight,” said Wolfe. “[The goal] was huge for us. We carried that momentum in the third. We battled all night.”
The Spartans built off of the momentum created by the goal and played possibly their best hockey of the weekend in the third, forcing the Huskies to turn the puck over several times and getting good scoring chances. Copley kept the game tied, making six of his 17 saves for the game in the frame.
The Huskies had maybe the best scoring chance of the overtime session before their game-winner when Baltus picked up a rebound off a shot from co-captain Brad Stebner, but Yanakeff made a huge save with his right leg.