HOUGHTON, Mich. –Coming off a road sweep at Bowling Green, Michigan Tech returned home looking for some Winter Carnival magic against visiting Alabama-Huntsville.
The Huskies got the effort they needed as co-captain Blake Pietila and assistant captain Tanner Kero, who struck twice in the middle frame, provided the offense and MTU skated away with a 4-1 victory Friday night at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
“I don’t know that we loved our effort tonight,” said Huskies’ assistant coach Damon Whitten. “I don’t know that we loved our game as a team, but certainly, it’s nice to get the win on a night you don’t feel like you brought your best effort.”
The Huskies (11-14-6 overall, 9-8-4 WCHA), winners of three straight, nearly struck in the first six minutes when assistant captain Dennis Rix snatched the puck in the corner to Chargers’ goalie Carmine Guerriero’s right. Rix rifled a pass through the slot to Reid Sturos, but his one-timer was stopped.
Pietila got the Huskies on the board at 7:01. Walker Hyland eluded a Chargers’ forechecker to move the puck up to Sturos, who found Pietila cutting through the slot, and Pietila wasted no time roofing a backhand over Guerriero’s shoulder.
“Any win you get is good,” said Pietila. “I think we had moments in the game where we struggled a little bit, but I think we buried most of our chances.”
Four minutes later, C.J. Eick nearly extended the Huskies’ lead when Malcolm Gould fed the puck to Mike Neville in the slot. Neville pushed the puck to his left, where Eick was cutting to the net. Eick’s deke did not elude Guerriero, who made one of his 19 saves for the period.
“I thought we played real hard,” said Chargers’ coach Mike Corbett. “I liked our game. Every game is a learning experience. This is one of the top two teams in our league talent-wise.”
The Chargers (1-27-1 overall, 1-17-1 WCHA) challenged Pheonix Copley a few times early in the second, but the Michigan Tech netminder was equal to the task despite only seeing five shots through the first 20 minutes of play. His three saves gave the Huskies a chance to get to work and they rewarded their goalie’s hard work with a goal of their own.
Kero scored the first of his two goals by circling around to the back door off a line change. Gould found him open and Kero buried a backhand at 10:33. Eick also assisted on the goal.
“We know we can beat any team in this league as long as we work together and play our game,” said Kero. “We just focus on that and prepare the way we do.”
The Chargers finally earned their first power play of the game in the latter stages of the second period, but could not get any pucks to Copley until after the advantage ended.
The Huskies struck again when Rix finished serving his slashing penalty before jumping on the ice and receiving the puck from Jacob Johnstone. Rix carried the puck to the UAH goal before feeding Kero for his second of the night at 17:39.
Kero had a golden opportunity to pick up his third of the night while shorthanded. Grabbing the puck on his own blue line, Kero blew past the Chargers’ defender, skated in on Guerriero, but could not find a gap.
Guerriero, suffering from cramps, exited the game after the play. Matt Larose came in to finish the game.
The Chargers got on the board shortly after their second power play when Jack Prince fired a shot that rebounded to Alex Allan, who spun around to make room for himself before burying the puck in the back of the net at 9:28.
The Huskies responded to the goal with a power-play marker when Pietila netted his second of the night at 13:09. David Johnstone fired a shot from the high slot that rebounded to Sturos, who fired another shot that bounced to Pietila, who deposited the puck in the back of the net.
Guerriero and Larose combined to make 47 saves. Copley finished the night with 20.