MARQUETTE, Mich. — After beating Northern Michigan at home Friday night, Michigan Tech looked to do the same thing at the Berry Events Center Saturday night.
Considering the Huskies had not won in Marquette since 2010, Saturday night’s 3-2 victory was an important step in the Huskies’ chase of a home playoff spot.
“I didn’t think tonight was our best game,” said Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson. “I thought Pheonix Copley really rose to the occasion. It wasn’t our best game, but we will take the win.”
Tanner Kero scored what would stand as the game-winner when he regained the lead for the Huskies just 4:49 into the third as he crashed the net. Alex Petan carried the puck into the offensive zone and wound up to fire a slap shot. Instead of shooting, he made a slap pass to Kero, who redirected the puck into the net.
“Huge four points this weekend,” said Kero. “We knew coming in we had to make in impression heading into the playoffs and fight for that home ice. That gutsy effort tonight was huge.”
The Wildcats nearly scored just over a minute in as Wade Epp fired a long shot from the left point at Copley. The puck beat Copley, but a quick whistle kept the goal from counting for the hosts.
The Huskies struck on their first scoring chance of the game at 3:56 when co-captain Blake Pietila entered the offensive zone on the left side of the ice. Pietila fed Reid Sturos, who was crashing the net, and Sturos redirected the puck past Mathias Dahlstrom for the goal.
Ryan Daugherty had a golden opportunity to even the game a little over midway through the period, but while his long shot beat Copley, it did not beat the post to Copley’s right.
“He made some great saves,” NMU coach Walt Kyle said about Copley. “There are a number of them that stick out.”
With Kero and Daugherty with matching minors, the Wildcats had another great scoring chance as Copley turned over the puck in front of his own net from the back boards. Luke Eibler fired a long shot at the empty goal, but somehow Copley got back and managed to a stick on the puck to keep it out.
The Wildcats (12-18-2 overall, 10-13-1 WCHA) did appear to even the game when Reed Seckel cut around the back of the Huskies’ goal, spun to his forehand and fired a shot that beat Copley late in the period. The call on the ice was that the puck did not cross the goal line, but instead hit the post.
Michigan Tech (14-16-6 overall, 12-10-4 WCHA) opened the second period by having to kill off two penalties, the first to Shane Hanna for hooking at 1:57 and the second to Jimmy Davis at 4:23. Sturos had a great chance to extend the Huskies’ lead when he replaced Hanna after the first penalty kill and fired a long shot at Dahlstrom.
Things worked out better for the Wildcats on the second advantage thanks to a key Huskies’ mistake.
Chris Leibinger attempted to clear the puck near his net with a slap shot. His attempt hit John Siemer and kicked right to Dominik Shine, who beat Copley at 6:12.
The Huskies regained their lead when Daniel Holmberg got a pass in the slot from Blake Hietala and beat Dahlstrom cleanly at 14:04.
“Obviously after last weekend, we wanted to come back and bounce back,” said MTU co-captain Brad Stebner. “We knew these were big games. I think we competed. To get four points we’re really happy about it.”
Daugherty evened the game for the Wildcats on their third power play of the period. With Hanna off for elbowing, Stephan Vigier fired a shot that Copley stopped. The rebound kicked right to Daugherty, who wasted no time burying the puck at 17:37. Brock Maschmeyer also assisted on the goal.
The Wildcats nearly tied the game on the next shift as Seckel crashed the slot and received a pass from Siemer in close to Copley. He made a quick move to his forehand, but Copley moved with him to make the save.
Shine was whistled for a high hit on Kero at 12:32 that gave the Huskies a five-minute power play, but they could not generate an insurance goal on the advantage. For the final 1:36 of the penalty, the Huskies played two men short instead as tempers flared both on the ice and on their bench, causing four Huskies to spend time in the box at the same time.
The Wildcats could not find the back of the net on either the advantage or later when Dahlstrom was pulled for the final minute of play.
Copley finished the night with 37 saves.