HOUGHTON, Mich. – In a game between a team coming off a bye week, the Michigan Tech Huskies, playing against a team that played last weekend, the Alaska Nanooks, Friday’s night contest appeared to be more of a role reversal than anything else as the Huskies looked more like a team that had played last weekend. Outshooting the Nanooks 15-4 in the first period, the Huskies rode that advantage to a 5-2 victory at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
While it was far from a perfect performance for head coach Joe Shawhan’s Huskies, there were several positives in the contest, especially from the defensive corps. Mitch Meek struck twice and Mark Auk added one of his own on the power play in the third as the Huskies got three goals and five points from their blue line in the win.
To make the feat even more impressive, the Huskies lost their leading scorer on the blue line, assistant captain Mitch Reinke, to a major penalty and a game misconduct late in the first period.
“We lost a tremendous defenseman tonight in the first period,” said Shawhan. “We got some great play out of those guys.”
Meek broke the ice for the Huskies just 7:05 into the contest when he was the receiver of a faceoff win by Alex Smith. Meek backed along the blue line, found a shooting lane and then beat Anton Martinsson with a wrist shot.
Meek never saw the puck cross the line.
“I just kind of shot it,” said Meek. “I saw he went down. I tried to shoot it high there, but I am lucky it went in.”
For Meek, the goal was his first since the second game of the season when he struck in the first period against Union.
Meek added his second of the night to break a 1-1 deadlock just 2:10 into the third. Seeing a breakdown in the Nanooks’ defense in the slot, Meek jumped up and called for a pass from winger Greyson Reitmeier, who found him with a pass on the tape. Meek turned and beat Martinsson with another wrist shot.
“It seems like, whenever we play these guys, whatever breakdowns we make are in our net,” said Nanooks head coach Lance West. “Two point shots made it all the way through to our net. That can’t happen. That made the difference.”
Meek added an assist on Auk’s goal at the 14:25 mark of the third when he feed the puck across the blue line to Auk, who wired a shot past Martinsson.
Despite having three freshmen in the lineup amongst the five remaining defenders for the final 40 minutes of play, Auk did not feel any added pressure to lead his compatriots.
“I feel you should always try to be a leader in your own way,” said Auk. “So, that shouldn’t fall far away from your game at any point in time. (I just try) to keep doing the same things.”
One Huskies forward had a strong night. Houghton native Raymond Brice picked up an assist on Meek’s second goal of the night and added a goal 10:12 later.
Thomas Beretta added a late goal as Martinsson was making his way to the bench for an extra skater.
Tyler Cline and Chad Staley both found the net for the Nanooks in the contest.