After slow start, Huskies settle for a draw

HOUGHTON – The Michigan Tech hockey team couldn’t get a second straight quick start against Bemidji State, so it got whatever it could.

The Huskies’ takeaway from Saturday was a come-from-behind 2-2 tie and a three-point Western Collegiate Hockey Association weekend.

Tech coach Mel Pearson said his team cannot consider Saturday’s point a satisfactory result.

“I don’t think so. You have to be careful though, it’s better than a lot of the alternatives. We have to at this point in the year try and get every point we can. It’s a valuable point, but you walk out a little disappointed without getting all four,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said.

Friday, the Huskies finished the first period up 2-0 and well on their way to two points. Saturday, they may have been fortunate to only be down 1-0 after going shorthanded three times and getting outshot 15-3.

“We thought we were ready, but you know what? They were more ready. It showed in the first period,” Pearson said.

The Huskies fell behind during their only power play of the first with about three minutes left. Bemidji cleared the puck high into the neutral zone over the Tech defense and onto the stick of a streaking Ben Kinne. Kinne had a 2-on-0 break but kept it himself, beating Pheonix Copley low for the opener and a goal exactly to BSU’s plan.

“We played with more jump. We played on our toes, we had more jump, we made more plays, we took care of the puck. I think we stubbed our toe the first 48 seconds into the game (Friday) night and you can’t do that on the road,” BSU coach Tom Serratore said.

Ryan Furne tied it for Tech six minutes into the second, shooting high over BSU goalie Andrew Walsh’s shoulder from a sharp angle, only for Bemidji to even it about five minutes later when Aaron McLeod buried a spin-o-rama pass from Brance Orban standing on the goal line.

Tech went into the third period desperate for an equalizer and got it from its go-to guy, Blake Pietila.

The Huskies had good jump throughout the opening minutes, and after chasing a deflected puck to the end boards, Tanner Kero flipped it behind him to Pietila on the doorstep for the tying goal.

“I just happened to be going to the front of the net and that’s where a lot of the goals are scored nowadays. A lucky bounce and I guess I’ll take it,” Pietila said.

As big as Pietila’s goal was on the offensive end, a play he made late on a first-period penalty kill might have been even bigger. The sophomore deflected a pass for an open Orban on the back door to prevent an early goal, blunting the Huskies’ rough start and keeping their PK perfect in seven tries against what was the league’s third best power play entering the weekend.

“The penalty kill’s been struggling a little bit in the first half of the year. This was definitely a start,” Pietila said, calling the PK effort “fantastic.”

Tech’s best chance to take a third-period lead came when Dennis Rix broke in alone from the near boards. He tried to put a move on Walsh, but the BSU goalie stood his ground and kept the puck in front of him.

Tech had four shots on goal in OT, but found itself in survival mode in the last minute after a Kero penalty gave BSU a power play for the last 55 seconds. Pietila took a slashing call with five seconds to go, but a late Kinne shot hit the side of the net as time expired.

“I really believed we were going to win the game tonight. I thought we just hung around, hung around, played hard and we would get that one tonight, that we’d finally get the lead at some point tonight and we didn’t,” Pearson said.

The draw preserves two streaks, one good and one bad: The Huskies have yet to lose a regular season overtime game in two years under Pearson, but they are also still winless this season when failing to score first.

With the tie, Tech (7-12-4, 4-10-4 WCHA) and Bemidji (5-12-5, 4-8-4) are tied for 10th in the league standings.

“Pheonix Copley was the difference. Really, in the first period, I thought it could be three or four-nothing for Bemidji, but Pheonix had a great first period,” Pearson said.

Copley finished with 31 saves in his fourth straight start. Walsh stopped 28 shots for Bemidji.

Both teams play their next games against Nebraska-Omaha. The Beavers host the Mavericks next weekend, while Tech plays at Omaha Feb. 1-2 after an idle weekend.