Tech falls short of Tigers in finale

HOUGHTON – Just like the previous Saturday at St. Cloud State, Michigan Tech came out flying in Saturday’s home regular season finale against Colorado College. Unlike at SCSU, where Tech opened up a 3-0 lead (and won 5-1), the shots didn’t go in this time.

CC opened up the 3-0 lead instead, and the Tigers survived a Huskies comeback for a 4-3 win and a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series split at MacInnes Ice Arena – despite Tech’s season-best 49-24 shot advantage.

“We had the first three grade-A chances. Those go in like in St. Cloud and it’s a different game. We didn’t hit the net with them. Overall I was pleased with how we played, disappointed in the result,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said. ” All you can do is ask your players to give their best effort, and for the most part I thought we did that tonight. We played hard.”

Tech attempted 82 shots, compared to just 37 for CC; and the Huskies dominated the Tigers in the faceoff circle, 45-27. Colorado College, though, was more opportunistic than in Friday’s 2-0 loss to Tech, battling hard in its own right, according to coach Scott Owens.

“I thought it was a pretty good hockey game,” he said. “We competed well tonight. We had a little more edge, we battled, we competed, we seemed to be in a pretty good place.”

After settling things down after Tech’s quick start, CC scored the first goal at the 12:44 mark on a one-time shot from the slot by Hunter Fejes. The Tigers extended the lead to 2- and then 3-0 with Cody Bradley and Mike Boivin goals a minute apart early in the second period.

Bradley’s goal came after a sloppy turnover behind the net by Tech freshman netminder Pheonix Copley. Pearson had decided earlier in the week to give goaltender Jamie Phillips Friday night and Copley Saturday, and he stuck with the plan even after Phillips’ Friday shutout.

Boivin’s tally came just nine seconds into a power play – the first conversion on the man advantage by either team in 11 previous combined attempts during the series. Tech used its timeout immediately after.

“I just thought we were getting a little frustrated with the score being what it was and we played pretty well to that point, and we didn’t have much to show for it down three,” Pearson said. “I thought the timeout was good, we settled the team down and we got a big power-play goal (by freshman Alex Petan). That was a huge goal to get us back into the game.”

Petan’s tally, his 15th of the year, came just 1:02 after CC’s third goal, and 43 seconds into Archie Skalbeck’s slashing penalty.

“Everybody put their best foot forward and gave it all we had – we’re proud of that – unfortunately we didn’t get the win,” Petan said. “A little bit of luck on our side, I think we’d have the win.”

Tech continued to climb back in the second period with a goal by junior Milos Gordic, his second in as many nights and seventh of the year, roofing a backhander past CC senior goalie Joe Howe after making a power move from behind the net.

“We made a good push-back in the second,” Gordic said.

Unfortunately for Tech, though, CC quickly responded with a William Rapuzzi wrister from his knees only 35 seconds after Gordic’s goal.

“We did weather the storm a little bit. I think the fourth goal was huge,” Owens said.

Pearson agreed: “Obviously that fourth goal was a tough one. We make it 3-2, we were all over them, we have all the momentum and we make a poor play in the neutral zone and they get a couple bounces and it’s in the net the very next shift.”

Sophomore Tanner Kero brought Tech within 4-3 just 54 seconds into the third period, following the rebound of his initial shot, and Tech continually peppered Howe, unsuccessfully. Huskies senior goaltender Kevin Genoe, who started the third period, was pulled with 1:31 left, but Tech couldn’t solve Howe.

“He saw a lot of rubber and he willed us to a win,” Owens said.

After the final home game, which was only attended by 2,669 people, Tech honored its seven seniors: Genoe; defensemen Carl Nielsen, Steven Seigo and Tommy Brown; and forwards Aaron Pietila, Chad Pietila and Mikael Lickteig.

Factoring in the weekend’s other results, 10th-place Michigan Tech (12-18-4, 8-16-4 WCHA) will travel to third-place North Dakota in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, a best-of-three series starting this Friday.