State of euphoria: Petan scores winner in overtime, Huskies sweep Spartans
HOUGHTON – After 60 minutes of relentless, physical hockey Saturday night, the overtime period between Michigan Tech and Michigan State took on a retro look.
There wasn’t any fancy transition play, no tic-tac-toe passing combinations and no forward trying to dangle his way through a crowd.
Instead, it was hockey 101 – “Get it out, get it in and to the net,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said – as the Huskies and Spartans tried to claw out a win from a tossup 2-2 game.
Luck favors those who create their own, and a seemingly harmless Blake Pietila shot from the corner found its way onto linemate Alex Petan’s stick in the fourth minute of the extra period, and the sophomore buried his quick wrister through a maze of bodies to give Tech a 3-2 victory and weekend sweep of the Spartans.
The Huskies are now 3-0 at home this season with a 0-6-1 mark on the road.
“We just want to move the puck, under-handle the puck,” Petan said. “We tried to get things down deep and just threw it at the net, it kind of ping-ponged its way through and lucky enough it ended up on my stick.”
The overtime celebration was a familiar sight for the Huskies as the Black and Gold have now gone 8-2-9 in OT under Pearson.
“You just have to get everything at the net,” Pearson said.
“You just try to keep things simple in overtime and try to get every puck to the net and hope one finds its way through.”
It was a win of perseverance for Tech, as the hosts outshot MSU 38-19 and held one-goal leads at two separate times in the contest.
Freshman Brent Baltus gave Tech the lead three minutes into the game with his first collegiate tally, banging home a rebound from a Cliff Watson blue line slap shot.
It wasn’t the prettiest goal – Baltus couldn’t quite find the handle but the puck floated in anyway over outstretched MSU goalie Will Yanakeff – but they all count the same.
It was just the sixth game played for Baltus this season as the freshman has shuttled in and out of the lineup.
“The first one always seems like the hardest, so once you get that one hopefully you can keep things going,” Baltus said. “It definitely felt great.”
The Spartans seized one back less than a minute into the second period when David Bondra lifted a rebound over Tech goalie Pheonix Copley’s right shoulder.
It was the first goal Copley had allowed in four periods after a Friday shutout.
Thanks to a concentrated Husky backchecking effort, the Tech netminder saw just 38 shots on the weekend after facing 73 in the sweep at Michigan.
“A good offense is always starting with good defense,” Petan said. “We just wanted to bring all the guys back to the house and fan out from there and just give them perimeter shots if not no shots at all.”
Tech took back the lead with a power play goal at the end of the second period as Pietila sat behind the net and found forward Tanner Kero crashing in hard.
The Spartans gave a bizarre amount of time to the Huskies leader in assists, as Pietila was allowed to stick-handle unencumbered and pick out his pass.
MSU also grabbed one with a man-advantage, as big body Lee Reimer tipped home a Greg Wolfe shot from the point.
Tech peppered MSU with 38 shots on the night – though many were long and wide – to try and create opportunities in the chaos.
It finally paid off in OT.
“They don’t ask you how, especially at the end of the year when you look at the wins and loss columns,” Pearson said. “I thought we played hard enough and well enough to deserve the win, and we got a couple bounces tonight that maybe we haven’t gotten in some of the other close games.”