Bad break ties Huskies, Beavers

HOUGHTON – If the Michigan Tech hockey team’s season could be summed up in just one game, it would probably look quite a bit like the 2-2 tie the Huskies skated to with Bemidji State Friday night at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

Tech outshot Bemidji 38-21 – but had to settle for just two even-strength goals thanks to an 0-for-6 performance on the power play. The defense and goaltending were both strong once again – but a bad-luck stick-breaking at the wrong time led to a breakout for the Beavers’ most dangerous scorer Cory Ward, who ripped a wrister to tie the game.

Tech created several dangerous chances with a strong forecheck, but lacked the precision needed on passes and shots to finish them. Alex Petan, Daniel Holmberg and Mike Neville can all leave the rink wanting more.

The scoreless overtime leaves Tech at 6-8-3 on the year (4-3-2 in WCHA) and tied for fifth place in the conference standings.

“I thought both teams skated well,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said. “Not much to choose between the two teams. Obviously we have to get our power play in order. We had an opportunity to do some things in the first period (0-for-4) and we didn’t. But overall I thought our team played well. … as much as I want two points it is important to keep getting points and moving forward.”

It was the struggles of the power play that bit the Huskies once again.

Tech had four chances with the man-advantage in the first period but couldn’t generate much to put freshman goaltender Jesse Wilkins – making his first career start – on his heels. Two special teams opportunities in the second and third period also went awry.

Tech has reached four goals just once in 17 games this year, and Pearson and the players chalk that up to the power play converting less than 10 percent of the time.

“We are way too deliberate,” Pearson said. “We get (the puck), and then we hold on to it. We move it, then we hold on to it. … we had a few good shots – Dan Sova had a nice few – but other than that we didn’t generate a whole lot. We have to be better.”

The Beavers went ahead after Ward scored from in close on a Bemidji power play midway through the second period, but Tech rebounded with two goals within 30 seconds of each other to start the third frame when Holmberg and C.J. Eick tallied.

Holmberg found himself with time and space in close after a nifty pass from Brent Baltus behind the red line, while Eick was set free by a Neville helper.

“It was a good job by my linemates (Baltus and Blake Hietala),” Tech senior Holmberg said, “They were working hard in the corner. … it was a huge relief for me to get the first of the season.”

The lead didn’t last long though, as Ward scored just over three minutes later with some generous puck luck.

The Huskies were working a good shift when Watson shook free to one-time a slap shot from the point.

He swung hard and his stick snapped in half, leaving Ward with a free puck and a one-on-one to convert.

The Bemidji sophomore skated across the face of the ice before turning and wristing a rocket top-shelf past goaltender Pheonix Copley for his 11th goal of the year.

“So much for the $200 stick,” Pearson said. “That shift we were all over them. We were generating chances and it comes to him wide open at the point and he is going to tee it up. Just one of those unfortunate bounces.”

“Cory has a big-time shot,” Bemidji coach Tom Serratore added. “He is strong as an ox, and when he has time and space to shoot, he is pretty good.”

The tie leaves today’s contest with even more significance, as this series is the only one in the regular season between the pair.

A win and Tech has a chance to move up into the top-4 in the standings.

Or in other words, in position for playoff home ice.

“It is a huge game, no doubt about it,” Eick said. “You never want to put too much weight in one game, but it is a huge game for the standings.”