Frustrating Falcons pinch Tech

HOUGHTON – The Michigan Tech hockey team dominated Bowling Green in five-on-five action, flashed an improved power play, outshot the visiting Falcons 41-18 and checked almost all the boxes coach Mel Pearson was looking for Friday night at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

But games are measured in goals, not intensity and chances.

And once again, the Huskies came up short in the one statistic that matters.

The Falcons skated away with a 3-2 victory, taking advantage of an off-night from Tech goaltender Pheonix Copley and surviving a helter-skelter final stretch that saw five total penalties called on the two teams in the last three minutes.

“We really don’t know,” senior forward Ryan Furne said. “We get 40 shots a game and we can’t get more than two goals in a game.”

“I didn’t like any one of the three goals (Copley) gave up,” Pearson said.

“And goals are so precious right now with how we are having trouble scoring.

“We need better goaltending. You are not going to win many, if any, with goaltending like that.”

With BG protecting a two-goal lead late in the third period, the Huskies put the contest back in reach with just under three minutes to go when Alex Petan buried a Blake Pietila pass from a face-off play with an extra attacker.

Then the game went bonkers.

MTU forward C.J. Eick was booked for a five-minute major with a game-misconduct for contact to the head – seemingly ending Tech’s chances of a comeback – but Bowling Green’s Dan Desalvo and Rusty Hafner gave the home crowd hope with penalties in the final two minutes, setting up 68 seconds of even-strength play and then 38 seconds with a man-advantage.

Tech failed to capitalize with two extra attackers, however, mishandling several passes and shooting into BG skaters’ legs, letting one final chance slip through their fingers.

It was a familiar feeling on the night.

“We kept sticking our hand in the fire. Lucky to get away with it,” Bowling Green coach Chris Bergeron said.

“I thought our execution in the last minute or two was not good,” Pearson added. “We had some designed plays where we miss a shot or mishandle a pass.”

The frantic finish would have never happened if it wasn’t for a combination of Tech’s scoring woes and an A-plus night from Bowling Green netminder Tommy Burke.

The Huskies rattled a post or crossbar three times on the night (Petan, Pietila and Riley Sweeney all within an inch of a goal), while C.J. Eick (twice), Furne, Mike Neville and Jacob Johnstone will all go home wishing they had do-overs.

Eick in particular will rue his misses, twice finding nothing but open ice and Burke to beat.

In the first period he fired into the sophomore netminder’s stomach and in the second period Eick lost his footing trying to make a move and didn’t get a shot off at all.

The Huskies also squandered a five-on-three midway through the third period, taking some shine off Furne’s earlier score with the man-advantage.

“We created a lot of good scoring opportunities,” Pearson said. “But when we get are chances, we have to start owning those. We have to bury some.

“I’m not disappointed with the effort. I am disappointed with the result.”

Burke finished with 39 saves, three more than his career high. In the last three games, Tech has put up 120 shots on net and come away with just six goals.

“Tommy Burke was the star tonight,” Bergeron said.

Bowling Green opened the scoring midway through the first period when a shift change mishap left Matt Pohlkamp open with time and space from the left circle. The freshman forward beat Copley cleanly gloveside.

The Huskies responded just five minutes into the second frame when Furne wristed into an open net after a pretty power play sequence. Freshman Brent Baltus slid a pass down to Reid Sturos at the doorstep, who immediately one-timed a pass to Furne.

Tech outshot Bowling Green 19-2 in the period, but the Falcons capitalized on one of their two as forward Kevin Defour put a slap shot off Copley’s glove and in.

Defour added a second tally under two minutes into the final period on a soft wrister from the blue line after a solo rush into the zone that Copley never picked up.

Pearson pulled Copley after the final goal, giving freshman Matt Wintjes his first collegiate action.

“Matt has looked good (in practice),” Pearson said of his decision to play Wintjes instead of sophomore Jamie Phillips. “I was almost going to start him at the start of the third (period) and in hindsight, maybe I should have.”

The loss gives the Huskies 11 points in 11 games, good for fifth place in the 10-team conference, pending the results of Lake Superior State’s game at Alaska-Anchorage.

Tonight’s game will be the last home contest for Tech until a Jan. 24 matchup with WCHA leaders Ferris State.

Pearson said he had not made a goaltending decision after the loss. All three are options in his mind.

“We cannot continue to give away points at home like we are and expect to finish high in the standings,” Pearson said.

“(Today) is a huge game for the standings and there is no way we get swept at home,” Furne added.