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Shut out and shut in: Penalties a problem as Ferris blanks Tech

HOUGHTON – Through 28 games this season, the Michigan Tech hockey team has demonstrated time and again that the strength of this Husky squad lies in its ability to compete 5-on-5.

Tech did not play to its strength Saturday night against WCHA-leading Ferris State.

The Huskies took eight penalties in the series wrap-up with the No. 6 Bulldogs – including three penalties in the offensive zone that killed Tech power play chances – to muddle the game up in a special teams battle.

Ferris took advantage, seizing an early first period lead off a 4-on-3 power play and scoring another with four skaters on the ice in the second period to take home a comfortable 3-0 win.

The Huskies went 0-for-6 with the man advantage on the night, dropping Tech to a 10.4 conversion rate on the power play, ranked No. 57 of 59 Division I teams.

“I think we are a great team five-on-five, that is the biggest asset of our team,” Tech senior defenseman and captain Brad Stebner said. “I think we need to use our depth, rolling four lines and six ‘D,’ because we can out-compete teams and out-battle. When it turns into a special teams game I don’t think that plays well into our hands. Discipline is obviously the big word tonight.”

Ferris jumped on Tech quickly, taking advantage of some early feistiness that saw Husky forwards Tanner Kero (roughing) and Blake Pietila (elbowing) in the box along with Bulldog defenseman Brandon Anselmini (roughing).

The open spacing with seven skaters on the ice favored Ferris, and Andy Huff beat Tech goalie Jamie Phillips at the doorstep after some crisp puck movement.

“We took a lot of penalties that we don’t like,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said.

“I don’t know why we had some of that this weekend when we haven’t really had it much this year. Really disappointed in that.”

“You can’t give Ferris an early 4-on-3 advantage,” Pearson added.

The Huskies spoiled their own opportunity for an equalizer four minutes later, when David Johnstone ruined a potential power play by taking a needless boarding call while chasing the puck in the offensive zone. Ferris forward Justin DeMartino was heading for the box with a cross-checking minor, but Johnstone joined him for more 4-on-4 hockey.

Sophomore Alex Petan followed Johnstone with a pair of similar mistakes, taking a cross-checking call and double-minor slashing and boarding penalties to kill off two power plays at the end of the first and midway through the second period.

“Some of those were frustration and mental errors and we have to take those out of our game,” Stebner said. “We have to be mentally more tough and stick with it.”

Petan’s double-minor led directly to a Ferris goal in the second period, with Dakota Klecha picking Johnstone’s pocket in the Huskies defensive zone and finishing the subsequent breakaway with a backhand over Phillips.

“That sequence right there was really the game,” Pearson said.

Tech was gifted two more chances to cut into the lead in the third period when Ferris opened play with slashing and interference calls less than three minutes apart.

Neither power play produced much, however, and a tally from fourth-line forward Jared VanWormer sealed the win.

“Power plays can really be a negative on your team if you are not producing and not creating chances,” Pearson said.