Seven deadly goals
HOUGHTON – The effort level was better.
But the results were the same.
Alaska (Fairbanks) hung a 7-3 defeat on the Michigan Tech hockey team Friday night and followed that performance with a 7-2 thrashing Saturday at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
The Nanooks grabbed three goals with a man advantage – including a fourth just as Tech defenseman Chris Leibinger was leaving the box – and scored five unanswered goals in the first 34 minutes to drop the Huskies into a three-way tie for fourth place in the WCHA with four games remaining.
Tech entered the series controlling its own destiny for playoff home ice in third place and left wondering how it all went wrong so quickly.
“(Alaska) came in here and they skated and they hit and they got the goaltending, and we didn’t seem to get any of those,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said.
“We didn’t prepare very well this weekend for whatever reason. I’ll take most of the blame for that.”
“I’m a little bit frustrated, I know we all are,” Husky forward Tanner Kero added.
Unlike Friday night, the Huskies matched the Nanooks’ intensity from the opening whistle Saturday.
The five-on-five prowess didn’t matter much though, when Leibinger’s penalty resulted in Colton Beck’s goal at the end of a power play as Alaska won battles in front of Pheonix Copley’s net.
Things went from bad to worse 10 minutes later when Malcolm Gould took a five-minute major for checking UAF skater Michael Quinn from behind.
Quinn appeared to be falling down already when Gould made contact from behind, and the defenseman lay still on the ice for several moments after the hit.
Alaska made Tech pay before the period ended, with Beck notching his second five seconds before intermission.
As the teams filed to their locker rooms, Pearson stayed behind to have some heated words with the official.
“You have to let up when a guy is hitting a guy from behind near the boards,” Pearson said. “And I think Malcolm did, but their guy goes down and he lays there for a little bit and then he is right back on the power play. And I don’t like that. If you are hurt, stay down, but if you’re not, then get back up and play the game. It puts officials in a tough spot.”
Though the Huskies killed the remaining three minutes of the major to start the second period, the first period zest was gone as well.
Nolan Huysmans, Brandon Morley and Jared Larson all tallied within an eight minute span to put Tech completely out of it.
Huysmans and Morley’s goal came off Husky turnovers in their own zone, while Larson’s was a soft-shot Copley would very much like back.
“This weekend we were a little bit slower,” Kero said. “We weren’t winning those battles, we weren’t really tying guys up, getting pucks in or getting pucks deep. Just all over the ice we weren’t quite on top of our game. You could tell all over the ice it hurt us.”
Tanner Kero and Blake Hietala managed to snag a couple back for Tech, but more breakdowns on the penalty kill led to Tyler Morley and Michael Quinn goals against netminder Jamie Phillips, who played the entire third period.
Pearson believed over-aggression was the cause for so many breakdowns on the PK.
“We left guys alone in front of the net,” Pearson said. “I thought we were overaggressive, just really missed some assignments tonight and could not recover.”
After the game, Pearson and Alaska coach Dallas Ferguson engaged in a heated conversation before the assistant coaches managed to separate them.
Ferguson was not available for comment post-game.
“I’d like to keep that between Dallas and myself,” Pearson said.