Hardy souls see seven Tech goals

HOUGHTON – The Michigan Tech hockey team displayed a sense of pride and fortitude against Northern Michigan Friday night missing from their series with Alaska (Fairbanks) last weekend.

They also exhibited some goal scoring chops that would make them a tough match for any team.

Reid Sturos collected his first career hat trick, the power play rang up a trio goals and the Huskies rewarded the 3,062 who braved the brutal storm conditions to reach the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena with a 7-4 win over the Wildcats on Senior Night.

The two crucial points moved Tech into third-place tie with Alaska-Anchorage in the WCHA standings for the time being.

“It was just hard work,” Sturos said. “We came out and worked hard, got away from what we did last weekend and played our game tonight.”

“Last weekend stuck with us, it gave us that extra edge,” David Johnstone, who finished with a goal and assist added. “We didn’t want to repeat that again.”

The Huskies led 5-2 with less than six minutes to play – before a barrage of garbage-time goals boosted the final total – but it took some mental resilience to get to that point.

Northern (10-12-1 WCHA) forward Reed Seckel opened the game with a goal on the night’s first shift, finishing off a nifty passing sequence to beat netminder Pheonix Copley and give NMU a 1-0 lead 34 seconds in.

The Wildcats took another one-goal lead early in the second period when Barrett Kaib slipped the Husky (11-10-4 WCHA) defense and ripped a slap shot through traffic for his first goal of the season.

Both times the Tech response was immediate.

David Johnstone equalized late in the first period with a power play blast from the circle – his third slap shot on net that shift – after a crisp feed from Shane Hanna. The goal was a long time coming as the Black and Gold just missed on several solid chances while holding Northern to just one shot on net for a 15 minute period.

“It’s a little scary standing in front of that shot,” Sturos said of Johnstone. “But it’s fun.”

Sturos erased Kaib’s tally 10 seconds later with a snipe of his own, finishing a Blake Pietila circle-to-circle dish – his 17th assist of the season – after a quick rush off the faceoff.

It was the type of response completely absent against Alaska.

“You have to be resilient and I thought we showed that here tonight, especially going down the first shift of the game, it is easy to say ‘Oh no, here we go again,'” Pearson said. “But we continued to battle, got a big power play goal and we finished.”

With a rowdy student section at full throttle, the contest (fittingly) snowballed from there.

Sturos added his second – again, with fellow Brighton native Pietila assisting – this time when Northern defenseman Mitch Jones carelessly gave the puck away from behind the net.

Tanner Kero lit the lamp five minutes later for his 14th goal of the season as he controlled the rebound from Shane Hanna’s shot. It was essentially a short-handed goal with senior defenseman Brad Stebner clearing the box just seconds before.

“We came out in the second and we had two veteran defensemen turn two pucks over and then we had a guy leave his net cover on that shorty and then all of the sudden we are chasing the rabbit,” Northern coach Walt Kyle said. “Those are plays we can’t afford to make at critical times of the game.”

A spate of penalties shook the third period – seven in all – and Tech shined on special teams, a rarity this season.

Hanna buried the game winner with 5:44 to play when Johnstone returned the favor from the first period, setting up Hanna for a slap shot with visible net.

Tech converted on three of five chances with a man-advantage, and killed all five Northern power plays.

“Our power play was a huge part of our game tonight and really a key to our winning,” Pearson said.

The goals came fast and furious from that point, with NMU’s Darren Nowick and Ryan Daugherty and MTU’s Blake Hietala all finding the back of the net in a span of four minutes.

“I didn’t like the goals at the end,” Pearson said. “When we made it 5-2 we seemed to let our foot off the gas a little there.”

The madness finally came to a stop when Sturos collected his hat trick and tipped in Cliff Watson’s shot from the point with a fortunate brush of the pant-leg.

“It feels good … Blake just made some good plays and I was just there to put them in,” Sturos said.

The Huskies will finish the series tomorrow in Marquette at the Berry Events Center, with the puck scheduled to drop at 7:07 p.m.

The message from Pearson to his team will focus on staying even-keeled.

He knows this edge can disappear just as quickly as they found it tonight.

“We still have to tighten up defensively,” Pearson said. “If we are going to go anywhere from here on in, we have to tighten up and play better … we can’t expect to outscore teams.”