Playoff performance: Huskies face off with Falcons

HOUGHTON – The Michigan Tech hockey team entered last weekend in Mankato needing one win over Minnesota State to secure home ice in the WCHA playoffs for the first time since 1993.

They got one goal over the two games. It was not enough.

The Friday defeat and Saturday tie awarded the Huskies the No. 5 seed and a trip to Bowling Green as a result – a mixed blessing.

While the Huskies were skating for another series at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena, a trip to Ohio presents the best possible road scenario.

Tech won two games at the BGSU Ice Arena six weeks ago, and despite earning just one point from the two games in Houghton, likely feel happy with the way they skated and matched up to the Falcons in December.

With two major goals still left on the team board in the locker room – reaching the WCHA Final Five and winning said Final Five – there are far more difficult scenarios than a best-of-three series in Ohio.

Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment for this story.

“One of our goals is to get to the Final Five, and then once you get to the Final Five you have to string together two games,” Pearson said in a release. “One of the goals for our team is to win the Final Five, so we still have two big goals on our board that we can reach. And if we can get those goals then some of the other ones that we didn’t accomplish this year will soon be forgotten.”

“It is better than going to Alaska,” defenseman Shane Hanna, recently named to the all-WCHA rookie team, added. “We have beat Bowling Green before, we can do it again.”

The goals came fast and furious over the four game series with Bowling Green, as Tech scored five twice in Ohio while the Falcons netted three (in a win) and four (the tie) in Houghton.

Coming off a one-goal weekend – a tally from the red-hot Hanna – it would appear the Huskies have to rediscover their offensive touch quickly to have any chance to advance.

Captain Blake Pietila is not worried though. He considers the Mankato struggles a blip in the path, not a trend.

“This past weekend was obviously a little tough offensively,” Pietila said. “But that will come if we get pucks behind them and get to the net. I don’t think we are really worried about the offense.”

The sweep at BGSU saw Malcolm Gould (2) and Jacob Johnstone (3) find success, along with the usual big names of Tanner Kero, Pietila and David Johnstone.

Assistant captain and senior Dennis Rix believes there lies the key to moving on, rediscovering support for the top lines.

“That weekend against Bowling Green we just put pucks to the net,” Rix said. “We had poise in front and we were able to finish our chances. That weekend we had depth scoring, we had our third and our fourth lines going.”

“We have played Bowling Green four times, so there are not going to be an secrets for us or them,” Pearson added. “We know each other fairly well. I think it is going to be a hard fought series and I can easily see the series going to three games. Whoever wins that series is going to have to earn it.”