Huskies win three-game series over Mankato

Patrick Munson gets ready to make a save in Mankato.

Patrick Munson gets ready to make a save in Mankato.

The Michigan Tech Huskies hockey team (21-16-5) traveled to Mankato, Minnesota to face the top seeded in the WCHA and third ranked nationally Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks (29-9-1) in the second round of the WCHA playoffs. The Mavericks took game one Friday by a score of 2-1. However, Tech bounced back to force a game three, by defeating the Mavericks 4-2 Saturday. Tech moved on to the WCHA championship game with a 2-1 victory over the Mavericks Sunday.

On Friday, March 9, senior Devin Kero received the starting goaltender spot for the Huskies. Both teams coasted through the first period without very many events, until just a minute and a half left in the period, the Mavericks notched up the first goal of the series. Just over a minute later Huskies senior Dylan Steman headed to the penalty box for hooking.

The Huskies started the second period down a man due to the penalty on Steman. However, with nine seconds left in the penalty kill for the Huskies, the Mavericks snuck the puck past Kero to go up 2-0. At the five- minute mark of the second period the Mavericks would receive their only penalty of the game.

Unfortunately, the Huskies couldn’t capitalize on the man advantage and ended the second down 2-0.

The only action in the third period came at the 9:19 mark when senior Joel L’Esperance scored the Huskies first goal of the weekend, assisted by sophomore Gavin Gould and junior Jake Lucchini.

The Mavericks outshot Tech 28-19, with Kero stopping 26 of the shots. Tech spent two minutes in the penalty box on the one penalty, and unfortunately went 0-1 on the power play for the night.

Saturday, March 10, junior Patrick “Packy” Munson got the start in net due to an injury to Kero that has ended his season and career at Tech. Freshman Justin Misiak got Tech on the board first at the 9:19 mark of the first period, unassisted. Almost four minutes later the Mavericks tied up the game icing the puck past Packy. However, two and a half minutes later senior Mark Auk shot the puck in the net to end the first period in favor of Tech 2-1, assisted by junior Jake Jackson and sophomore Thomas Beretta.

Sophomore Raymond Brice gave Tech the 3-1 lead at the 12:04 mark of the second period, assisted by Gould and L’Esperance. However, 30 seconds later Gould received a penalty for charging, and just 30 seconds into the penalty the Mavericks took advantage making it a one-goal game once again.

No action came in the third, until with six seconds left in the game Steman knocked in the empty-net goal to give the Huskies their first win in Mankato since February of 2012, and forcing a game three in the series.

The Mavericks again outshot Tech 33-21, with Packy stopping 31 of those shots. Tech spend six minutes in the penalty box on three penalties, and went 0-1 on the power play.

On Sunday, March 11, Packy received the start in net again for the Huskies. Neither Friday nor Saturday’s games had very many penalties, however, Sunday’s game had a total of 19 penalties, with 18 of coming in the first and second periods alone. No action came in the first period other than eight penalties called throughout the first period.

Junior Jake Jackson put the Huskies up first at the 6:09 mark of the second period, assisted by senior Brent Baltus and freshman Seamus Donohue. However, a hooking call on Jackson four minutes later put Mankato on the power play. The Mavericks tied up the game at one apiece just 30 seconds into the power play. No action came to the rest of regulation, forcing a 20-minute overtime.

At the 6:42 mark of overtime L’Esperance received a penalty for tripping, resulting in a Mankato power play. Luckily the Huskies defense held through and ended the penalty to make it five on five action again. With just under five minutes left in overtime Jackson netted his second goal of the night, unassisted, to seal the deal for Tech to send the Huskies to their second consecutive WCHA championship game.

Mankato again outshot Tech 42-28, while Packy stopped 41 of the shots. Tech spent 20 minutes in the penalty box on ten penalties and went 0-6 on the power play.

The Huskies will face arch-rival the Northern Michigan Wildcats (25-14-3) in the WCHA Championship game for a UP showdown, in Marquette. Tech and Northern split on the season as Northern defeated Tech both times in Marquette by scores of 4-0 and 2-1, but Tech defeated Northern both times in Houghton by scores of 4-1 and 3-2. Northern defeated the Bowling Green State Falcons (23-12-6) in the other semi-final as the Wildcats won Friday 6-1, but the Falcons forced a game three by winning Saturday 1-0, and the Wildcats sealed the deal with a 3-2 overtime victory Sunday.