HOUGHTON — Tyler Heinonen scored with 71 seconds left in the third overtime to give fourth-ranked Michigan Tech a 1-0 win over Alabama Huntsville on Friday (March 13) night. The game lasted 118 minutes and 49 seconds. It was the longest in Tech history, the second longest in WCHA history, and the seventh longest in NCAA history.
Husky hockey fans waited 22 years for the WCHA playoffs to return to the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena, and Charger goaltender Carmine Guerriero made them wait even longer for the victory as he stifled the Huskies with 76 saves.
Heinonen finally broke the seal on a rebound, scoring for the third game in a row and burying his 12th of the season. Mark Auk took the initial shot from the right side of Guerriero and had it tipped out front by Max Vallis. The rebound squirted out to Heinonen who patiently put it into the back of the net.
“He showed some patience on that shot,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said. “Most guys would’ve got it and just slapped it at the net. He’s a goal scorer and he knows what to do around the net.”
Jamie Phillips set a new school record by picking up his fifth shutout of the season. He was tied with Michael-Lee Teslak (2006-07) and Jim Warden (1974-75) heading into the night. Phillips had 32 saves, including 11 in the final overtime.
Phillips did receive some help from his teammates, including a game-winning defensive play by Shane Hanna 12:00 into the third overtime. Cody Marooney rushed the net and snapped a shot that got through Phillips and was loose in the crease. Hanna tied up his player before clearing the puck out of harms way.
“It’s a big relief to get the win,” Phillips said. “Six periods of hockey is pretty insane. I’m glad we were able to battle through.
“I was fortunate to get a lucky bounce here and there and defenseman Hanna bailed me out on one big time.”
The Huskies dominated in shots, taking a total of 173 on the night and getting 77 through to the net. The Chargers blocked 47 shots and Tech missed the net on 48 attempts.
Both teams had power play opportunities in the extra sessions. Tech had seven minutes of the man advantage in the first overtime and into the second. The Huskies had to kill a 2-minute penalty in the second extra session and a pair of short UAH power plays in the third OT.
Tanner Kero had a couple quality scoring chances to give the Huskies the lead in regulation that both trickled through the crease. One of his shots got under Guerriero’s pads but the sharp-angled chance fluttered through the crease and out the other side.
Joel L’Esperance had a partial breakaway in the first overtime but couldn’t finish the play after getting hauled down by a defenseman.
Dylan Steman hit the crossbar on a chip shot in the second overtime.
“It was a tough game for both teams,” added Pearson. “I give Alabama Huntsville a lot of credit. They came in with a great game plan and they executed it. We couldn’t score and they’re goaltender was outstanding.
“We did a lot of good things. We just couldn’t score. We got the win. That’s the bottom line. We don’t want to go three, so we’ll be ready tomorrow night.”
The two teams will meet for Game 2 of the best-of-three WCHA First Round series at 7:07 p.m. Saturday (March 14). It will be the sixth meeting between the two teams this season.
Tickets are still available at the Central Ticket Office, by calling 906-487-2073, or visiting BuyHuskiesTickets.com. Reserved adult seats are $17, reserved youth seats are $5, and general admission tickets are available for $15.
(Information/Photo Courtesy of MTU Athletics)