MTU hockey upsets North Dakota

Courtesy of MTU Athletics

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Pheonix Copley made 29 saves and C.J. Eick scored the game-winning goal with 2:02 left to play to lift Michigan Tech hockey to a 2-1 victory at No. 4 North Dakota tonight in the WCHA Playoffs. With the win, the Huskies forced a decisive game in the best-of-three series tomorrow night at 8:07 p.m.

Tech held a 1-0 lead for much of the game after Tanner Kero tipped home a Blake Pietila shot just 20 seconds into the second period. The teams were skating four-on-four after Dennis Rix was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind and UND’s Michael Parks was called for hooking at the end of the first period.

Kero’s goal held up as the only scoring until late in the third period. UND came with a lot of pressure then entire third period and had several grade A scoring chances. Copley made at least three saves of what looked like sure goals for North Dakota in the third period.

The hosts finally solved Copley with a Danny Kristo wrister from the slot with 5:03 remaining. Moments later, UND’s Rocco Grimaldi got a clean breakaway but slid the puck under Copley and just wide of the goal.

The Huskies got the go-ahead goal from Eick with 2:02 to play. On the play, Brad Stebner took away the puck in the defensive zone and sent it rink-wide to Ryan Furne. Furne returned it across the neutral zone to Eick, who had a step on the defender. The freshman finished his third career goal with a backhand into the top left corner.

UND pulled its goaltender for the extra attacker for the final 1:31, and Copley made several more saves to give the Black and Gold their third WCHA Playoff win in the last two years.

“We earned this win,” said head coach Mel Pearson. “The guys did the little things it takes to win.

“I told them last night there’s no moral victories. The guys really rallied, and we live to see another day.”

Tech snapped North Dakota’s 14-game WCHA Playoff winning streak and gained its first win at Ralph Englestadt Arena since Mar. 15, 2008, when the Huskies defeated the Fighting Sioux 3-2 in overtime in game two of a WCHA Playoff series.

Both teams used a different goaltender than last night and got strong play in net. Clarke Saunders made 29 saves including several key stops. His counterpart between the Huskies’ pipes was the difference in the game.

Copley stopped nine shots in the first period, seven in the second and 13 in the third.

Tech nearly scored on the power play in the first five minutes as Furne beat Saunders. Furne’s shot was gloved away by a defenseman and play continued. The overhead replay showed the puck passing the cross bar, but the play was never reviewed.

The Huskies killed all four UND power plays in the game including the major to Rix and another in the third period. Tech went 0-for-3 on the man advantage.

“They pressed us hard in the third period, and we were able to come out on top,” said Pearson. “Tomorrow’s going to be a heck of a hockey game.”

The two teams will play a decisive game three in the series tomorrow (Mar. 17) at 8:07 p.m. ET. The winning team will advance to the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul Mar. 21-23.