Huskies blank Chargers for conference win

HOUGHTON – No. 8-ranked Michigan Tech shutout Alabama Huntsville 5-0 Friday (Jan. 30) night at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena to pick up its 19th win of the season. The Huskies are 19-7-1 overall and have the program’s most wins in 27 years.

“I’m proud of our players for being ready from the get go,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said. “I thought we had a good start and carried the play.

“These are the tough games to play, but I’m most proud of the zero on the scoreboard.”

Jamie Phillips recorded his third shutout of the season, stopping 20 Charger shots. He also had shutouts at Ferris State (Oct. 24) and against Alaska Anchorage (Nov. 7) this season.

“Jamie made some subtle saves, and he had to stand tall during that stretch in the second period when we got away from our game a little bit,” added Pearson. “He battled hard tonight and that was a focus for him this week.”

After a scoreless first period where Tech outshot UAH 14-8, the Huskies dominated the early stages of the second. 68 seconds into the frame, Alex Petan scored his team-leading fifth power play goal. Max Vallis and Tanner Kero took shots before the puck bounced out to Petan who finished the play.

Blake Pietila added to the lead 84 seconds later with another power play tally. Pietila has now scored in four straight games. He took a shot out front that rattled around and bounced off a Huntsville player into the net. Matt Roy and Malcolm Gould assisted on the play.

“Blake’s been playing extremely well,” said Pearson. “He’s really found his groove. He’s skating well, things are going in for him, and he’s playing strong.”

Just under 3:00 later (5:21), Gould got in the scoring column as he had a rebound land right on his stick at the doorstep. Gould extended his point streak to four games. Pietila and Riley Sweeney assisted on Gould’s 10th of the season.

Joel L’Esperance made it a four-goal game 15:21 into the third. He had a puck bounce out to him in front of UAH goaltender Carmine Guerriero. L’Esperance patiently spun around and shelved a backhanded shot over Guerriero’s shoulder. L’Esperance has three goals in the last three games.

Late in the game, Dylan Steman and L’Esperance went in on a 2-on-1. Steman faked the pass over, stopped in his tracks, and wristed a shot past Guerriero for his sixth of the year, and a commanding 5-0 lead.

Tech outshot the Chargers 37-20. Guerriero had 32 saves.

The Huskies were 2-for-5 on the man advantage after five Huntsville penalties. Tech killed both of its penalties.

Tech improved to 14-4-1 in the WCHA and remain in second place behind Minnesota State in the standings. The Mavericks defeated Ferris State to keep their four-point lead over Tech, while the Huskies are now up five points on Bowling Green after the Falcons fell at Bemidji State.

Alabama Huntsville fell to 7-17-3 overall and 6-13-0 in league play.

The two teams will meet for a fourth and final time on Saturday. Puck drop is set for 7:07 p.m. Saturday is Junior Hockey Night and Skate With The Huskies after the game. There will be a raffle table with numerous prizes, including Commuter Plan B week of hockey school, Reebok stick certificates, autographed Michigan Tech hockey sticks and pucks, free ice cream, free skate sharpening cards from Center Ice Skate and Sport, free SDC daily pass, and a discount card for hockey school and the Randy McKay 3-on-3 tournament.

“We need another good start tomorrow,” Pietila said. “If we focus on that first period and get them on their heels, we’ll have a good chance of winning.”

(Information Courtesy of MTU Athletics)