HOUGHTON – No. 5 Michigan Tech opened up the 2015 edition of Winter Carnival with a 3-1 win over Bemidji State at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena on Friday (Feb. 6). Dylan Steman scored the game winner just past the midway point of the third period as the Huskies improved to 21-7-1 overall and 16-4-1 in the WCHA.
Each team entered the game unbeaten in their last four. The Huskies extended their winning streak to five and now have 21 wins for the first time since the 1982-83 season when they finished 22-17-1.
“It was a hard fought game tonight,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said. “They played like we thought they would. They’re quick, keep things simple, and really put a lot of pressure on you. We had to battle through it and get some hard earned goals.”
Riley Sweeney opened the game’s scoring with a shorthanded breakaway goal for his first of the season. Steman assisted on the play as he poked it up to Sweeney who shot it five-hole on BSU goaltender Michael Bitzer 9:21 after the initial puck drop.
“It’s no secret that I don’t get a lot of goals so when I do it’s special,” Sweeney said. “That one’s for my dad tonight. It meant a lot and felt good.
“I saw the puck at the point and the D man went to make a play. I had little bit of momentum, and Dylan did a good play to intercept it and chip it out of the zone. I had a little bit of speed and went for it.”
The Beavers (10-13-4, 6-9-4 WCHA) tied it up 3:29 into the second period after a quick wrist shot by Cory Ward found the back of the net. Charlie O’Connor and Matt Prapavessis assisted on the play.
Michael Neville had a prime opportunity to put the Huskies in front 11:00 minutes into the third period as he took a shot that went through the crease and hit the far post.
Moments later (11:24) Steman did find the twine with a snipe from the right of Bitzer. David Johnstone—back in the lineup after missing the last seven games—made the play on the sidewall as he chipped it up to Steman who went streaking in on a partial breakaway. For Steman, it was the seventh goal of his freshman season.
“We had little scrum on the wall,” said Steman. “David—nice to have him back tonight—won a great battle on the wall, and I had a lot of space and room and just shot it.”
Pearson talked about Steman, “He’s gotten more confident with the puck and he’s becoming a goal scorer. He has a good shot, he works hard, and he’s got good speed.
“He’s playing with a ton of confidence right now and you know what you’re going to get from him game in and game out.”
Tanner Kero sealed the win for the home team with an empty net goal with 1:00 left. He stole the puck behind the net and wrapped it around into the open goal. It was Kero’s team-leading 14th goal of the season. Brent Baltus and Chris Leibinger were credited with assists.
Jamie Phillips finished with 25 saves on the night, including 10 in the first period and 12 in the second.
“Jamie gives us all he’s got every night,” added Steman. “He’s the real deal, and he works every night and battles through the saves. He’s sound every night and he’s there for us.”
Bitzer had 23 saves for the visitors.
Tech was 0-for-4 on the power play while BSU was 0-for-3.
Michigan Tech recognized the voice of the Huskies Dirk Hembroff during the first period. Hembroff, in his 13th season with the Huskies, called his 500th game on Jan. 31 against Alabama Huntsville.
The two teams wrap up the WCHA series on Saturday (Feb. 7). Puck drop is set for 5:07 p.m. The winner of the total goal series will receive the MacInnes Cup and a weekend MVP will be announced at the end of the game.
(Information/Photo Courtesy of MTU Athletics)