MANKATO, Minn. – In a battle of two of the top three teams in the country, Michigan Tech goaltender Jamie Phillips stole the show, making a career-high 43 saves to preserve a 1-1 tie against No. 2 Minnesota State. The third-ranked Huskies remained unbeaten in WCHA road play and are now 24-7-3 overall and 19-4-2 in league play.
“Jamie Phillips was outstanding tonight,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said. “He’s the reason we’re leaving here with one point.”
The Maverick (23-6-3, 19-3-3 WCHA) controlled the game early before the Huskies settled in. Blake Pietila redirected a shot in front of Stephon Williams that was saved and Joel L’Esperance had a wraparound chance that was denied.
Jean-Paul Lafontaine opened the game’s scoring 12:12 after the opening face-off with a one-timer on the power play. Matt Leitner and Casey Nelson assisted on the play.
Brent Baltus and Reid Sturos also had quality scoring chances right out in front of Williams in the first period, but he was there to slam the door.
Almost to the midway point of the game, Sturos got another chance and this time capitalized to tie it up. Matt Roy found a streaking Sturos in front of the Tech bench. Sturos walked in on a partial breakaway and roofed one over the blocker of Williams for his fourth of the season.
Late in the second, the home team put a ton of pressure in Tech’s defensive zone but Phillips was there each time, making 14 saves in the second.
The Huskies were outshot 18-4 in the third period but did a few quality scoring chances. Malcolm Gould Hit a post a few minutes in. Midway through the period Pietila fanned on a shot after 2-on-1 with Gould. Sturos had another chance on a 2-on-1 after a feed from Dylan Steman but Williams made a diving save with 4:05 left.
The story of the third period was again Phillips. He stopped all 18 shots, including robbing one of the nation’s best scorers, Bryce Gervais, on a short breakaway with 8:00 to go.
Tech outshot MSU 5-2 in the overtime period but the best chance to score was when Dylan Margonari walked by a Husky defender and wristed a shot that clipped Phillips’ shoulder and sailed out of play.
The crowd of 5,172 stood for the final three minutes of regulation and the whole overtime period.
The Huskies were whistled for three minor penalties while the Mavericks had one.
Final shots were 44-23 in favor of the home teams.
“They’re the number one ranked team in the Pairwise for a reason,” Pearson said. “They brought their A game tonight and we brought our C game.”
“We had our moments. We just have to create more of them and we have to be better at puck management if we want to win tomorrow night.”
One point still separates the two teams in the WCHA standing. They will wrap up the series on Saturday (Feb. 28) at 8:07 p.m. Husky fans in the Houghon/Hancock and surrounding areas can watch the game on Charter channel 900. Dirk Hembroff will also have the call on Mix 93 WKMJ and Pasty.net with his pregame show beginning at 7:30 p.m.
“We have a chance to jump ahead of them tomorrow night and that’s all you can ask for,” added Pearson. “Our fate is in our hand.”
(Information/Photo Courtesy of MTU Athletics)