Final Five Bound! Tech sweeps Huntsville

HOUGHTON — Michigan Tech advanced to the WCHA Final Five by sweeping Alabama Huntsville on Saturday (March 14) with a 3-0 shutout. The Huskies will play Bowling Green State on March 20 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“I’m happy for our team, the alumni, and fans,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said. “This team deserves to be moving on and I’m just excited.

“It’s one of the goals at the start of the year to get to the Final Five and win a conference championship. Tonight we took another step towards that goal.”

Jamie Phillips extended the Michigan Tech season shutout record to six games, stopping 18 shots on the night, including 11 in the second period.

“Jamie has been so good for us all year,” added Pearson. “These games are tough for him to play. I give him a lot of credit. There wasn’t much sustained pressure in our zone, but when they got their scoring chances it seemed like they were good ones.”

The Huskies’ two hometown players sparked the offense in the first two periods. Blake Hietala had numerous scoring chances in the early stages of the game and was finally able to bang one in at the 14:35 mark of the first period. With the Huskies on a power play, Tyler Heinonen and Tanner Kero mustered up some shots and Hietala was there for the rebound.

The same three Huskies connected on Tech’s second goal 4:43 into the second. This time it was Hietala and Heinonen taking the initial shots and Kero cleaning up the rebound on the power play.

Mark Auk made it a 3-0 lead 5:45 into the third period, taking advantage of a mistake by the Chargers. UAH goaltender Carmine Guerriero tried to backhand the puck out of the zone but instead found Auk who rifled it into the back of the net for the unassisted tally.

The Chargers pulled Guerriero late in the game but couldn’t get the puck past Phillips who leads the country with 27 wins. The junior goaltender hasn’t allowed a goal in over nine periods of hockey a total time of two hours, 59 minutes, and 39 seconds.

After Friday’s marathon game, Tech coach Mel Pearson dressed five fresh players for Saturday. Patrick Anderson, Alex Gillies, Hietala, and David Johnstone were mixed in to the four forward lines, while Jimmy Davis was back on the blue line.

“It’s extremely important to be able to insert some different players and have them contribute,” said Pearson. “They’ve worked hard in practice, and we have to get them in.

“It’s all about the team. This has been a team since day one. I can’t say enough about the leadership and the players, and they’re so together right now.”

The Huskies improved to 28-8-2 overall while UAH had its season end with a 8-26-4 record.

It was the final home game for seniors Davis, Hietala, Johnstone, Kero, Blake Pietila and Riley Sweeney. The Black and Gold finished 15-5-0 at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena in 2014-15.

Tech last appeared in the WCHA Final Five in 2012—Coach Pearson’s first season on the bench. The Huskies lost to Denver in overtime.

Tech and Bowling Green split their only meeting of the year on January 16-17 in Houghton. The Huskies won 4-3 Friday with the Falcons taking Saturday’s game 3-2.

(Information Courtesy of MTU Athletics)