Huskies beat Falcons in Final Five semis

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Michigan Tech will play for the Broadmoor Trophy in the championship game of the WCHA Final Five on Saturday (Mar. 21) after defeating Bowling Green 5-2 in Friday’s (March 20) semifinal. The Huskies got two goals from Tyler Heinonen and one each from Reid Sturos, Michael Neville and Joel L’Esperance in their first win at the Final Five Tournament since 1996.

Tech faces the winner of the second semifinal between Minnesota State and Ferris State in Saturday’s championship game at 7:07 p.m. ET/6:07 p.m. CT.

“I’m really proud of the team,” said Tech coach Mel Pearson. “We didn’t have our best start, and Bowling Green’s a really good team. But we found a way to get the win.”

The Falcons got on the board first as Mitchell McLain tipped home a centering feed at the 10:20 mark.

Tech answered less than two minutes later as Mark Auk fired a shot from the left point that was redirected to the back of the net by Sturos. Blake Pietila drew the secondary assist on Sturos’ sixth goal of the season (third in the last seven games).

The Huskies continued to work on the offensive end with a Cliff Watson shot that hit David Johnstone‘s skate in front of the net. Heinonen corralled the puck and made a move around goaltender Tommy Burke for his fifth goal in the last five games.

BGSU had a golden opportunity to tie the game with 2:15 remaining in the frame, but Jamie Phillips slid across to close down an open net and rob a goal.

The teams skated through the second period exchanging blows. L’Esperance and Alex Petan both had point-blank chances on Burke that were saved. Phillips also played well, making eight saves in the second and denying several good Falcons’ tries.

Bowling Green had its third power play of the game just three seconds into the third period, but Tech killed it off. Just moments after the power play ended, the Falcons tied the score as Brent Tate tipped a shot from the right point behind Phillips.

BGSU was still pressuring the Huskies in Tech’s end three minutes later. Late in a shift, Johnstone collected the puck and lobbed a pass from the defensive zone to a streaking Heinonen entering the BGSU zone. The sophomore buried his second of the night top shelf over the glove of Burke and changed the momentum of the game.

Johnstone hit the 100-point mark for his career with the helper.

Tech earned a two-goal lead with 12:06 to play as—just like its first goal of the game—Auk sent a shot on net from the left point. This time it was Neville getting the tip for his third goal of the season. Johnstone picked up his third assist of the night on the play.

L’Esperance added an empty net goal for the final margin. Heinonen was credited with an assist for the first three-point game of his career.

Thanks to a 15-7 advantage in shots in the third period, Tech finished with a 32-24 edge for the game.

Phillips posted 22 saves including several of the spectacular variety to earn his nation-leading 28th win of the season. Due to illness for the past several days, he was a game-time decision.

“We weren’t sure we were going to start Jamie. He’s been battling the flu, but we went with him and I’m glad we did,” added Pearson.

“I’m really happy for our fans. We had great support from Tech fans tonight.”

Michigan Tech, which now has a 29-8-2 overall record, will play for the WCHA Tournament championship for the first time since 1996, when it defeated St. Cloud State 4-3 in overtime in the semifinals and lost to Minnesota 7-2 in the title game.

Faceoff for tomorrow’s Broadmoor Trophy Championship contest is set for 7:07 p.m. ET/6:07 p.m. CT. Fans can follow the action live on FSN North and Mix 93.5 FM. Fans and alumni in St. Paul are invited to gather at The Liffey across the street from Xcel Energy Center one hour prior to face-off.

(Information/Photo Courtesy of MTU Athletics)