FARGO, N.D. – The No. 5-ranked Michigan Tech hockey team had its season come to an end with a 3-2 overtime loss to No. 13 St. Cloud State in the first round of the NCAA West Regional from Scheels Arena on Friday (March 27). Tech finished the 2014-15 season with a 29-10-2 record.
Tech led 2-1 in the late stages of the third period before surrendering the lead with 37 seconds left. St. Cloud pulled its goaltender to add the extra attacker and found the back of the net after a scramble at the side of the net.
In the overtime, Tyler Heinonen and Alex Petan had early scoring chances that were steered away by SCSU goaltender Charlie Lindgren.
The game winner was scored 8:11 into the extra session on a 2-on-1 break. Joe Rehkamp fed the puck up to Judd Peterson who had his first shot saved by Jamie Phillips. The rebound came right back out to Peterson who put it under Phillips and advanced the Black and Red to Saturday’s regional championship game.
“It was a real good college hockey game,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said. “I’m very proud of my team for the effort they put in. We carried the play for most of it until the third period. We missed a couple wide-open nets and hats off to St. Cloud for making the plays to win the game.
“I’m extremely proud of this team for all they’ve accomplished and for putting Michigan Tech back on the college hockey map.”
Tanner Kero opened the game’s scoring 7:18 into the first with his 20th of the year. Petan and Kero entered the zone together. Petan’s initial shot was saved, but Kero was at the doorstep as he calmly backhanded the puck into the net. Shane Hanna added the secondary assist.
Tech outshot SCSU 15-8 in the opening frame and had numerous other scoring chances. Blake Hietala blasted a shot high moments after the goal. Alex Gillies redirected a Riley Sweeney shot that was saved, and Joel L’Esperance and Dylan Steman went in on a 2-on-1 but couldn’t settle a bouncing puck.
Phillips preserved the lead with a monster save with just over a minute left before intermission.
St. Cloud began the second period on the power play. The nation’s fifth-best power play capitalized 66 seconds into the second with a goal off the stick of Kalle Kossila.
Tech settled into the midle period, outshooting SCSU 14-1 in the frame. Hanna had a one-timer go just wide and Heinonen had a pair of chances from line mate David Johnstone that Lindgren had to stand tall for.
The best chance in the second came on a delayed feed from Steman to L’Esperance with 6:10 left. Lindgren was again there for the save and the rebound chance went wide.
SCSU found the back of the net again late in the second, but the play was reviewed and called back after it was determined that the puck was brought into the zone offside.
Tech killed off a penalty early in the third period and then took its second lead of the game at the 10:54 mark. Steman fed the puck up to L’Esperance. The sophomore forward carried the puck towards the net, paused and spun around making a backhanded pass to a wide-open CJ Eick. All Eick had to do was tap it in for his third of the year and a 2-1 lead.
SCSU had numerous chances late in the third. With a loose puck in front of the Tech net, Phillips received some help from his teammates at the 5:35 mark as a group of players in gold jerseys jumped on the puck for a whistle. Phillips was tested two minutes later on a redirect that he steered away.
Tech had three golden opportunities to seal the win in the late stages. Johnstone rang a shot off the post after creating a turnover out front of the St. Cloud net.
Petan and David Morley were both shipped to the box with 2:18 left, creating a 4-on-4 situation. SCSU pulled Lindgren early for the 5-on-4 advantage.
Both Steman and Sweeney had shots at the open net before the equalizer was scored but both shots went wide and were called for icing.
Final shots on goal were 38-21 in favor of Tech. Lindgren had 36 saves while Phillips had 18.
The game marked the end of careers for seniors Jimmy Davis (0-3=3), Blake Hietala (16-19=35), David Johnstone (36-67=103), Tanner Kero (55-56=111), Blake Pietila (46-60=106), and Riley Sweeney (4-34=38).
“We always say that the goal is to leave the program in better shape than when they found it,” added Pearson. “These seniors have done a great job. I wish we could’ve found a way to win it for them and kept playing.
“I just want to thank all of our supporters back at Michigan Tech and the fans and alumni from all over the world. It’s been incredible.”
The magical 2014-15 season consisted of a 10-0 start (the best in program history), a No. 1 national ranking for the first time since 1976, and a birth into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1981.
(Information Courtesy of MTU Athletics)