HOUGHTON, Mich. — With just one point separating them in the WCHA standings, it was fitting that only one point separated No. 11 Michigan Tech and No. 7 Bowling Green Friday night at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
The Huskies came away with the 4-3 win despite trailing 2-0 and 3-2 in the contest.
“I liked our team,” said MTU coach Mel Pearson. “I liked the perseverance. We got behind and a lot was not going our way, but we hung in there.”
The game-winning goal came on the power play when co-captain Blake Pietila cut to the net with the puck. His initial shot was stopped, but the rebound bounced right out to co-captain Tanner Kero, who buried the puck the gaping net at 10:14 of the third period.
Despite the long road trip to get to Houghton, the Falcons had the better of the chances early on, getting the game’s first three shots on goal, but Huskies’ goaltender Jamie Phillips was well-positioned to make each stop.
Michigan tech got its feet about five minutes in and had a great scoring chance when Kero ripped a shot from the left circle. The rebound kicked out front off of Chris Nell right to Alex Petan, but Petan fired wide of the Falcons’ netminder.
Shane Hanna had another good chance for the Huskies a minute later when he blasted a shot from the high slot. While his shot missed the net, the puck bounced off the back boards to Tyler Heinonen, who was stopped.
The Huskies (16-6-1 overall, 11-3-1 WCHA) had the game’s first power play and had multiple scoring chances, including a one-timer by Pietila, but again Nell was there to make the saves. He finished the opening period with seven saves and made 19 on the night.
The Falcons (13-4-4 overall, 9-2-2 WCHA) had a great scoring chance just under a minute into the second when Kevin Dufour fed Pierre-Luc Mercier, but his one-timer was stopped by Phillips (31 saves).
The Huskies stormed back two-on-one with Pietila and Heinonen. Pietila fed Heinonen, who tried to get it back to him, but the puck hit Nell and was kept out of the net.
Just over a minute into the period, Hanna lost control of the puck near the offensive blue line. BGSU’s Ben Murphy picked up the puck, skated in on a three-on-one, but his shot was stopped. On the same shift, he got the puck again, skated across the crease, but was stopped again.
The Falcons broke the scoreless tie 6:27 into the middle frame when Mark Friedman skated the puck in and fired a shot on Phillips. The rebound kicked out to captain Dan DeSalvo, bounced off his body and in the net before he made contact with Phillips.
Dajon Mingo took a penalty shortly after his team took the lead, but Mitchell McLain had the best scoring chance when the Huskies turned the puck over near their own blue line.
The Falcons extended their lead to 2-0 when Brandon Hawkins took a pass in the high slot from Murphy. His wrist shot beat Phillips over the left shoulder at 14:44.
“We played probably our worst hockey with the lead,” said Bowling Green coach Chris Bergeron. “It seemed like Michigan Tech came and they kept coming. They expose you when you are not right.”
The Huskies responded less than two minutes later when Petan got the puck in front of Nell and fired a wrist shot past the goaltender at 16:23. Chris Leibinger and Brent Baltus both assisted on the goal.
Just over two minutes later, the Huskies tied the game when Mark Auk unloaded a huge slap shot that hit the right post and beat Nell at 18:26. Heinonen set up the goal with a timely pass to Auk.
“I think Heinonen brought it around the top of the circle there,” said Auk. “I saw a little open room and he dished it to me. I kind of closed my eyes and just hoped for the best.”
Heinonen and Pietila got loose on a two-on-one again just over three minutes into the third. Heinonen’s shot was stopped and the rebound, which had kicked out to Pietila, was also stopped.
Heinonen was whistled for slashing at 5:46, setting up a Falcons power play, and they did not waste much time capitalizing.
Mingo took a cross-ice pass from Hawkins before firing a shot from the left point that snuck through Phillips. McLain crashed the net and pushed the loosed puck in the back of the net at 6:30.
The Huskies answered 1:22 later when Baltus took a pass from Petan and carried the puck into the slot. He let go a wrist shot that beat Nell at 7:52.
Michigan Tech’s Joel L’Esperance got loose two shifts later and carried the puck into the slot before being hauled to the ice by Mike Sullivan, leading to the Huskies’ game-winner.
Bergeron pulled Nell with 1:13 left in the contest, but the Falcons could not get pucks through to Phillips before the final buzzer.