With a 3-2 overtime win Friday night, Michigan Tech snapped its five-game winless streak while the Minnesota men’s hockey team is nearing that point – skidding on a four-game winless streak of its own.
It’s hard to believe the only thing more impressive than the Huskies night of firsts ñ three players recorded their first goals of the year including two career firsts- was that a penalty in the final minute of regulation might have won the game for the Huskies.
The call came when Minnesota senior forward Evan Kaufmann found the puck in Michigan Tech’s zone with an open lane to the net.
The only move Huskies freshman forward Jordan Baker had was to take Kaufmann out ñresulting in a two-minute checking from behind penalty.
But the game saving penalty paid off for Michigan Tech as junior forward Alex Gagne ended the game with a goal 1:14 into the overtime period.
Gagne’s shot was a “knuckleball” according to Huskies coach Jamie Russelll ñ it appeared to take an awkward bounce off the ice and beat Minnesota freshman goaltender Alex Kangas.
But nevertheless, Gagne’s game-winner was also his first of the year, and spreading the points around is Huskies’ fans can appreciate.
“It’s cool that everybody brings something to the team,” Gagne said.
It’s possible that Gagne’s shot could have been prevented if senior defenseman Derek Peltier had stepped up and challenged Gagne, but that was only one of the defense’s struggles tonight.
The defense left Huskies forwards open in front of the goal, fired dangerous cross-ice passes in front of the net, and left the puck up for grabs in front of Kangas.
Michigan Tech (6-6-1 overall, 5-5-1 WCHA) took advantage of the allowances in the second period when senior center Peter Rouleua fed a wide-open junior defenseman John Schwarz from behind the net.
Schwarz was left untouched and had no problem scoring his first career goal at the 7:17 mark of the second.
The only bright spot for Minnesota had to be the offenses performance in the first period though.
Minnesota (7-7-1, 3-6-0 WCHA) recorded both of their goals in the game’s first 20 minutes and the goals were nearly identical apart from the contributing team members.
Junior forward Blake Wheeler scored the team’s initial goal when he tipped in a pass from sophomore forward Jay Barriball at the 5:33 mark. Senior forward Ben Gordon also earned a helper.
Then less than four minutes later, junior forward Ryan Flynn increased the margin to 2-0 in practically the same fashion.
Flynn, standing in nearly the same spot as Wheeler had earlier, tipped in a centering pass from sophomore forward Tony Lucia, while senior defenseman Derek Peltier also assisted on the play.
But that would be it for the Minnesota offense, except for a handful of semi-promising scoring chances in the middle of the third period.
“It’s a little frustrating definitely,” Flynn said. “But we know that we’re just so close to turning the tide for this season.”
In goal, Michigan Tech junior goalie Michael-Lee Teslak
Teslak, who really had no shot at stopping either of the first period goals, weathered an oncelot of shots during a Michigan Tech third period penalty to keep his team within striking distance.
Then he junior denied senior forward Evan Kaufmann’s breakaway attempt near the three minute mark of the third period to keep things even.
“(Teslak) is a kid that has played great for us all year. He really gives us a chance to win games,” Russell said. “He makes the saves he’s supposed to make, and he’s got the capability to make that big game changing save as well.”
Meanwhile, Kangas was not the conservative, reliable net-minder fans have seen earlier this year.
During the second period, the freshman came out of the net to play the puck, but ended up sending the puck right to Huskies senior forward Ryan Angelow.
The only thing that stopped Angelow from notching an empty net goal was a sprawling block by Peltier.
But Kangas wouldn’t have the same kind of backup the next period when he gave up a goal to freshman defenseman Deron Cousens.
Cousens rifled a slap-shot from the top of the face-off circle to Kangas’ right that went top-shelf almost before the goalie could even react ñ knotting the game at 2-2.
Add to that the questionable overtime goal, and one has to wonder who will get the starting nod in goal tomorrow.