This Michigan Tech team is good. Despite Minnesota having a 172-77-15 record all-time against the Huskies, Michigan Tech has a team that should give a lot of squads fits this season. They're fast, they can shoot, and they capitalize on mistakes. Starting goaltender Michael Shibrowski didn't make it out of the second period for the Gophers as the surprising Huskies showed how to make turnovers count.
The Gophers didn't help their cause as they looked lackluster on Friday night. They were a step slower, and their dump-and-chase was eaten up by a Michigan Tech blueline that was prepared. Throw in some key saves from goaltender Phoenix Copley to kill any building momentum that the Gophers showed, and the Huskies were primed to steal a game from the nation's top team.
"We got off to a good start," said Michigan Tech head coach Mel Pearson. "(Alex) Petan scored a great goal, and things seemed to go in for us. We really capitalized on our chances."
Petan's goal was spectacular, and he put Michigan Tech up 1-0 just 3:32 into the game.
That's right, kids. He slid on his belly to stop the pass, corralled it as he got to his knees, and shelved it under the crossbar past Shibrowski. That was an excellent goal, and it should make highlight reels all season long in this hockey drought. Well done, Alex!
Minnesota tied the game, but two quick goals by Michigan Tech's Blake Pietila and Dennis Rix twenty-two seconds apart put the home team up 3-1 through twenty minutes. Honestly, Michigan Tech looked everything like the top-ranked team in the opening period. The tempo and pace of the game was clearly dictated by the Huskies, and the Gophers needed a spark in the second period if they wanted to win.
Nick Bjugstad provided a spark just 2:51 into the second when he netted a goal, but it seemed to re-ignite the fire for Michigan Tech. Chad Pietila scored on a breakaway at 6:22 that prompted the Minnesota goaltending change as the Huskies led 4-2. Michigan Tech would add another goal before the second period ended as Blake Pietila scored his second of the night at 18:27 to send the two teams to the dressing rooms with Michigan Tech up 5-2.
While Minnesota would get one more goal on the night, the better team from start to finish was Michigan Tech. As one coach told me during my playing days, "It's easier to climb the mountain than it is to stay on top". It appears that, after Boston College and North Dakota lost, that the top ranking in the nation is anyone's to grab.
The key message that needs to be driven home for Minnesota, though, is that every game should be played like it's the Frozen Four Final. Just because Michigan Tech wasn't a highly-ranked school doesn't mean they'll just roll over. They played better, they fought harder, and they played smarter. That will get you a win in the vast majority of hockey games and life situations.
And because Michigan Tech rolled over Minnesota on Friday and played them hard again on Saturday, we'll likely see a new school atop the NCAA rankings this week.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!