The No. 4 Michigan Tech Huskies needed to take all four points from their rivals, the Northern Michigan Wildcats if they wanted to entertain any ideas of winning the MacNaughton Cup for the first time since 1976. They did their part, winning 5-1 and 3-1, but the Minnesota State Mavericks took one of their two games in Bemidji. At the end of the day, the Huskies came up just one point short. They will face the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers in their first home playoff series since 1993. Also, the Huskies finished with three of the Top-5 scorers in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in Tanner Kero, Alex Petan and Malcolm Gould.
The Huskies completely dominated the Wildcats on Friday night. Blake Pietila and Cliff Watson scored goals 1:10 separated by a goal from the Wildcats in between. That was as close as the visitors would get on Senior Night.
“Big win for us,” said coach Mel Pearson. “Northern has a lot to play for and they played hard. We were ready to go right from the get go. Some pucks found their way into the net for us.”
Tyler Heinonen scored 14:27 into the second period to put the Huskies up 3-1. The Huskies would outshoot the Wildcats 22-2 for the period. Pietila and Heinonen both scored goals in the third as the Huskies extended their lead to four, 5-1. Four of the Huskies’ six seniors scored at least a point in the win for the Huskies.
“I think this was a good bounce-back game from last weekend,” said Pietila. “It was real important. We needed to get the energy back this week.”
The Wildcats had a better start in Saturday’s game, but it was the Huskies who struck first when Heinonen scored a power play goal 8:40 in. Tanner Kero picked up an assist on the goal. Kero scored 1:57 into the second period, putting him back into the WCHA scoring lead. Reid Sturos scored at 9:15 to give the Huskies a 3-0 lead. The game would end, 3-1.
“All we can do is take care of our business,” said Huskies coach Mel Pearson. “I thought our guys did a real good job tonight given the circumstances. It’s a rivalry game, a lot of emotion. We found a way to win the game.”
This week’s Stick Salute goes to seniors Jimmy Davis and Tanner Kero. Davis played in his only game of the season Friday night and even managed to get an assist on Pietila’s first goal. Davis played well in the game. On Saturday, Kero netted two points, becoming the first skater since Shawn Harrison to lead the WCHA in scoring.