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Friday, March 16, 2012

Michigan Tech bounced in WCHA Final Five

MTU Press Release

Michigan Tech was less than five minutes away from its first WCHA Final Five win in more than 15 years before No. 9-ranked Denver turned the tables and came away with a 3-2 overtime victory in front of 11,489 fans at Xcel Energy Center in Minneapolis on Thursday.

The Huskies (17-18-4) came down on a 2-on-1 rush looking to add to a 2-1 lead over the Pioneers (24-12-4) late in the third period. A Tanner Kero shot was stopped and a loose puck cleared straight up the middle of the ice leading to a 3-on-2 breakout the other way. Luke Salazar scored, sending the game to overtime.

Just 2:38 into the extra session, Denver’s Jason Zucker tallied the sudden-death game-winner, becoming the first opponent to score in overtime against Tech in 17 extra-session games (since Jan. 2009).

“That’s hockey,” said MTU head coach Mel Pearson. “We had a chance to go up 3-1. Instead, they scored right away, then got a bounce in overtime. We’ve won our share of close games this year. It just didn’t go our way tonight.”

Goaltender Josh Robinson turned in perhaps his best performance of the season to keep the Huskies in the game. The senior netminder stopped a season-high 41 shots, including three straight saves during a sequence in the second period to keep the score tied at 1.

Ryan Furne gave Tech its only lead of the game just 18 seconds into the third period. Jordan Baker created a turnover on the half-wall and passed the puck to Furne, who walked in and threw a shot on net. The puck found its way under Denver goalie Juho Olkinuora’s right arm into the net.

The Huskies had their third power play of the game midway through the frame, but couldn’t snap a four-game goal-less streak on the man-advantage.

Kero’s chance on the 2-on-1 was one of four shots on goal for the freshman, three of which were good scoring chances.

Two more freshmen tied the game in the first period after Denver had taken a 1-0 lead on a Ty Loney tally at the 3:50 mark. Defenseman Justin Fillion hit Blake Pietila in stride at the blue line. Pietila split two defenders on the breakaway and scored top shelf off a forehand at the 10:45 mark.

Both teams had great chances in the second period. The fourth line of Bryce Reddick, Dennis Rix and Chad Pietila created several 'grade A' chances, but DU posted a 16-6 advantage in shots on goal in the frame.

Shots were 15-10 in the third period and 3-1 in overtime, both in favor of Denver.

Robinson wrapped up his career with a 15-14-4 record in net during 2011-12. Olkinuora made 27 saves for the Pioneers to improve to 9-7-3 on the year.

Michigan Tech has concluded up its 91st season of intercollegiate hockey, having quadrupled its win total from a year ago (four). Robinson, Reddick, Brett Olson, Baker, Alex MacLeod and Corson Cramer were all part of a senior class that helped the Huskies turn the program around.

“I’m so proud of the way our team represented Michigan Tech and our program all season long,” said Pearson. “This season was about the seniors. They’re the ones who bought into what we were trying to do and led the rest of the guys in the locker room.”

Notes: Michigan Tech finished the season 4-1-4 in overtime games … The Huskies and Pioneers each had a win, a loss and a tie in three games against each other this year … Furne finished with the team lead in goals with 12 … Olson had a team-high 30 points on the year.

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