Michigan Tech shuts downs Wildcat icers to open U.P. rivalry weekend

HOUGHTON – The Michigan Tech Huskies hockey team returned home Friday night for a key home matchup with its rival from just down the road, the Northern Michigan Wildcats. Playing in front of a capacity crowd, the Huskies (2-5-2 overall, 2-2-1-1 WCHA) did the things they needed to do to be successful in a 2-0 win at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

During the week, Huskies coach Mel Pearson challenged his goaltenders to be better. By the time the 60 minutes were over, he appeared to get just what he was looking for from freshman Angus Redmond. Redmond stopped all 19 shots the Wildcats (2-4-1 overall, 1-3-1-0 WCHA) threw his way to earn his first win and his first shutout in his first career start.

“It felt awesome,” said Redmond. “I’ve been practicing really hard and just waiting for my opportunity. It felt good to finally get the call tonight and the guys played great in front of me.”

Another area of the Huskies’ game that Pearson was looking for improvement was in the offensive production from some key skaters like winger Joel L’Esperance, center Jake Lucchini, and winger Jake Jackson.

All three managed to figure in the scoring.

“Our schedule has been tough,” said Pearson. “We’ve played three of the Top 11 teams in the country on the road, so you are not going to go in there and put up a lot of goals on those teams. I think we have to be patient and understand that.”

With the Wildcats’ Collin Peters off the ice for elbowing in the first period, L’Esperance tipped a shot from defenseman Mark Auk at the left point. The puck made its way back out to Auk, who passed it just to the right of NMU goalie Atte Tolvanen and L’Esperance could get to it. L’Esperance fired quickly and the shot rebounded out to the right where Lucchini jumped on it and buried it into the open goal at 8:28.

“Those are pretty lucky ones,” said Lucchini. “We were moving the puck around really well. We practiced our power play a lot during the week.”

With the game 1-0 in Michigan Tech’s favor late in the third period, winger Jake Jackson gave them some breathing room with less than four minutes remaining in regulation when he picked up a loose puck in the offensive zone, cut to the net and beat Tolvanen with a shot that seemed to sneak through an unseen hole.

Tolvanen was the Wildcats’ best player on the night, according to coach Walt Kyle. Kyle was also quick to point out that the Wildcats’ power play needs to be better than 0-for-5.

“Our power play let us down tonight,” said Kyle. “We had a number of opportunities and they have to find a way to get the job done if they are going to be out there.”

The two teams play tonight at the Berry Events Center. Puck drop is set for 7:07 p.m.