HOUGHTON, Mich. – Michigan Tech scored five goals in the first 12:00 of the game and held on for a 6-4 victory over Lake Superior State in the first game of a best-of-three WCHA Quarterfinal series. Six Huskies had at least two points on the night as Tech won its 19th game of the season.
"We were ready to play tonight," Tech coach Mel Pearson said. "We played disciplined and we played hard. It was a total team effort and that's what you need in the playoffs."
It was a quick 2-0 score 5:00 into the game. Alex Smith buried his seventh of the season 3:34 after the drop of the puck. Joel L'Esperance had a drop pass on the play to set Smith up, and Cliff Watson added the secondary assist.
Shane Hanna hooked up Reid Sturos 80 seconds later for the two-goal lead with a pass out front from the corner. For Sturos, it was his ninth of the year with Jake Jackson assisting for the first of three points on the night.
LSSU (11-17-7) cut into the lead on a goal by Mitch Hults at the 7:28 mark of the first.
Alex Gillies gave the Huskies the two-goal cushion back with his fifth of the year. L'Esperance fed him out front and he did a quick backhand flip over the Lake State goaltender 9:35 into the game. Watson picked up his second assist on the play.
"That was an important goal," added Pearson. "That is something that hasn't happened this year where we are able to extend the lead. It was good to get the momentum, get that confidence, and put them on their heels."
Just over a minute later, Mitch Reinke ripped a one-timer on the power play from Hanna to make it 4-1. Jake Lucchini added the second assist on Reinke's sixth of the year and third on the man advantage.
Jackson scored his first of two on the night just over 90 seconds later with a beautiful move to get the goaltender down to make it 5-1. Sturos fed him out front with Michael Neville adding an assist.
LSSU got a goal from Luke Morgan before the period was done to draw to within three with a 5-on-3 power play goal.
For the second time this season against LSSU, Jackson scored his second of the game. Neville tried a wraparound shot that rebounded out to Jackson for his eighth of the season 79 seconds into the second period. Sturos also assisted for his third point of the evening.
"Jake's playing with tremendous confidence right now," Pearson said. "He scored two tonight and could've had a couple last weekend against Northern. He's a dynamic player who knows how to use his speed."
Gage Torrel (3:47) and Gus Correale (5:12) scored third-period goals for the Lakers to make it 6-4.
The visitors did have a power play with 7:08 left in the third, looking to cut the margin to one, but never managed to get a shot off.
Tech (19-13-7) had a pair of power plays down the stretch to close it out, dominating in shots on goal 51-18.
Both teams pulled their starting goaltender for the backup, only to put the starter back in. Gordon Defiel had 14 saves on 20 shots in 20:29 for the Lakers. Nick Kossoff came in twice and finished the game, stopping all 31 shots he faced.
The two teams continue the series Saturday. Puck drop is set for 7:07 p.m. at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
"Tomorrow's going to be a lot tougher," said Pearson. "We're going to have to be ready to play. Anytime you get a team on the brink of elimination, that's the toughest opponent."
GAME NOTES: Tech has now won six straight over LSSU, including three this season, and is unbeaten in the last 10 matchups…Tech has won five straight WCHA first round playoff games—all at home…Jackson scored two goals vs. LSSU on November 11…The 51 shots by Tech were a season-high, breaking the previous mark of 48 vs. UAA (Jan. 13)…It was the third straight playoff home game with at least five goals for the Huskies.