HOUGHTON, Mich. – Michigan Tech scored four unanswered goals in the third period and went on to win 5-1 over Minnesota State Friday (March 10) in the first game of the WCHA Semifinal series at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena. Reid Sturos scored the game-winner early in the third and Mark Auk and Dane Birks each had a goal and an assist.
"It was a real good college hockey game tonight," Tech coach Mel Pearson said. "We stuck to the game plan and were able to open things up in the third. I like the way we're thinking defensively right now and the way we're playing offensively. It was a total team effort from all 20 guys."
Tied at one entering the third, Sturos scored for the third game in a row 3:31 in, taking a long stretch pass from Alex Gillies. Sturos shot faked and then wristed the puck past the glove of MSU goaltender Jason Pawloski. Birks also assisted on Sturos' 11th of the season.
"Reid's a senior," added Pearson. "He's been in a lot of big games. He's playing his best hockey, and you always know what you're going to get from him. He's getting rewarded right now and that line is playing well with a ton of confidence."
"I think it's just momentum," said Sturos. "Once the first one goes in we play with more confidence. We have a lot of guys on this team that can score and that's showing here in the playoffs."
Jake Jackson made it a two-goal game just over 4:00 later, scoring his fourth goal in the last four games and ninth of the season. Joel L'Esperance set him up on the play, carrying the puck deep into the zone and flipping it out front one-handed. Shane Hanna added the secondary assist.
"That was a big time play by Joel," said Pearson. "Jake is getting to the net, and he's getting rewarded for getting to that hard ice."
Gavin Gould scored on a breakaway just over the midway point of the third to finish off a long pass from Auk to make it 4-1 as a Husky power play expired. For Gould it was his eighth of the year and second game in a row with a goal. Goaltender Angus Redmond also assisted for his fourth helper.
The Mavericks (21-12-4) pulled goaltender Pawloski with 6:41 left in the game to try and pull within two. MSU pressured hard on an ensuing power play after a holding penalty on Tech.
Dane Birks cleared the puck down the length of ice and found the back of the net to put the game out of reach, scoring the second of his career. Matt Roy and Alex Smith assisted on the shorthanded tally with 4:40 left on the clock.
Tech (21-13-7) outshot MSU 27-23 in the game, taking nine shots in the first, six in the second, and 12 in the third.
Auk opened the game's scoring 14:55 after puck drop with his fifth of the year. Smith fed the puck out to the point and Auk walked in and wristed it into the back of the net. Gillies picked up his first of two assists on the play.
MSU tied it up before the first period ended (17:31) when Charlie Gerard scored from Clint Lewis.
Redmond stopped 22-of-23 shots he faced to earn his 20th win of the season. Pawloski also had 22 saves for the visitors.
Both teams were whistled for three minor penalties and both were 0-for-3 on the man advantage.
The two teams resume the best-of-three series Saturday (March 11) night. Puck drop is set for 7:07 p.m.
"We've got to be ready to go tomorrow," Pearson said. "Sure, everybody's happy right now, but we can clean a few things up from tonight's game and be better tomorrow."
GAME NOTES: Tech has now won seven straight playoff home games and has scored five goals in five straight playoff home games…Sturos has three goals and four assists in the last four games…Jackson's four-game point streak consists of four goals and two assists…Tech averaged 2.7 goals per game during the regular season and is averaging 6.3 in the playoffs.