HOUGHTON, Mich. - If tonight's Michigan Tech-Nebraska Omaha WCHA action felt like a playoff game, there's good reason. The teams slugged it out through three periods plus overtime before settling for a 3-all tie in front of 3,454 fans at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
The game had big momentum swings, big hits and a lot on the line, but in the end nothing was decided. The Huskies (13-13-3, 10-8-3 WCHA) and Mavericks (12-11-6, 9-7-5 WCHA) finished with an equal amount of shots on goal (31) and remain tied in the league standings with 23 points apiece.
"Tonight had an NCAA game atmosphere," said Tech head coach Mel Pearson, who coached in NCAA Tournament play a record 21 straight years while an assistant at Michigan. "I'm proud of our guys. We went toe-to-toe with a good team. Both teams had good opportunities to win."
After falling behind 3-2, Tech knotted the game on Jordan Baker's goal at the 16:47 mark of the second period. The senior forward had a defenseman draped on him but found a way to put a quick shot past John Faulkner.
The Huskies dominated the shot board in the third period with a 12-3 advantage, then had two good chances in the overtime. Senior Bryce Reddick hit the crossbar and puck glanced down to the ice just outside the goal line. Later, Baker had a wrap-around stopped inches from the goal line.
Josh Robinson made two saves in the overtime session and 28 for the game to backstop the Huskies. Faulkner, who replaced starter Ryan Massa just 5:15 into the game, posted 26 saves.
The game started well enough for the hosts. The Huskies bucked a trend they had formed over the previous two months by giving up the game's first goal 10 times in the last 12 outings.
Tonight, it was an early lead, and the offense came from an unlikely source.
Tech defenseman Bradley Stebner scored just 55 seconds into the contest with a slap shot from the left point. Carl Nielsen and Jacob Johnstone picked up assists on the play.
Nielsen and Stebner then assisted on Reddick's fourth goal of the season just four minutes later to make it a 2-0 score. Reddick found the puck on his stick inside the right circle and he buried a shot to the near post.
Massa was pulled from the UNO net, and the Mavericks seemed to calm down. The visitors got one goal back midway through the first period, then tied the game just 1:27 into the second. Just six minutes later, UNO scored a third unanswered marker to take a 3-2 advantage.
Tech was whistled for back-to-back penalties midway through the second stanza, but killed off 1:41 of 5-on-3, bringing the home crowd back to life. Baker scored his game-tying goal shortly thereafter to close out scoring.
Neither team scored on four power plays apiece. A combined 12 penalties were called including a five-minute major for checking from behind and game misconduct to UNO's Ryan Walters at the 20:00 mark of the second period.
Michigan Tech and Nebraska Omaha will vie for the Winter Carnival title tomorrow at 5:07 p.m. Tomorrow's game winner will also win the two-game, total goals series.