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Michigan Tech Wins Overtime Thriller to Advance to WCHA Final

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Part of the glory of overtime hockey is how quickly so much can change in so little time. With just a hair more than five minutes remaining in the first overtime of a 1-1 tie, Minnesota State’s Dallas Gerads picked up a loose puck in the Michigan Tech zone along the right boards and headed towards the net. Gerads cut back around a Michigan Tech defender towards the slot. With Michigan Tech goalie Packy Munson down on the ice, it appeared Gerads would have an empty net to shoot at and Michigan Tech’s season would be over.

But Gerads collided with a teammate amidst a mass of bodies in front of the net, and could only force a weak shot wide of the goal. Michigan Tech’s Jake Jackson would retrieve the puck and skate it up the ice on a rush. Just inside the Minnesota State blue line, he fired a long wrist that beat Minnesota State goalie Connor LaCouvee to win the game and extend Michigan Tech’s season by advancing them to next weekend’s WCHA championship game.

The first two periods of tonight’s decisive game three between Minnesota State and Michigan Tech were penalty-filled, with the referees handing out 36 of a game-total 38 penalty minutes through the first 40 minutes. Each team took advantage of those man advantage opportunities once in the second period. First, it was Jake Jackson finishing off a passing play just as a Minnesota State penalty ended at 6:09 of the period. Zeb Knutson answered back for Minnesota State at 10:30 of the period when he collected his own blocked shot and put the second into the goal.

In the third period and extra frame, the referees put away their whistles and the two teams battled for the winning goal. Minnesota State controlled possession for much of the period, but struggled to get shots through the barricade Michigan Tech had set up in front of their own goal, and when they did, Munson, who finished with 41 saves, was stout in goal. Michigan Tech, meanwhile, was more limited in their chances, but they were of much higher quality.

Each team put nine shots on goal in the overtime, but it was Jackson’s at 15:07 of the overtime that finally won it for Michigan Tech.

Michigan Tech advances to face Northern Michigan, who also won a game three in overtime, next week in the WCHA championship game in Marquette, Michigan. Despite the loss, Minnesota State remains guaranteed to make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid.

Notes and Thoughts:

-Woo, this was a fun one. Once again, the WCHA’s playoff format paid off some fantastic hockey. Playing best-of-three playoff series at home venues produces some incredible hockey, this game being a perfect example. It was tense throughout with an incredible finish. I have no idea why college hockey doesn’t lean on this format more often.

-With all due respect to Devin Kero, who was decent in Friday night’s loss, his getting injured in that first game may have saved Michigan Tech’s season. Prior to Saturday, Packy Munson had been shuffled out of the goaltending rotation and hadn’t seen game action since February 2nd. But when he got his chance, he was ready. He allowed just three goals on 75 shots, a .960 save percentage, and was absolutely stellar tonight. He wasn’t just making saves, he was controlling rebounds and playing the puck with a lot of confidence. There’s no way Michigan Tech wins this game without such an incredible effort in goal.

-The first two periods of this game was March intensity with October officiating. Lots of penalties called that maybe could have been let slide. But the officials put away their whistles starting in the third period, and it produced a really entertaining hockey game. There were definitely a few plays in the overtime that would normally be called, but ultimately, they didn’t take away scoring chances, and instead we got a good five-on-five goal to end the game.

-Despite the loss, I didn’t see much reason to panic for Minnesota State. They played a solid game, mostly controlled play, and just couldn’t get the lucky bounce they needed against a team that did a very good job packing it in around their own net. They’ll get a week off to rest up after a tough three game series and will look to get their first ever NCAA tourney win in a couple weeks.

-Next weekend’s WCHA title game between Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech should be a fun one. I imagine tickets will be tough to come by.

Fancy Stats

Shots on goal: MSU: 10-14-9-9-42 MTU: 4-7-8-9-26

Even strength shot attempts: MSU: 9-14-24-17-64 MTU: 8-9-12-15-44

Prime scoring area attempts: MSU: 10-9-7-6-32 MTU: 6-5-5-4-20

What do the numbers tell us?

Minnesota State largely controlled play in this one, but whatever advantage they had in terms of possession was negated by Packy Munson and an inability to shoot pucks through a shin pad.

Final Scoring

First Period

None

Second Period

6:09 Jake Jackson from Brent Baltus and Seamus Donohue 1-0 Michigan Tech

As a Michigan Tech power play was just expiring, Donohue worked the puck from the right point down below the goal line to Baltus. He made a quick pass to the front of the net to Jackson, who jammed it into the goal.

10:30 Zeb Knutson from Parker Tuomie (power play) 1-1 tie

Knutson took a shot from the right point that was blocked by an MTU defender. Knutson picked up the rebound and fired a second shot over the glove of Munson.

Third Period

None

Overtime

15:07 Jake Jackson unassisted 2-1 Michigan Tech

Jackson carried the puck into the Minnesota State zone on a rush. He pulled up just inside the blue line at the center of the ice and fired a wrist shot that beat LaCouvee low to the stick side.