No. 17 Arizona State (11-8-3) had just tied things up with under five minutes remaining in the third period.
The Sun Devils, who had been gridlocked for most of the game, seemed to finally get in the driver’s seat with about three minutes left to play.
ASU just needed one goal to likely seal a series sweep for the first time in two months. However, Michigan Tech (13-9-1) had other plans. The Huskies scored a goal with 2:06 remaining to snatch a 3-2 victory in the waning minutes.
“When we tied it up, there was no doubt in our minds that we were going to win this game,” said ASU head coach Greg Powers of the loss. “But they outmuscled us for a puck on a retrieval. It was a real simple play that needs to be made 100 times out of 100, but we didn’t make it and they got a nice win.”
The play that Powers was alluding to occurred on a puck that was cleared out of the ASU zone, and all the way down the ice.
As Sun Devil sophomore defenseman Josh Maniscalco back-trekked to corral the rolling biscuit, he was pressured on his back side by Husky sophomore forward Tommy Parrottino.
Parrottino got inside position, and was able to wrangle his way around the Sun Devil defender. He sent a cross-ice pass over to his linemate Trenton Bliss, who then feathered another pass to freshman forward Logan Pietila, who was streaking down the center lane.
The tic-tac-toe play that stemmed from a relentless forecheck turned into the game-winning goal for the Huskies, as Pietila was rewarded with a tap-in to take a 3-2 advantage.
“I don’t have any explanation for why that happened or why he allowed that to happen, but I know he’s more upset about it than anybody,” said Powers of Maniscalco and the scoring sequence. “He’s won us a lot of games this year, and he’ll bounce back.”
As Powers noted, Maniscalco has been nothing but steady and reliable as one of ASU’s top defenders, but the miscue ended up being costly in a tight-knit game.
As for what occurred before the game-winner, both teams came out fighting from the get-go. ASU expected Michigan Tech to come out with jump, and that’s exactly what occurred, as the Huskies grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first on a wrist shot from Bliss.
On the strike, Bliss was on the left wing with a Sun Devil defender coming toward him. He used the defender as a screen, and proceeded to slip it just past the glove side of ASU sophomore goaltender Evan DeBrouwer.
Trenton Bliss scored his 9th game of the season and 6th on the power play to give Tech the lead 6:02 into the 1st. Seamus Donohue and Matt Jurusik assisted. #mtuhky #FollowTheHuskies pic.twitter.com/w0oWBqrdje— Michigan Tech Hockey (@mtuhky) January 5, 2020
“I thought our first period was our best period tonight,” said Michigan Tech head coach Joe Shawhan. “I thought our best period as far as management was the first.”
Indeed, the Huskies held the slight advantage after the opening 20 minutes. The shot counter was similar, but the zone time and possession battle belonged to Michigan Tech.
The ice would swing in the second period, however. With a sustained forecheck, ASU was able to draw a couple penalties, and then finally cash in with its first goal on a top shelf snipe from senior defenseman and captain Brinson Pasichnuk.
The d-man was able to survey the blue line and work the puck around the offensive zone. Michigan Tech got caught on a long shift, and with traffic in front, Pasichnuk unleashed a shot from the right circle that knotted the game at one.
In the third period, the Sun Devil who dons a “C” was also a part of another big goal to even things at two.
After a called timeout with ASU on the power play, the Sun Devils won a draw, then Pasichnuk had a slap shot that was redirected by junior forward Willie Knierim into the net.
“The timeout was mainly to rest our top unit,” Powers said. “We got them some rest and just told them to get pucks to the net, and big Willie Knierim will be there to do what he does and get in the goalie’s eyes, and he did.”
Despite the goal, it wouldn’t be enough. Michigan Tech stole game two after getting taken down the night prior, and they showed resiliency throughout the final frame.
“Our guys have a lot of character, and the thing that makes you proud as a coach is they seem to find team unity in those situations,” said Shawhan of his team responding after ASU tied the game. “You fall apart when the game is on the line in the third period, but we seem to come together more and that’s a great quality to have.”
With the loss, the Sun Devils are now drifting into dangerous territory as the home stretch of the regular season winds down.
They currently sit on the bubble, and things aren’t going to get any easier from here on out. Furthermore, ASU has won the opening game of a series five times since Thanksgiving, yet the Devils have yet to complete a sweep since the beginning of November against Quinnipiac.
“Our guys need to be more desperate. We are not the same team we were last year,” said Powers of the missed close outs.
“We can’t sneak up on anybody. Last year it was a much different mindset...I think the shock value was there with other teams, and it was hard for them to bounce back the next day. But now we have a target on our backs because we are a really good team, and it’s hard to sweep in college hockey. It’s so hard to do. You don’t see very many sweeps ever, and our guys are learning that the hard way.”