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CCHA notebook: Blake Pietila's sizzling play has Michigan Tech coach believing Hobey, league MVP are possible

“There’s no player in the country more valuable than Blake is to our team,” said Michigan Tech head coach Joe Shawhan.

Minnesota Duluth plays Michigan Tech in regional semifinal game in Loveland
Minnesota Duluth forward Noah Cates (21) shoots the puck on goal against Michigan Tech goaltender Blake Pietila (31) the NCAA regional semifinal game on Thursday, March 24, 2022, at Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colorado.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Blake Pietila’s goals-against average in the month of January was impressive: 1.37 over eight games. The Michigan Tech goaltender's save percentage was just as good, stopping 195 shots at a .947 clip.

But perhaps most impressive? His solid shutouts-per-weekend numbers (this is a totally real, not at all made up statistic). Pietila, a senior from Howell, Michigan, put up three doughnuts last month, on consecutive weekends. He blanked St. Thomas, Ferris State and Northern Michigan — with each occurring on the Friday night of the two-game series.

“There’s no player in the country more valuable than Blake is to our team,” Michigan Tech head coach Joe Shawhan said of Pietila during his postgame interview Friday. “His family and relatives are from here, and having someone of Blake’s caliber and ability is great for our community.

“I would vote for him for a Hobey, I would vote for him for league MVP, I mean, he’s just been great. In everything, too. Even if you take away (what he does) on the ice: His mentorship of our other goaltenders… it’s been a blessing for people here..”

Blake is one of six Pietilas to suit up for Tech in the past two decades — including twin brother Logan and current Huskies forward — with more of them are on their way (younger brother Chase will likely join the team next season).

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The Huskies’ 3-0 victory over Northern Michigan last weekend was Pietila’s nation-leading seventh shutout of the season, tying his own regular-season record and giving him 14 for his career. Pietila stopped 20 shots against the rival Wildcats.

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“This was one of the best games we’ve played this season as a team,” he said. “It’s a little harder only getting 20 shots, but the guys have been playing so well in front of me.”

The Huskies (18-7-4, 11-5-4 CCHA) finished the sweep on Saturday night on the road with a 4-1 victory; Pietila made 26 saves. He was named both the CCHA’s goaltender of the month and goaltender of the week for his efforts – efforts which also saw the Huskies pass Bowling Green and move up to second place in the league standings.

Silye, Mavericks move back into first

Ever since a sweep at the hands of Bemidji State saw them fall out of first place and into third, Minnesota State has been a team on a mission. The Mavericks swept the entire month of January, going 8-0 and outsourcing their opponents 33-11 in the process.

Among those scoring for the Mavericks last month was junior forward David Silye. The Ontario native scored seven goals in January, including three last weekend in a 4-1 and 5-1 road sweep of Ferris State. That increased his goal output to 20 on the season, which is second only to the nation-leading 23 of Western Michigan’s Jason Polin.

“It’s the most goals I've probably scored in the last six years combined,” joked Silye, who actually did score 20 goals during his final junior hockey season in Penticton of the BCHL. But he didn’t score any during his freshman season at Clarkson in the ECHL; he then transferred to Minnesota State last season and scored eight. “It's very nice to be able to be the one that's putting the puck in the back of the net but I can't do it with all my teammates. I know that sounds cliche but it is true and, and I’m fortunate to have these guys support me and and help me and they're just excited as when I scored my first one as my 20th one.”

The sweep in Big Rapids over the weekend helped the Mavericks (18-9-1, 13-6-1 CCHA) pass idle Bowling Green to take pole position in the league. They are now three points ahead of second-place Michigan Tech and four ahead of BG, who fell to third following a weekend in which they lost an exhibition against the U.S. Under-18 team.

MSU head coach Mike Hastings said this weekend’s games — a home and home with St. Thomas — are important to help the Mavs keep pace in the standings.

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“It will be games nine and 10 from the beginning of the second half here, and very important points are on the line,” Hastings said in his weekly media session. “It was a difficult place to go and play last weekend at Ferris State, so we're fortunate to get a couple of wins there, and now we've got to turn to go back to trying to defend our home ice and play here on Friday and then go play at St. Thomas on Saturday, and St Thomas is playing a really good hockey right now.”

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