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Mavericks can't break Blake: Tech goalie shuts down MSU

Minnesota State put 44 shots on goal, but managed to get just one past Michigan Tech sophomore goalie Blake Pietila in a 3-1 loss at Houghton, Mich., on Sunday.

Minnesota State University Mankato Mavericks logo.jpg

Minnesota State snapped to life just before the halfway point of the second period Sunday night.

But whether the Mavericks had their foot on the gas or not, they struggled to solve Michigan Tech goalie Blake Pietila.

Pietila, a sophomore making just his third career start and his first this season, stopped everything MSU sent his way for 58 minutes. He made 43 saves, including 34 over the final two periods to lift the Huskies to their first victory of the season, 3-1 against the Mavericks at MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton, Mich.

No. 6-ranked MSU used the same players as it did in its 5-0 season-opening win at Bemidji State on Nov. 22, but the Mavericks juggled their lines a bit from that game. Notably, the all-senior line of Dallas Gerads, Jared Spooner and Walker Duehr was split. Gerads moved to the left wing on Nathan Smith’s line, with Lucas Sowder on the opposite wing. Duher shifted to Shane McMahan’s line, with Cade Borchardt on the opposite wing, and Spooner started the game on a line with Brendan Furry and Julian Napravnik.

The changes didn’t result in goals -- in fact, for the first 27 minutes of the game, MSU looked like it was shaking off rust from a two-week period that saw the Mavericks go through the quarantining process and have three games postponed or canceled due to positive COVID-19 tests within the team.


Michigan Tech took advantage and built a 2-0 lead in that timespan.

Big freshman forward Carson Bantle -- the media’s WCHA Preseason Rookie of the Year -- applied pressure to MSU defenseman Andy Carroll as he carried the puck behind his own goal. Bantle forced Carroll to throw a pass into the left circle that went directly to Tech forward Logan Ganie. The sophomore grabbed the puck and quickly fired a shot past Mavericks goalie Dryden McKay for a 1-0 lead at the 15:38 mark of the first.

Tech (0-0-0 WCHA, 1-1-1 overall) held the momentum, but that’s how the score remained until 6:32 into the second period. On a power play, Tyler Rockwell fed defenseman Eric Gotz at the top of the left circle and Gotz blasted a heavy one-timer past McKay (21 saves).

From that point on, the Mavericks’ adjusted lines controlled the game, but couldn’t find a way to get the puck past Pietila.

The former All-USHL goalie with Cedar Rapids made his first college start last year against Minnesota State, and he nearly stumped the Mavericks that night, too, stopping 18 shots in MSU’s 2-1 win at Tech on Nov. 9, 2019.

Saturday, he was doubly good, making 43 saves, including some highlight-reel stops on what looked like certain goals for the Mavericks.

Pietila left Furry shaking his head with 90 seconds to go in the second period. With Pietila prone on the ice, Furry had the puck at the side of the goal and a mostly open net to shoot at, but Pietila stretched his leg to rob Furry’s attempt to get MSU (0-0-0, 1-1-0) on the board.

Pietila then made a handful of big stops in the final five minutes of the game, stopping Duehr on the doorstep after Gerads had sent a perfect cross-ice feed. Seconds later, Pietila slide left to right to stop Smith at the side of the goal, and two minutes later he made a big pad save on a heavy shot by Furry from between the circles.


With McKay pulled for an extra attacker in the final two minutes, MSU finally spoiled Pietila’s shutout bid as Gerads made a nice redirect of a point shot by Lutz with 1:16 to go.

But Smith took a slashing penalty 32 seconds later, and Tech’s Brian Halonen scored an empty-net goal with 4.1 seconds to go to cap the scoring.

With the loss, MSU’s six-game winning streak against the Huskies came to an end. Tech hadn’t defeated the Mavericks since a 2-1 win at Mankato in the 2018 WCHA semifinals.

MSU will get a chance to avenge the loss when the teams meet again at 4:07 p.m. Monday.

NOTES: MSU avoided being shut out for the first time Feb. 23, 2018, a 1-0 loss at Alaska. … Michigan Tech was 2-for-5 on the power play, Minnesota State was 0-for-3. … Lutz had a game-high eight shots on goal. Napravnik and Smith had five each. … MSU held Tech to just four shots on goal in the third period. … Tech played the final 43:32 without one of its top returning scorers, junior forward Trenton Bliss. Bliss was called for a major checking from behind penalty late in the first period.


Minnesota State 0 0 0 — 1

Michigan Tech 1 1 1 — 3


First period — 1. MTU, Logan Ganie 1 (unassisted) 15:38. Second period — 2. MTU, Eric Gotz 2 (Tyler Rockwell 1) 6:32 (pp). Third period — 3. MSU, Dallas Gerads 1 (Reggie Lutz 1, Akito Hirose 1) 18:44 (ea). 4. MTU, Brian Halonen 1 (Colin Swoyer 1, Alec Broetzman 1) 19:56 (pp, en).

Shots on goal — MSU 9-18-17—44, MTU 10-10-4—24. Goalies — MSU, Dryden McKay (L, 1-1-0; 21 saves-23 shots); MTU, Blake Pietila (W, 1-0-0; 43 saves-44 shots). Power plays — MSU 0-for-3; MTU 2-for-5. Penalties — MSU 6-12 minutes; MTU 5-21 minutes.

Dryden McKay

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