SAULT STE.MARIE, Mich. - A goal by freshman Max Humitz in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association shootout of Saturday's regular season finale lifted Lake Superior State to two conference points over visiting Ferris State. The teams officially tied, 1-1, for NCAA purposes, however, the shootout victory gave LSSU a one-point advantage over Northern Michigan to claim the seventh seed heading into the WCHA Quarterfinals next weekend.
A true goaltenders' duel saw the teams battle for over 19 minutes of play without a goal to open the game before sophomore forward Mitch Hults tallied his 10th goal and 30th point of the season with 22 seconds remaining in the first period. Fellow sophomore Diego Cuglietta tallied an assist on the play, winning the faceoff draw back to Hults who fired the puck past Darren Smith for a 1-0 lead.
The Lakers (11-16-7, 8-13-7 WCHA) took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission with a 10-8 advantage in shots on goal.
The Bulldogs (13-17-5, 12-12-4 WCHA) evened things up at 1-1, 2:02 minutes into the second period, with a goal by Mitch Maloney. Maloney's tally, the lone blemish on Gordon Defiel's final home game as Laker, was assisted by Gerald Mayhew and Jacob Hetz.
The goal by Maloney sparked a dominating second period by the Bulldogs, outshooting the Lakers 24-5 in the middle frame. Defiel stood tall in net for the Lakers, turning aside 23 shots in the period to keep the game tied 1-1 heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation.
In the third period, LSSU outshot the Bulldogs 13-11, despite two power-play opportunities for the Bulldogs, but the teams remained tied and went to overtime.
Again the teams failed to score in the five-on-five overtime period, despite an opportunity with the man-advantage in the extra frame to close the game in an official NCAA tie.
With the new overtime rules by the WCHA for the 2016-17 season, the teams went to a 3-on-3 overtime period to decide the winner of the extra league point. The three-on-three period opened up a flurry of offense between the teams that saw LSSU register five shots on goal, plus a shot by Gage Torrel that struck iron, and two shots by the Bulldogs, but once again, no goals.
The sides went to a sudden-death shootout period still deadlocked at 1-1. Freshman Max Humitz opened the shootout by going from his backhand to the forehand and lifted his shot over Smith to give the Lakers the 1-0 lead.
Mayhew's subsequent attempt was snuffed out by Defiel, giving the Lakers the victory after one round of the shootout.
Defiel, in his final season of eligibility, was honored prior to the game Saturday evening along with senior captain Gus Correale and student equipment manager Wes DeJong in a special Senior Night Ceremony. In tying his season-high of 43 saves on Saturday, Defiel earned the game's first star.
With two points from the shootout victory, LSSU kept a one-point advantage over Northern Michigan to clinch seventh place in the league standings. With a 5-3 win over Michigan Tech on Saturday night, the Wildcats were momentarily tied with the Lakers for seventh in the standings and held a tie-breaker scenario.
As the seventh seed, the Lakers travel to Houghton, Mich., next weekend for a best-of-three series at Michigan Tech to open the WCHA Quarterfinals. The Lakers and No. 2 seed Huskies will play at 7:07 p.m. on Friday and Saturday (March 3-4) and a Game 3, if necessary, is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. on Sunday (Mar. 5).