HOUGHTON, Mich. – Lake Superior State fell 6-4 at Michigan Tech in Friday's Western Collegiate Hockey Association Playoffs series opener.
The Lakers (11-17-7, 8-13-7 WCHA) quickly found themselves trailing 2-0, five minutes into the game after goals by Alex Smith and Reid Sturos. Moments later, sophomore forward Mitch Hults scored to cut the MTU lead in half with 12:32 remaining.
Hults was able to redirect a shot from the point by freshman Collin Saccoman that snuck past starting goaltender Angus Redmond. Freshman Kris Bindulis also factored in the scoring with an assist on the play.
The Huskies (19-13-7, 15-7-6 WCHA) quickly responded with a trio of goals, separated by less than three minutes, to claim a 5-1 lead with 8:27 remaining in the first period. The flurry of offense was sparked by Alex Gillies' even-strength goal, followed by a power-play tally by Mitch Reinke and capped by Jake Jackson with his first of two goals on the night.
Jackson's goal was the fifth allowed by starting goaltender Gordon Defiel on 18 shots in the period and appeared to end the junior netminder's night early, as he was then replaced by sophomore Nick Kossoff. Kossoff finished the rest of the first period needing to make just one save.
Freshman Luke Morgan drew the Lakers to within 5-2 with a goal during a five-on-three power play, just over four minutes after Jackson tallied the fifth goal for Tech. Hults picked up his first of three assists in the game with a cross-ice feed to Morgan and sophomore Diego Cuglietta also registered an assist on the play.
Michigan Tech took a 5-2 lead and 19-10 lead in shots on goal into the dressing room at the first intermission.
Defiel returned in net for LSSU to open the second period but two shots on goal later and his sixth goal of the night allowed, ended Defiel's night in net. Jackson tallied his second goal of the night for the Huskies 1:19 into play in the middle frame to seal Defiel's fate.
Kossoff finished the final 18:31 of the second period for the Lakers, saving all 15 shots he faced and kept the score at 6-2. With a 17-4 shots on goal advantage in the second period, the Huskies built a dominating 35-14 lead in shots after 40 minutes.
With an inspired effort in the third period, LSSU quickly cut the Huskies lead to 6-4 with a pair of goals inside of the opening 5:12 in the final period. Gage Torrel added his team-leading 14th goal of the season with 16:13 remaining in regulation. Hults and Bindulis each registered their second assists of the evening on the goal by Torrel.
One minute and 25 seconds later, the captain, Gus Correale, scored to draw the Lakers to within two after a feed from Hults. For Hults, the assist was his third of the night and marked the first four-point game of his collegiate career.
With 11 goals and 23 assists on the season, Hults now holds the LSSU scoring lead with 34 points in 35 games.
In the third period, Kossoff again held the Huskies scoreless and racked up 15 more saves. The sophomore netminder from West Des Moines, Iowa finished with 30 saves and held the Huskies scoreless for 39 minutes.
With just over one minute left to play, the Lakers pulled Kossoff in favor of the extra attacker but the man advantage was short lived as Correale was called for a checking from behind major penalty and was given a game misconduct with 46 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Huskies outshot the Lakers 51-18 in the contest and both teams went 1-for-3 on the power play.
The teams resume the series at 7:07 p.m. on Saturday for Game 2 of the WCHA Quarterfinals series. A win by the Lakers on Saturday will force a third game on Sunday at 7:07 p.m., while a loss in Saturday's matchup concludes the season for LSSU and advances the Huskies to the WCHA Semifinals.