MADISON, Wis. – The Michigan Tech hockey team fell 3-2 in its season-opening game at No. 12 Wisconsin Sunday (Oct. 1) at the Kohl Center. Joel L'Esperance and Jake Lucchini scored the two Huskies' goals, both on the power play, to cut the lead to one each time, but the Badgers held on for the nonconference win in the annual US Hockey Hall of Fame Game.
"We obviously didn't get the result that we wanted, but we can't complain about the effort," Tech Head Coach Joe Shawhan said after his first game as the leader of the Huskies. "We started out a little tentative and gave up some things early, but that will happen with a team in the first game and with guys playing in bigger roles than they're used to."
Down 2-0 after the first period, the Black and Gold capitalized on a couple of power plays after a physical opening to the second. L'Esperance broke free on a breakaway and buried his 35th career goal 13:13 into the middle frame to cut the lead to one. Mark Auk threaded the pass up to L'Esperance, and goaltender Patrick Munson added the secondary assist.
The Badgers pushed the lead back to two 1:35 later on a goal by Linus Weissbach—his second of the game.
Wisconsin was then called for back-to-back penalties and Lucchini made it 3-2 on the second power play with 1:34 left in the second. He ripped in a shot from the faceoff dot to the left of Badger goaltender Kyle Hayton for the 19th of his career. Gavin Gould had the primary assist and Auk picked up his second assist of the night with the secondary helper.
Tech outshot UW 8-7 in the final frame, including quality scoring chances from Brent Baltus midway through and a backhander out front of the net by L'Esperance.
Munson gave the Huskies a chance in the third with a pair of beautiful saves. He stoned Ryan Wagner on a breakaway with 9:00 left and then slid across the crease 2:00 later to stop another game-sealing goal.
Coach Shawhan pulled Munson for the extra attacker with 1:44 left, but the Badgers iced the puck four times and the Huskies ran out of time.
"I'm extremely happy with the way we competed," added Shawhan. "It's a tough place to come in and play, and I thought in a lot of ways we exerted our will as the game went on. Now we have to make sure our practices are at the pace of today's game. We have to come in everyday and practice with that intensity to continue to improve."
Will Johnson opened the game's scoring after burying on a wraparound 5:51 after puck drop.
Weissbach made it 2-0 at the 10:55 mark of the first with a power play goal. A Husky defender blocked the original shot and Weissbach was there to fire in the loose puck.
The Badgers outshot the Huskies 27-22 in the game with 11 coming in the first period alone. L'Esperance led Tech with six shots on goal while Gould added four.
Munson finished with 24 saves in his first game in a Tech uniform. Sophomore Keegan Ford and freshmen Seamus Donohue, Mitch Meek, and Marcus Russell also made their debut for Tech. Ford played 12 games for Wisconsin in 2014 and started on the blue line for the Huskies Sunday.
Tech resumes play next weekend in the annual Ice Breaker Invitational Tournament hosted this year by Minnesota Duluth. The Huskies open against Union Friday at 5 p.m. UMD and Minnesota play in the second semifinal.