HOUGHTON, Mich. – Blake Pietila did what Blake Pietila does on Friday nights, as he backstopped No. 11 Michigan Tech to a 1-0 shutout of St. Thomas to begin the CCHA Playoffs. Pietila stopped all 30 shots he faced for his eighth Friday night shutout, 10th shutout of the season, and 20th shutout of his career.
“We knew it was going to be battle. There wasn’t anything pretty about the hockey game,” coach Joe Shawhan said after winning his 118th game to tie for second in Michigan Tech history. “I can’t see anybody in the country being more valuable to their team than Blake. He had to make some really big saves. He was the difference, and he earned it.”
Pietila tied the CCHA record for shutouts in a season and broke his school records for shutouts in a season and career.
“They got a push after we scored,” Pietila said. “That happens when they’re trying to tie it up, and we were able to step up. My job is to stop the puck, especially when we weren’t able to score until late in the game.”
Brett Thorne scored the game’s only goal 11:28 into the third period as Tech improved to 23-9-4 overall.
Blake stopped four shots in the first, eight in the second, and 18 in the third to earn his 57th career win, moving one win away from the all-time Michigan Tech goaltender win record. He stoned Josh Eernisse on a quick breakaway early in the first and kept the puck out on four power-play chances by the Tommies.
In the third, Tech was whistled for a holding penalty and then Blake drew a goaltender interference call as the teams went 4-on-4 for the third time in the final period. Kyle Kukkonen swept the puck over to Jed Pietila out near the blue line. Jed found Thorne streaking to the net for a D-to-D backdoor pass for the game-winner with 8:32 left. It was Thorne’s third of the season and ninth of his career. Kukkonen extended his point streak to five games with the second assist.
“A bunch of penalties were called in the third and we were 4-on-4,” Thorne said. “I drove backdoor and locked eyes with Jed. He made a great pass, and all I had to do was bury it into the empty cage.”
UST (11-22-2) pulled its goaltender with 1:14 left, and Blake Pietila made four saves to seal the win.
Aaron Trotter made 31 saves for the visitors, including a huge glove save on the power play midway through the first period.
Tech was 4-for-4 on the penalty kill and 0-for-3 on the power play.
Jake Crespi skated in his 100th game for the Huskies.
The two teams will continue the CCHA Quarterfinal series with Game 2 at 6:07 p.m. back at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.