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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service , Published March 16 2013

Eick, Huskies tie WCHA series with UND

GRAND FORKS – With one backhand swat, C.J. Eick wiped out the longest winning streak in Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff history.

Eick scored a highlight goal, roofing a backhand from down low on a rush with just 2:02 left to give Michigan Tech a 2-1 win over the University of North Dakota on Saturday night, forcing a decisive Game 3 in the first-round WCHA playoff series.

The finale will be played at 7:07 tonight in Ralph Engelstad Arena and the winner will earn a trip to the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul next weekend.

It’s a destination that UND is used to visiting. UND has been there 10 straight years and has won the last three playoff titles. A hope for a fourth in a row is still alive, but UND’s 14-game WCHA playoff winning streak ended against a Tech team that hadn’t won in Grand Forks since the 2008 playoffs.

“It was a hard-fought playoff game and we came up one goal short,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “We battled hard. There were momentum shifts. I thought it was an up-and-down first period. They carried the momentum in the second period. We had a good push throughout the third but it wasn’t enough.”

UND (20-11-7) received a goal from Hobey Baker Award candidate Danny Kristo and 29 saves from junior goaltender Clarke Saunders.

Michigan Tech (13-19-4) used a second-period goal by Tanner Kero and the late one by Eick to earn the victory. The Huskies are attempting to reach their second-straight Final Five.

“It was a hard-fought game,” UND senior Joe Gleason said. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot in the second. I thought we had a great response in the third. It was our best period of the night. If we can play like that for 60 minutes tomorrow, it will be a good outcome for us.”

UND had a great chance to build a lead early when Michigan Tech forward Dennis Rix was called for a checking from behind major late in the first. But a Michael Parks penalty nullified the advantage and the Huskies scored a four-on-four goal early in the second.

Kero, who missed the December series between the teams because of an injury, had the puck near the goal line and fed Blake Pietila at the top of the slot. After dishing the puck, Kero went to the front of the net, where he deflected the shot past Saunders on the stick side.

UND tied it up with 5:03 left in the third when Kristo picked up a loose puck in the high slot and rifled a shot off of the shoulder of Michigan Tech goaltender Pheonix Copley and in the net. It was Kristo’s fourth point of the weekend.

Just 3:01 later, Eick scored his highlight goal.

UND pushed to tie it up with an extra attacker, but couldn’t get anything past Copley, who stopped 29 of 30 shots in his first game against UND this season.

“I think we need to play 60 minutes,” Gleason said. “That second period really killed us. If we can play like we did in the third, push and grind and sustain cycles down low, we’ll be a much better team.”

Immediately after the game, UND dropped to No. 8 in the Pairwise Rankings. Should the team fall in Game 3, it would likely be a bubble team for the NCAA tournament.

“It’s playoff hockey, if you don’t bring your best, you’re not going to like the outcome,” UND captain Andrew MacWilliam said. “We kind of lulled in the second period and it came back to bite us, so we have to regroup.

“We’ve been in playoff hockey before. It’s going to be do-or-die.

We’re going to have to bring our best effort. We’re going to have to bring it tomorrow.”

FIRST PERIOD: No scoring.

SECOND PERIOD: 1, MT, Kero (Pietila) :20.

THIRD PERIOD: 3, UND, Kristo (Grimaldi) 14:57. 3, MT, Eick (Furne, Stebner) 17:58.

SAVES: MT, Copley 9-7-13–29. UND, Saunders 10-11-8–29.

Schlossman writes for the Grand Fork Herald