HOUGHTON, Mich. - Michigan Tech shutout Alabama Huntsville 4-0 Saturday at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena to begin WCHA play and win its fourth game in a row. Blake Pietila made 18 saves for his second shutout of the season and four different Huskies scored with Trenton Bliss, Nick Nardella, and Tyler Rockwell all tallying a goal and an assist.
"We didn't have the jump we had going into the break, but we got some great efforts from our supporting cast," Tech coach Joe Shawhan said. "Nardella did a great job, and I thought our goaltending was tremendous. We still need to get better, but it's a good start for the second half."
After a scoreless first period, Tech got the offense rolling with three goals in the second. Brian Halonen scored for the third game in a row as he finished off a setup feed from Nick Nardella 6:42 after intermission. Nardella picked up his first collegiate point with the assist, while Carson Bantle added the secondary helper on Halonen's fourth of the season and 28th of his career.
Nardella then found the back of the net for his first goal. He sent the puck towards the front of the crease and it deflected off a UAH defenseman's skate and into the back of the net at 12:11. Colin Swoyer assisted on the play.
"I've been working really hard in practice to make the lineup," Nardella said. "To get that first one and help the team win feels really good. I saw an opportunity to take it to the net and good things happen when you take it to the net. I kind of got lucky there, but I'll take them any way I can."
"Nick's been working hard every day in practice to get the opportunity," Trenton Bliss said. "I've known him for a long time back to our days with the Gamblers. He's a great kid and it takes one guy like that to get the team rolling and get the momentum on our side."
Bliss scored on the power play with 1:28 left in the second for his fourth goal of the season and 22nd of his career. Eric Gotz blasted a one-timer at the net that bounced off two Chargers and then on to the stick of Bliss for an easy tap in. The alternate captain extended his point streak to five games where he has four goals and five assists. Tyler Rockwell had the secondary assist.
Rockwell made it a four-goal game 13:22 into the third period with his first of the season and fourth of his career. Bliss kept the puck in the zone at the blue line, and Tommy Parrottino also assisted with a pass to Rockwell in the high slot.
Blake Pietila-the WCHA Goaltender of the Month for December-stopped four shots in the first, five in the second, and nine in the third. He had a big save on a breakaway in the final moments of the first period and on a rebound in the final 2:00 of the third.
"He's sure been consistent and outstanding," added Shawhan. "He earned that shutout tonight with a huge save in each period. It wasn't an easy shutout."
David Fessenden had 26 saves for the visitors as Tech outshot UAH 30-18.
Tech was 1-for-3 on the power play and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill.
The two teams will wrap up the first conference series of the season at 2:07 p.m. Sunday.