The No. 23-ranked Wildcat hockey team defeated their Upper Peninsula rival, the No. 14-ranked Michigan Tech Huskies in a home-and-home series last weekend, earning three out of four possible conference points off a tie and a win.
The ’Cats and Huskies skated to a 3-3 tie Friday, Jan. 9 at the Berry Events Center in front of 3,955 fans. Sophomore defenseman Brock Maschmeyer scored two first period goals to give the ’Cats a 2-1 lead at the end of the first. Sophomore forward Dominik Shine extended the Wildcat lead to 3-1 with a powerplay goal 4:12 into the third period.
NMU was handed an opportunity to build on their lead even further when Tech’s sophomore defenseman Cliff Watson was issued a five-minute major and a game misconduct for contact to the head on NMU’s junior forward Cohen Adair, who left the game due to injury and did not return.
The Wildcats did not capitalize on the opportunity, however, as the Huskie offense killed off the NMU power play, and minutes later NMU senior forward Ryan Kesti was also given a five-minute major for kneeing 11:23 into the third followed by a cross-checking penalty by NMU’s senior defenseman Jake Baker, giving the Huskies a two-man advantage.
Tech scored two goals on power plays, evening the score with 4:09 remaining in regulation off a goal from Tech’s sophomore defenseman Shane Hanna.
Neither team would score the remaining minutes of regulation, and after five minutes of overtime the two squads skated to a 3-3 tie with each team earning a single conference point.
NMU head coach Walt Kyle said the team’s lack of discipline cost them a chance to win the game.
“It was a hard game, we competed but we didn’t like the way we lost it in the third period,” Kyle said. “To have two senior captains in the penalty box when we lose the game in the third shouldn’t happen and we have to be better.
“You’d like to win the game, and the effort was there, and we’re judging off effort and quality of play, and I think that was good.”
The following night, the teams rematched at MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton.
The Wildcats jumped to a first period lead for the second straight game as sophomore forward Robbie Payne and senior defenseman Luke Eibler each scored a goal in the final 2:30 of the game to give the ’Cats a 2-0 lead at the end of the first.
The Huskies responded with three straight goals to open the second period, with junior forward Malcolm Gould’s powerplay-goal at 12:20 into the period giving Tech their first lead of the series. The ’Cats responded quickly, however, as junior forward Darren Nowick tied the game with a powerplay goal of his own 1:16 later, making it a 3-3 game.
With time winding down in the first period, Tech regained the lead once again off a goal from sophomore forward Brent Baltus to give the Huskies a 4-3 lead after two periods.
Early in the third period, the ’Cats were handed a two-man advantage power play after Tech’s junior forward CJ Eick and freshman forward Dylan Steman were each assessed minor penalties 27 seconds apart.
NMU’s senior defenseman Mitch Jones took advantage of the situation and tied the game with a powerplay goal 5:11 into the third, making the game a 4-4 score.
Both teams were held scoreless in the final 15 minutes of regulation, and in overtime Jones was the hero once again for the Wildcats, scoring the game-winning goal at 2:47 to give the Wildcats the series win over their rival.
Jones said the game-winning goal attested to the emotions of the game.
“It was a bang-bang play,” Jones said. “I got a pass up from the point, and I just heard someone yell ‘shoot’ so I just took a look at the net and ripped it.
“It was an up and down game, the big crowd helped. From having the lead to falling down, than pulling it out at the end, hopefully this is a stepping stone for a win streak.”
Kyle said the ’Cats remained more focused in Saturday’s win.
“It was very much a Tech-Northern game,” Kyle said. “It seems like everytime we’re [in Houghton] they score in flurries on us, and they had a great second period. I was really happy that when we lost a two-goal lead and were trailing, we were able to come back and tie it then win. I’m proud of that effort, and I’m proud of our guys being resilient and staying focused.”
The Wildcats now sit with a 9-6-5 overall record, 6-6-4 in conference and are tied with Ferris State University in fourth place in the WCHA with 16 conference points.
NMU sophomore goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom is fifth in the WCHA with a .928 save percentage and a 1.94 goals-against average. Maschmeyer leads NMU in scoring with seven goals, while Shine leads in points with 15.
The ’Cats will hit the road once again this weekend in another WCHA matchup with a trip to the University of Alabama-Huntsville to play the Chargers at 8:07 p.m. Friday, Jan. 16 and Saturday, Jan. 17.
The Chargers enter the weekend 5-13-3 overall, 4-12-0 in conference play and sit eighth out of 10 in the WCHA.
The ’Cats and Chargers met earlier this season in a nonconference series at the Berry Events Center, which resulted in a 1-1 tie Friday, Oct. 31 and 4-1 Wildcat victory Saturday, Nov. 1. Maschmeyer scored a pair of goals in the ’Cats 4-1 win.
The Chargers are 3-5 at home this season, and are riding a two-game losing skid after getting shutout 4-0 back-to-back nights at home by Bemidji State University last weekend.
Huntsville’s freshman forward Max McHugh is the team’s leader on offense with seven goals and 15 assists.
Alabama-Huntsville head coach Michael Corbett said the Chargers are expecting another tough series with the Wildcats this weekend.
“Right now we’re a better team than we were then,” Corbett said. “We’re continuing to compete and make teams earn everything they get. We need to focus on protecting our home ice and playing our game. Both teams will be focusing on what they do well and executing. Whichever team executes and manages the puck better will be very successful in this series.”