Tolvanen continues to shine in scoreless tie with Bemidji

Ray Bressette

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For the fourth straight game, senior goalie Mathias Dahlstrom was not suited up between the pipes for the ’Cats Friday night in the team’s scoreless tie with the Bemidji State Beavers.

In the meantime, freshman goalie Atte Tolvanen has made a case for himself to stay in the net for the ’Cats with his 46-save shutout against the Beavers.

“He played great tonight, and he’s quickly going to make a name for himself,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. “Our guys believe in him, he has a great mentality with the mental traits it takes to be a good goaltender. Mathias will be back at some point, but it’s not a given that [Dahlstrom] will take [Tolvanen’s] job. You have to earn that, and [Tolvanen] is making a big statement.”

The Wildcat offense was held to 22 shots in Friday’s tie. Junior defenseman Brock Maschmeyer said Tolvanen gives the team momentum on a slow offensive night.

“It’s like having a wall back there,” Maschmeyer said. “”We don’t want the puck at our net of course, but if we don’t take care of guys, having him there is a great feeling. It’s like when we had Dahlstrom last year, you know he’s back there if you mess up and the puck gets through. It’s great having him.”

Tolvanen is coming off a week where he was named WCHA rookie of the week after making 63 saves on 67 shots against the nationally ranked Michigan Tech Huskies in the home and home series last weekend.

The native of Vihti, Finland said it’s been a positive experience filling in for Dahlstrom during six of NMU’s seven games.

“Of course I like it,” Tolvanen said. “That was the goal when I came into the season, to see as much playing time as I could. I’m really enjoying it.”

The Wildcats spent much of Friday night in their own zone due to the five penalties they committed, all in the first two periods.

Most of Bemidji’s opportunities came in the second period when NMU committed four penalties, which the Beavers were able to generate into 22 shots in the period alone to extend their shot total to 35 compared to NMU’s 12 shots.

“We got into penalty trouble and they gained momentum, and really came at us,” Kyle said. “I really give [Tolvanen] credited for playing well there. Our penalty killers did a pretty good job.”

The ’Cats were able to stay disciplined for the third period, generating a powerplay of their own.

At 6:04 in the period, Bemidji’s sophomore forward Gerry Fitzgerald was called for interference at center ice. Just 24 seconds later, sophomore forward Kyle Bauman committed the second straight penalty for the Beavers to give NMU the two-man advantage for 1:36 and a chance to give the ’Cats a late lead.

NMU was unable to capitalize on the opportunity, and after a five-minute overtime the teams skated to a scoreless tie.

“I don’t think it was a great game,” Kyle said. “Not much was going on, and the teams played a lot in the neutral zone.

“It was a real slow and sluggish game. We had problems with the ice that got soft, pucks got chippy and were all over the place making it a sloppy game.”

Maschmeyer led his team in shots with four, but Bemidji’s sophomore goalie Michael Bitzer was quick to deny him and all 22 of the ’Cats’ shots Friday night.

Kyle said there’s room for players besides Tolvanen and Maschmeyer to step up for the teams rematch Saturday night.

“We have some guys seven games in t we don’t have a whole lot from, like (junior forward) Gerard Hanson, (junior forward) Shane Sooth and (junior forward) Dominik Shine,” Kyle said. “Those are guys that have to get the job done and get opportunities. They’re working and competing hard. Some of those guys have been hurt but they have to simplify the game. You have to get to the front of the net to get scoring chances and we’re not getting enough chances in that area right now.”

Puck drop for Saturday’s match is set for 7:07 p.m. at the Berry Events Center.

Maschmeyer said his team needs a more aggressive offensive approach to earn the series win.

“The biggest thing is getting the puck in their zone, maybe even a little dump and chase,” Maschmeyer said. “We have to get to the goalie and get in his face, anything to get the puck in the net.”