Wildcats lose opener to Tech and home ice destiny

Ray Bressette

In a game with much playoff implications on the line, the Wildcat offense came up short against the No. 15-ranked Michigan Tech Huskies Friday, getting shutout 4-0 in Houghton to start the home-and-home regular season finale.

Along with the ’Cats’ loss to their U.P. rival, the Ferris State Bulldogs toppled Lake Superior State 3-1 to pass the Wildcats in the standings by one conference point, putting NMU behind the eight ball heading into the last regular season match Saturday night.

Tech jumped on the Wildcats early Friday night when senior forward Alex Petan showed NMU why he’s the WCHA’s leading scorer, tapping in a goal in the NMU paint from junior forward Brent Baltus just 4:30 into the game.

Baltus would finish off a goal of his own in the second period, burying a rebound off NMU’s senior goalie Mathias Dahlstrom’s pads to extend the Husky lead to 2-0 at 16:18 into the second period.

Two minutes later, Tech extended their lead to three-goals during a four-on-four when sophomore defenseman Matt Roy sent a shot from the top of the circles that went past Dahlstrom to put the Huskies up by a trio at the intermission.

Dahlstrom’s night would be cut short 3:41 into the third, when Tech’s freshman forward Jake Lucchini made the most of a powerplay opportunity to seal the win over the ’Cats.

Freshman goalie Atte Tolvanen replaced Dahlstrom after Lucchini’s goal, and stopped all nine shots he faced in the third period.

The Huskies’ senior goalie Jam Phillips stopped all 21 shots he faced in the game.

The Wildcat special teams contributed to the team’s ninth road loss, going 0-4 on the powerplay and 4-1 on the penalty kill.

The home-and-home series shifts to the Berry Events Center at 7:07 p.m. on Saturday, March 5.

NMU still has the opportunity to gain home ice for the first round of the WCHA tournament if they defeat Michigan Tech and Ferris loses at home to Lake Superior State.

A Wildcat loss or a Ferris State win will send the ’Cats on the road to Big Rapids to play Ferris in their home barn.

Although Tech has only suffered seven losses this season, one of those came against NMU at the Berry Events Center in a 4-1 win on Oct. 23.

The Wildcats are 2-2-1 against Michigan Tech in their last five home games in the series.