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Dallas Wiertella
Dallas Wiertella
Multimedia Editor

Through my experience here at the North Wind I have been able to have the privilege of highlighting students through all forms of multimedia journalism. Whether I'm in front or behind the camera, I aim...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Looming showdown against Tech; WCHA title on the line

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Members of the Wildcat hockey team celebrate at center ice after winning 3-2 in OT Sunday night at the Berry Events Center. Junior forward Adam Rockwood and sophomore forward Demico Hannoun embrace in the bottom left as the rest of the team swarms the overtime hero, junior forward Troy Loggins. Photo by: Lindsey Eaton/NW

The second-seeded Northern Michigan University Hockey team defeated the third-seeded Bowling Green State University in a dramatic 3-2 overtime thriller of a decisive game three at the Berry Events Center (BEC) on Sunday night. The elate Wildcats awaited their opponent, as the other WCHA semifinal contest featured Michigan Technological University visiting Minnesota State University-Mankato, also in a decisive game three at the same time.

The fifth-seeded Huskies, on paper, weren’t supposed to win the series versus the top-seeded, and then-No. 3, Mavericks. But they did, also winning in a dramatic extra frame, 2-1 over a MSU-Mankato team that was unbeaten in its previous 14 games.

The semifinal results set the stage for a St. Patrick’s Day show-down on Saturday night between the Huskies and Wildcats. The two heated Upper Peninsula rivals, who split the regular season 2-2, will be battling for all the glory in front of a sold-out, and likely rambunctious, BEC crowd.

It will be, by far, the largest game in the history of the Berry Events Center, and quite possibly the largest and most anticipated sporting event in all of college hockey this weekend, with all six Division I conferences playing their respective championships.

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The six Division I conference champions all get an automatic bid in the 16-team NCAA Tournament field. That leaves 10 other at-large bids for teams that don’t win their conferences.

The Wildcats have been on the bubble of the all-important Pair-Wise Rankings all season, while the Huskies mid-season struggles have kept them out of the top 16 all together.

It’s win or go home for both of these schools.

After an explosive series opener, in which NMU defeated BGSU 6-1, with senior forward Robbie Payne scoring two goals. The Falcons fought back on Sat- urday, earning a 1-0 shutout behind sophomore netminder and Florida Panthers draft pick, Ryan Bednard to even the series at 1-1.

Sunday night proved to have all the drama. The Wildcats struck first at 18:55 of the first period when Payne took a shot which deflected off of senior forward Zach Diamantoni and over the shoulder of Bednard.

The Falcons then tied the game on a power play goal from freshman forward Max Johnson in the second period.

The game remained tied until 10 minutes into the third period when NMU freshman Joseph Nardi found the back of the net on a deflection for his ninth tally of the year.

With many chances to put the game away, including a late power play and an empty-net goal that missed by mere feet, the Falcons scored with 22 seconds
to go, sinking the hearts of the crowd of 2,373.

The official waved the goal off for goaltender interference, and the lead was still intact.

Then, with eight seconds to go, BGSU sophomore defenseman Alec Rauhauser took a shot which deflected off of senior forward Mitch McLain and behind NMU junior netminer Atte Tolvanen.

This time the goal was good, BGSU’s season stayed alive and the crowd went quiet.

NMU head coach Grant Potulny said his team responded well after the Falcons scored the tying goal.

“I liked our team,” he said. “In playoff games sometimes things happen. There’s not always an answer for why they happen. They (BGSU) had a chance at the end, and had guys that didn’t want to go home, and one of their best players (McLain) made a play. You just have to manage the emotions of your bench and I thought the response was great.”

Potulny added his team played strong from start to finish and BGSU didn’t make it come easy.

“From the beginning of the game I really liked our team,” he said. “I think you get what you earn, and we earned that.”

It was a back-and-forth overtime period. Both teams applied pressure, including a moment where the Falcons cycled the puck in the NMU zone for over two minutes, but Tolvanen stood tall.

In the middle of the extra frame, NMU junior forward Troy Loggins took a shot which rang off the crossbar, nearly ending it for the Wildcats.

At 15:53 of the overtime period, Loggins made up for the crossbar hit. He received a pass from junior defenseman Ryan Black and took a strong slap shot from the point. The puck sailed past Bednard into the back of the net and the BEC crowd was sent into a frenzy.

Loggins said he was more relieved than excited after netting the winner.
“I honestly think it was more relief for me,” he said. “I should have blocked the one they (BGSU) ended up scoring at the end with eight seconds left. I was just happy to get that one back for the boys.”

When asked how it felt to be the hero, Loggins credited everyone but himself.

“It feels great but we have 20 guys who worked their butt off,” he said. “The credit goes to them as well.”

Awaiting their championship opponent, MSU-Mankato and MTU were also in overtime of their game three. The Huskies were victorious after a wrister from junior forward Jake Jackson found the back of the net, unassisted at 15:07.

The Mavericks will still be going to the NCAA Tournament, while the Wildcats or Huskies will represent the WCHA as the second team in.

Potulny said while the campus and community are ecstatic about reaching the finals, he added that it was a very achievable goal and the team is still seeking more.

“I expected us to be here,” he said. “Call me crazy, but that’s why you play the game. We have good players, a good goaltender, and I thought we’d have an opportunity to play in that game. It’s great to get to it, but we’re not just going to it, we’re going there to win.”

The Wildcats lead the all-time series against the Huskies 72- 62-10 and 40-24-6 at the BEC. The last time the two met in the playoffs was a 1994 quarterfinal round which the Huskies prevailed, 5-1.

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