HANCOCK - After winning 8-1 over Northland Friday night, the Finlandia men's hockey team had to feel pretty good about its chances of earning its first Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association sweep of the season Saturday, but the Lumberjacks had other ideas.
Instead of falling behind 5-0 after 20 minutes like on Friday, previously winless Northland took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, added the critical second goal early in the third and skated to a 4-2 win over Finlandia Saturday afternoon at Houghton County Arena.
"We got outplayed today by a team that was more desperate than we were," Finlandia coach John McCabe said. "They played with intensity, they won more battles than we did, and that's how they came out on top."
Finlandia forward Ryan Bradley skates through the neutral zone as Northland forward Louis Labbe pursues during the third period of Saturday’s 4-2 Lumberjacks’ win at Houghton County Arena. (DMG photo by Stephen Anderson)
The Lumberjacks (1-5-0, 1-5-0 MCHA) out-shot the Lions (3-4-0, 3-3-0 MCHA) every period (29-22 in total) and were backed by much better goaltending than Friday from a different one of their three freshman goaltenders, Mason Riley.
"I think (Friday) we got a few weak goals early and it was like we put it on cruise control, but this team came back and bounced back and played hard for 60 minutes, whereas we didn't have a full 60-minute game as a unit," McCabe said.
"We didn't want to look past them, and I guess the guys did get a little complacent in terms of thinking we're going to cruise to the sweep, but that's not the way it goes in college hockey."
Northland 1 0 3 - 4
Finlandia 0 0 2 - 2
First period 1, NOR, Matt Lennon (Nathan Brown), 13:20. Penalties FU, Ryan Bradley (cross checking), 9:40; NOR, Kraig Wright (indirect contact to the head roughing), 17:07; FIN, Travis Armstrong (charging), 20:00.
Second period No scoring. Penalties FIN, Kevin Smith (indirect contact to the head elbowing), 1:09; FIN, Cody Essel (hooking), 11:06; NOR Colin Moberly (slashing), 12:51; NOR Ryan Palm (roughing), 16:57; FIN, Scott Vargas (roughing), 16:57; NOR, Wright (charging), 18:02.
Third period 2, NOR, Lennon (Louis Labbe, Brown), 4:04; 3, FIN, Collin Saint-Onge 6 (Smith, Essel), 5:26; 4, NOR, Wright (Lennon, Moberly), 15:28; 5, NOR, Brown (Brady Vandenberk, Lennon), 18:51 SH EN; 6, FIN, Saint Onge 7 (Essel, Sean Burke), 19:21 PP EA. Penalties FIN, Essel (boarding), 1:00; NOR, Matt Valley (roughing), 9:25; FIN, Derek Rodgers (roughing), 9:25; FIN, Smith (roughing), 15:28; Moberly (tripping), 18:36; NOR, Valley (roughing), 20:00; FIN, Armstrong (roughing), 20:00
Goaltenders - NOR, Mason Riley (22 shots, 20 saves); FU, Troy Chandler (28 shots, 25 saves).
Northland controlled the game from the outset, dominating possession early, and just when Finlandia gradually started to shift the momentum back in its favor, Ryan Bradley gave it right back with a cross-checking penalty. The Lumberjacks didn't immediately capitalize, but less than two minutes after the penalty ended sophomore Matt Lennon scored the game's first goal for the visitors at the 13:21 mark.
FU's Travis Armstrong put the hosts behind the eight ball to start the second period after taking a charging penalty as time had expired in the first period. Just a minute into the second period, Kevin Smith's elbowing penalty gave Northland a 5-on-3 advantage.
The visitors couldn't take advantage, though, as Lion goaltender Troy Chandler anchored what could have been a momentum-shifting penalty kill. But it wasn't, and even when Finlandia got a power play midway through the period, Northland never allowed the hosts to set much up, constantly clearing the puck and winning battles along the boards.
Even after a tough start, Finlandia still only trailed 1-0 with a period to play, but again a penalty early in the period zapped any potential momentum. Northland couldn't make Cody Essel pay for his boarding penalty, but the Lumberjacks scored just a minute after their man advantage expired, as Lennon once again got the best of Chandler.
"That was huge," Northland coach Steve Fabiili said. "I tell my guys not to relax or change anything, but getting a second goal takes a little bit of pressure off everybody."
Then again, Finlandia put the pressure right back on by finally breaking up the shutout with a Collin Saint-Onge rebound goal just 1:22 after Lennon's second goal.
But that's as close as it got. In a game that got chippy late, including offsetting roughing penalties at one point, Northland pushed the lead to two once again with 4:32 to play, as Kraig Wright took advantage of an FU defensive zone turnover. Nathan Brown made it 4-1 with an empty netter with 1:09 left, and Saint-Onge scored a garbage-time goal for the hosts with 39.6 seconds left.
As the clock hit all zeroes, Northland's bench erupted in celebration more befitting a playoff win than one in November.
"It's a big win. We got the goose egg off the board for us," said Fabiili, whose team has only 10 upperclassmen of the 28 players on the roster. "Today we got consistency from goaltending, we got consistency from limiting our mistakes, and we obviously played a full 60 minutes."
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Finlandia's head-hanging illustrated the level of letdown Saturday's missed opportunity was.
"I think it's a good learning experience that you have to play a full 60 minutes," McCabe said. "It doesn't matter what team you're playing, whether they're 0-10 or 10-0, you have to come out and compete every minute of every shift you play at this level."
Finlandia will have next weekend off for the Thanksgiving holiday before returning to MCHA play Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at Lawrence.