Spoiler alert

NMU?rallies past Michigan Tech on Senior Day; No. 2 Tech hosts No. 7 Lake Superior State in?WCHA tourney

David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette Northern Michigan’s Atte Tolvanen makes a save on Michigan Tech’s Reid Sturos Saturday at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

HOUGHTON — In the final regular season battle Saturday between the Michigan Tech Huskies and the Northern Michigan Wildcats, the Huskies struck 65 seconds in. But that lead did not last. 

For the Wildcats, the third time was the charm as their third one-goal lead was enough to hold off the Huskies for a 5-3 win at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

With the win, the Wildcats secured the eighth WCHA playoff spot and will play No. 1 Bemidji State.

No. 2 Tech will host the No. 7 Lake Superior State Lakers this weekend.

Huskies coach Mel Pearson liked a lot of things about his team’s effort despite the loss, as the Huskies (18-13-7 overall, 16-7-6-3 WCHA) outshot the Wildcats 41-22, but lost the special teams battle as the Wildcats struck twice on the man advantage.

“It was a back-and-forth game,” said Pearson. “Any time you score three goals, especially at home, it should be enough to win. You can’t give up four goals and expect to win. You have to win the special teams battle. We lost that [Saturday].”

The Wildcats (12-20-4 overall, 10-15-3-1 WCHA) did not look like a team with a playoff spot on the line as they got off to a sluggish start. But for coach Walt Kyle’s team, the finish made up for the slow start.

“Tech is a good team and they really come at you, especially in this rink,” said Kyle. “We have been taking some bad penalties. I thought Tech controlled the faceoff game on us. We got some timely scoring, and that was good for us.”

After winning just four times before defeating the Lake Superior State Lakers on Jan. 7, the Wildcats have won seven more times since, due in large part to the emergence of their younger skaters.

“We have had some guys grow and play better,” said Kyle. “We added Demico Hannoun to our lineup. He made a big difference. We had some young defensemen in [Rylan] Yaremko, Philip Beaulieu, [Ryan] Black and [Connor] Frantti… They grew and they got better. I am proud of those guys for doing that.”

The Huskies came like a team determined on Senior Night and were rewarded when winger Joel L’Esperance found the net at 1:05. Winger Alex Gillies fired a shot from the left circle that Wildcats goaltender Atte Tolvanen stopped with his left leg. The puck rebounded out in front of the net where L’Esperance jumped on it and knocked it home..

The Huskies rode that early goal to a dominant first period where they outshot the Wildcats 14-4, but they just could not solve Tolvanen a second time.

“Their goalie stood on his head,” said L’Esperance. “He made some big saves. We had 41 shots. You can’t complain when you have 41 shots and only give up [22].

“I think we outplayed them the whole game. We just have to capitalize on more of our chances.”

The best chance Michigan Tech had to extend their lead came off the stick of winger Jake Jackson, who beat a Northern Michigan defender to the outside and drove to the net. Jackson deked to his forehand and had Tolvanen down and out but could not lift the puck over the goaltender’s outstretched stick.

“We had a couple of chances in the game to extend the lead,” said Pearson. “We never could quite get any distance between us.”

The Huskies’ lead was not to last as the Wildcats evened things up when Troy Loggins’ attempted pass on the power play while standing to Huskies’ goaltender Angus Redmond’s left hit a Michigan Tech defender and bounced into the net at 19:10.

The Wildcats took their first lead of the night just 4:14 into the second period when Darien Craighead took a pass from Jordan Klimek in the high slot and fired a wrist shot that found its way through traffic and past Redmond on another Northern Michigan power play.

The Huskies evened the game at 2-2 just before the midpoint of the middle frame when assistant captain Reid Sturos fed the puck across the rink a streaking Jackson. The sophomore flew past a Wildcats’ defender, skated in alone, deked to his backhand and beat Tolvanen through the wickets at 9:34.

It appeared as though the rivals would head into the third period deadlocked at 2 thanks to more strong stops by Tolvanen, until a crucial mistake at the end of a shift cost the Huskies.

On his way out of his defensive zone, Huskies center Jake Lucchini had the puck picked off his stick by Wildcats assistant captain Dominik Shine. Shine skated the puck through the right circle, faked a slapshot and then slid the puck between Redmond’s feet for the goal at 19:00.

The Huskies were awarded a power play just nine seconds after the Shine tally and they quickly made the Wildcats pay.

With the faceoff to Tolvanen’s right, the Huskies won the draw to junior Matt Roy. Roy fed the puck across to assistant captain Shane Hanna, who ripped a blast towards Tolvanen. Freshman Gavin Gould snuck in front and tipped the puck past the Wildcats’ goaltender at 19:15.

The Wildcats took their third one-goal lead of the night 4:05 into the third when captain Shane Sooth drove the net and tipped a shot from Philip Beaulieu past Redmond, ending the freshman’s night.

The Huskies peppered Tolvanen with 12 more shots in the final frame, but could not solve the Northern Michigan goaltender a fourth time.

Gerard Hanson sealed the victory for the Wildcats with an empty net goal at 19:25.

Northern Michigan 1 2 2 – 5

Michigan Tech 1 2 0 – 3

First period

1, MTU, Joel L’Esperance (Alex Gillies, Dane Birks), 1:05

2, NMU, Troy Loggins (Philip Beaulieu, Darien Craighead), PP. 19:10

Second period

3, NMU, Craighead (Jordan Klimek, Beaulieu), PP, 4:14

4, NMU, Jake Jackson (Reid Sturos, Angus Redmond), 9:34

5, NMU, Dominik Shine, 19:00

6, MTU, Gavin Gould (Shane Hanna, Matt Roy), PP, 19:15

Third period

7, NMU, Shane Sooth (Beaulieu, Gerard Hanson), 4:05

8, NMU, Hanson (Shine, Rylan Yaremko), EN, 19:25

Saves

NMU, Tolvanen 13  13  12 – 38

MTU, Redmond 4  7  1 – 12

         Wintjes 0  0  5 – 5

Penalties

NMU: 6/12; MTU: 5/10

Power plays

NMU: 2/4; MTU: 1/5

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