ESTERO, Fla. — The Northern Michigan hockey team was downed by Merrimack, 4-2, Thursday afternoon at the Florida College Hockey Classic.
After Gerard Hanson pulled the Wildcats within a single strike early in the third period, the Warriors quickly responded with two unanswered goals to earn the consolation game victory.
Merrimack controlled the first period, outshooting Northern Michigan by a 17-2 margin. The Warriors finally solved Atte Tolvanen, who turned aside the first 16 shots he faced, at 18:17, one minute into their second power play. On the rush, Hampus Gustafsson powered his way past his defender, walked in on net and then beat Tolvanen stick side.
Just over three minutes into the second period, Anthony Paskaruk nearly evened the score. After his initial shot was blocked by Tyler Irvine, he chased down the loose puck and then got a shot off from the right circle that Drew Vogler managed to deflect wide.
Roughly two minutes later, Merrimack was awarded its third man advantage of the game. On the resulting penalty kill, Tolvanen made four saves to keep the Wildcats within one, including denying Gustafsson on the doorstep and Brett Seney through a screen.
At 9:42, Ludvig Larsson won a face-off back to Chris LeBlanc, who rifled a shot past Tolvanen's outstretched glove to extend the Warriors' advantage to 2-0.
With 30 seconds left on the clock, Brock Maschmeyer carried the puck into the Warrior end with a 3-on-2 developing around him. He opted to hang onto the puck himself and rang his shot off of the right post and out from the bottom of the left circle.
Northern Michigan took advantage of a power play awarded in the first nine seconds of the final frame to draw within one. Twelve seconds later, Hanson took a feed from Maschmeyer in the middle of the right circle, walked in a few steps and beat Vogler five-hole.
At 2:03, Seney responded, netting a goal during a delayed penalty to put his team back up by two goals. Just over two minutes later, Larsson made it a 4-1 game, flipping a Seney rebound past a sprawling Tolvanen.
Dominik Shine pulled Northern Michigan within two at 13:14. In transition, Darien Craighead brought the puck into the Warrior end and dropped a pass back to a trailing Hanson. Hanson immediately sent the puck over to Shine in the left circle, who sent a bullet past Vogler.
The Wildcats had two power-play opportunities in the final five minutes of regulation, including a truncated 5-on-3 advantage, but couldn't continue to chip away at the Merrimack edge. Robbie Payne came the closest to drawing Northern Michigan back within a single goal, but Vogler came up with his backhanded bid in a scrum.
The Wildcats return to WCHA play by squaring off against Lake Superior State in a home-and-home series. The series begins on Jan. 6 in Sault Ste. Marie at 7:37 p.m. and concludes on Jan. 7 in Marquette, Mich. at 7:07 p.m.
NOTES: This was the first meeting between Northern Michigan and Merrimack ... Tolvanen finished with 29 saves ... Tolvanen's 16 saves in the opening frame was his second-highest single-period total of the 2016-17 campaign; he made 18 in the first at Michigan Tech on Oct. 28 ... Shine (2g-1a), Hanson (1g-2a), Craighead (1g-1a) and Maschmeyer (2a) had multi-point efforts at the Florida College Hockey Classic ... The Wildcats scored three of their four goals during tournament play on the power play ... Shine, who leads Northern Michigan with eight goals, netted half of his total in the past five games ... The Wildcats only sent 14 shots on net against the Warriors, their lowest total of the 2016-17 campaign ... With today's result, Northern Michigan will finish 2016-17 with a 2-5-1 non-conference record.