MARQUETTE, Mich. — Atte Tolvanen tied the NCAA men's hockey record by posting his fifth-straight shutout victory Saturday night at the Berry Events Center.
Tolvanen stopped a career-high 48 shots, and Robbie Payne provided the offense, as the Northern Michigan hockey team dispatched Alaska-Fairbanks, 2-0, to earn its third-straight sweep of a WCHA opponent.
Dating back to Jan. 20's game against Alaska-Anchorage, Tolvanen has gone 335:39 minutes without allowing a goal, good for second in NCAA men's history. Over that stretch, he has made 215-consecutive saves.
Around the eight-minute mark of the first period, both teams had a quality chance. After Payne made a move to get around a man and fire a shot on net, Davis Jones directed the puck wide. The Nanooks immediately went into transition, springing Austin Vieth ahead. Philip Beaulieu managed to get back in time to deflect his bid into the netting.
Tolvanen finished the opening stanza with 13 saves. At the end of Nanooks' first man advantage, he came up with two of his biggest, turning aside Marcus Basara and then denying Justin Woods's bid to pot the rebound.
With 54.3 seconds left on the clock, Brandon Morley nearly capitalized on a Wildcat turnover, but Tolvanen calmly snared the puck to maintain the scoreless deadlock.
Alaska-Fairbanks came out flying in the middle stanza. With 15:41 on the clock, Nikolas Koberstein forced a turnover along the boards to generate a 2-on-1 opportunity. After walking in on net, he dished the puck to a wide-open Kylar Hope at the right edge of the crease. Tolvanen lunged to snare Hope's bid and keep the Nanooks off the board.
Alaska-Fairbanks ultimately outshot Northern Michigan, 20-7, in the second period. But Payne found the back of the net twice in a four-minute span near the end of the frame to give the Wildcats the lead.
First, at 13:53, Payne took a feed from Darien Craighead, patiently skated in a few strides to the middle of the right circle and then beat Jones through a Zach Diamantoni screen. Then, at 16:59 Payne struck on the power play, potting a booming Brock Maschmeyer rebound past Jones.
Early in the final frame, Northern Michigan was forced to spend extended time on the penalty kill. At the tail end of the Nanooks' second power play, Tolvanen came up with a save on a Basara shot and then denied two bids by Troy Van Tetering to send the rebound home. Dominik Shine then laid down to block a Kobertstein point shot seconds before the man advantage expired.
With less than a minute remaining in regulation, Zach Frye had an uncontested look in transition, but Tolvanen gloved his bullet to keep his shutout streak alive. Alaska-Fairbanks pulled Jones to try to solve Tolvanen, but Shane Sooth drew a penalty to force him to return to his net and allow Northern Michigan to close out the game on the power play.
The Wildcats, now unbeaten in their past nine games (7-0-2) and winners of their past six, climbed into a tie for sixth in the WCHA standings with this weekend's sweep. Northern Michigan will travel to Minnesota State on Feb. 17-18.
NOTES: Northern Michigan leads the all-time series, 35-13-12 ... Tolvanen tied Lake Superior State's Blaine Lacher (1993-94) for the NCAA men's record in consecutive shutouts ... Tolvanen now stands alone in first in WCHA men's history in consecutive shutouts and consecutive scoreless minutes ... Tolvanen finished the night with two more saves than his previous career high, set during a 0-0 tie with Bemidji State on Oct. 30, 2015 ... Tolvanen has made at least 30 saves in all of his shutouts, posting 40 in two ... Payne's multi-goal performance was his third of the season and sixth of his career; entering this series, he had never netted multiple goals in back-to-back games ... Northern Michigan held Alaska-Fairbanks scoreless on six power-play opportunities.