MANKATO, Minn. — Zach Diamantoni netted a pair of goals, but Minnesota State clipped the Northern Michigan hockey team, 5-3, Friday night at the Verizon Wireless Center.
The Mavericks clinched home ice in the WCHA quarterfinal round with their victory, which halted the Wildcats' unbeaten streak at nine games and their winning streak at six.
Just two minutes into the game, Demico Hannoun found himself on a breakaway due to a Minnesota State defensive lapse. He had Aaron Nelson beat, but the puck rang off the crossbar and skidded out of danger.
Zeb Knutson then snapped Atte Tolvanen's scoreless streak, over which he made 220-straight saves, 3:26 into the game. After Northern Michigan failed to break out after a few Maverick tries, Clint Lewis carried the puck behind the net and dished it to Knutson in the slot for the score.
Diamantoni drew the Wildcats even with the Mavericks just over five minutes later. In transition, Darien Craighead passed the puck ahead to Diamantoni, who fired a wrist shot over Nelson's shoulder.
Minnesota State responded with two goals in a three-minute window to put Northern Michigan in a 3-1 hole going into the first intermission. First, at 14:26, Parker Tuomie beat Tolvanen through a heavy screen. Then, at 17:10, after Sean Flanagan's initial shot was blocked in front, Max Coatta came up with the bouncing puck and fired it past Tolvanen.
Tolvanen came up big in the first three minutes of the middle stanza, denying both Charlie Gerard and Josh French from point-blank range.
While the teams were skating 4-on-4 at 12:07, Dominik Shine netted his WCHA-leading 17th goal of the season to pull the Wildcats back within one strike. Philip Beaulieu sent a cross-ice pass to Jordan Klimek at the edge of the left circle, and Klimek sent a low shot on net. Shine re-directed Klimek's try through Nelson's five-hole.
But Nicholas Rivera re-gained the Mavericks' two-goal edge less than a minute later. While crashing the net after a French face-off win, he batted the puck out of midair and inside the left post.
Anthony Paskaruk nearly cut the Minnesota State lead back down to one with 3:39 left to play. Paskaruk sprung himself on a breakaway by beating two Mavericks to a loose puck in the neutral zone. Without much time, he fired a quick, rising shot on net that Nelson managed to smother.
In the final 30 seconds of the frame, Brock Maschmeyer rushed up the ice and then shook the defenseman covering him by slamming on the brakes behind the net. He dished the puck to Hannoun, who sent a shot on Nelson. Nelson made the initial save and then deflected a diving Maschmeyer's attempt to poke home the rebound wide.
Brad McClure put Minnesota State up 5-2 just 1:27 into the final frame, beating Tolvanen five-hole from the left circle during a man advantage.
With 3:15 remaining in regulation, Diamantoni's second tally of the game drew Northern Michigan back within two. After Robbie Payne forced a turnover along the boards, he dished the puck to Maschmeyer. Maschmeyer then found Diamantoni alone in front, and Diamantoni drew the puck from his forehand to his backhand and wired it just under the crossbar.
The Wildcats pulled Tolvanen for the extra skater with 1:23 left to play. Rylan Yaremko hustled back to save an empty-net goal, but a swarming Maverick defense kept Northern Michigan from getting a shot on target the rest of the way.
The Wildcats, now 11-18-4 (9-13-3 WCHA), wrap up their series with Minnesota State tomorrow at 8:07 p.m. (7:07 CT). Before the game, the Northern Michigan Alumni Association will host a pre-game reception at Pub 500 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. CT. RSVP here.
NOTES: Minnesota State leads the all-time series, 8-2-3 ... Tolvanen's scoreless streak ended at 339:05, good for second in NCAA men's history behind Lake Superior State's Blaine Lacher (375:01) ... Tolvanen, who blanked five-straight opponents from Jan. 21 to Feb. 11, remained tied with Lacher for the NCAA men's consecutive shutouts record ... Before Knutson's goal, Tolvanen last allowed a goal at 4:11 of the second period to Alaska-Anchorage's Jeremiah Luedtke on Jan. 20 ... Before McClure's goal, the Wildcats had killed off 30-consecutive penalties ... Diamantoni's two-goal effort was the second of his collegiate career; he also had two against Lake Superior State on Jan. 7 ... Payne had a two-point outing with the secondary helper on both of Diamantoni's strikes; he now has 11 points (7g-4a) in Northern Michigan's past seven games ... Tolvanen finished the night with 32 saves; it was the sixth-straight game he stopped at least 30 shots ... Last season, the Wildcats snapped then No. 18 Minnesota State's unbeaten streak at nine games on Jan. 8, 2016 in Mankato ... Twelve Mavericks registered a point, with Tuomie (1g-1a) and Lewis (2a) notching two ... Northern Michigan, which is 7-2-2 in 2017, last strung together a six-game winning streak from Feb. 17 to March 11, 2006 and last went unbeaten in nine games (6-0-3) from Dec. 27, 1998 to Jan. 30, 1999 ... The Wildcats last lost a game on Jan. 6 at Lake Superior State, a 3-2 setback.