MARQUETTE, Mich. — The Northern Michigan hockey team will battle Michigan Tech in the final weekend of the regular season. The series begins Friday at the Berry Events Center and concludes Saturday in Houghton, Mich. Puck drop on both nights is scheduled for 7:07 p.m.
These rivalry games have big implications for the WCHA Tournament. Based on the results, the Wildcats could finish as high as sixth or as low as 10th in the standings. The Huskies are attempting to beat out Minnesota State for the second seed to ensure they have home ice if they reach the tournament semifinals.
Before Friday's home game, seniors Gerard Hanson, Brock Maschmeyer, Casey Purpur, Sami Salminen, Dominik Shine and Shane Sooth will be recognized. They will also be celebrated at the hockey luncheon, which will take place at noon in the Wildcat Room of the Berry Events Center. The price is $12.50 per lunch.
Tickets can be purchased by calling the ticket office at 906-227-1032 or by visiting Tickets.NMU.edu.
The Last Time Out
Zach Diamantoni led the WCHA with five points (2g-3a), but Northern Michigan was swept by Minnesota State in Mankato, Minn. on Feb. 17-18. In the series opener, after Diamantoni tied the game at one apiece at the 8:46 mark of the first, the Mavericks netted two-unanswered goals to close the period and never allowed the Wildcats to even the score again. The next night, despite Troy Loggins's first career two-goal effort, Minnesota State handed Northern Michigan its first sweep since Dec. 9-10 by skating to a 7-4 victory.
With the result, the Wildcats' six-game winning and nine-game unbeaten streaks were halted. Northern Michigan, which is tied for first in the WCHA with a .667 winning percentage in 2017, last ran 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 Michigan Tech/Northern Michigan Series
Northern Michigan has faced Michigan Tech more than any other team. This weekend's games will be the 143rd and 144th meetings between the two Upper Peninsula rivals.
The Wildcats stumbled in their series against the Huskies on Oct. 28-29, falling by 2-0 and 5-1 margins. In Oct. 28's road game, Atte Tolvanen made 35 saves, but Angus Redmond blocked all 19 Wildcat shots he faced to earn his first collegiate shutout. Every goal in Oct. 29's home game was scored on special teams, including two 5-on-3 strikes and two shorthanded tallies.
Michigan Tech enters this series riding a five-game winning streak against Northern Michigan. The Wildcats last toppled the Huskies on Oct. 23, 2015 a 4-1 victory in front of a sellout crowd at the Berry Events Center. In the game, Purpur, John Siemer, Denver Pierce and Darren Nowick found the back of the net while Tolvanen made 20 saves.
The top point producers against Michigan Tech on this year's team are Maschmeyer (3g-5a), Shine (2g-4a) and Hanson (5a).
Tolvanen Rewrites Record Books
Tolvanen's historic shutout streak was halted at 339:05 when Zeb Knutson solved him 3:26 into Feb. 17's contest. With his five-straight shutouts, he broke a 63-year-old WCHA men's record and tied Lake Superior State's Blaine Lacher for the NCAA men's record. During each of his shutouts, he made at least 34 saves, topping out at a career-best 48 on Feb. 11.
Tolvanen ultimately came up 36 minutes and four seconds short of Lacher's NCAA men's record for consecutive scoreless minutes. But Tolvanen made 220-straight saves during his run, 98 more than Lacher did en route to his record. Lacher and Tolvanen are the only goaltenders to surpass 300 scoreless minutes in NCAA men's history.
Maschmeyer Finalist for Senior CLASS Award®
Maschmeyer was selected as one of 10 finalists for the 2016-17 Senior CLASS Award® in collegiate hockey. NCAA Division I seniors who have notable achievements in four areas—community, classroom, character and competition—are eligible for this award.
An alternate captain as a junior and senior, Maschmeyer currently ranks seventh all-time among Wildcat defensemen with 24 career goals. On January 21, he became the 20th Wildcat defenseman in program history to score at least 60 points in his career; he now has 65 points on 24 goals and 41 assists.
Maschmeyer has excelled in the classroom, being named a WCHA Scholar-Athlete all three seasons he was eligible to receive this honor. A Public Relations major with a minor in Communications, he is on pace to graduate in May 2017.
Wildcat fans can vote for Maschmeyer daily by visiting the Senior CLASS Award® website. Fan voting runs until March 28 and is one third of the criteria that determines the winner.
Since Darien Craighead, Diamantoni and Robbie Payne were reunited on Feb. 3, their line has accounted for seven of Northern Michigan's 17 goals. As a line at even strength, they have contributed 17 points (7g-10a). If power-play points are included, the trio has 24 points (9g-15a) in the Wildcats' past six games.
Craighead will ride a four-game point streak, over which he has five points (1g-4a), into the Michigan Tech series. His streak is tied for the longest by a Northern Michigan freshman this year; from Nov. 11 to 19, Philip Beaulieu strung together a four-game point streak by posting five points (2g-3a).
Since the calendar turned to 2017, four Wildcats rank in the WCHA's top 15 in point production: Payne (t-2nd, 7g-13a), Shine (t-7th, 9g-2a), Craighead (1g-10a) and Diamantoni (t-12th, 5g-5a). Shine is the WCHA leader in goals while Craighead is tied for first in assists. Among WCHA freshmen, Craighead is alone in first in assists and tied for first in points.
While Maschmeyer is just outside the WCHA's top 15 in point production, his nine points (2g-7a) is good for third among defensemen. With seven points (1g-6a), Beaulieu stands in a tie for sixth among WCHA blueliners.
These six skaters have helped Northern Michigan average 3.08 goals per game in 2017, good for second in the WCHA behind Minnesota State (3.58). Entering 2017, the Wildcats were averaging just 2.00 goals per game, which was the second-lowest total in the league.
Northern Michigan scored three of its four goals on the power play during Feb. 18's game. With that effort, the Wildcats' power-play percentage since January improved to .196, which is second in the WCHA. Before the calendar turned, they were second to last in the WCHA and in the bottom five nationally with a .102 mark. They last netted at least three man-advantage goals during a single game on Nov. 7, 2015, with four in their 5-2 victory at Alaska.
Before Brad McClure notched a power-play goal at 1:27 of the third period on Feb. 17, Northern Michigan had successfully killed off 30-straight penalties. Despite allowing three power-play goals to the Mavericks during their series, the Wildcats remain in the WCHA's top three and the NCAA's top 10 in penalty kill percentage since 2017 began. Their .875 mark is second in the WCHA and tied for seventh in the nation.