Wildcat Hockey Drops Michigan Tech, 5-3, Clinches WCHA Tournament Berth

HOUGHTON, Mich. — The Northern Michigan hockey team clinched its spot in the WCHA Tournament by dropping rival Michigan Tech, 5-3, Saturday night at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

Senior captain Shane Sooth scored what proved to be the game-winning goal early in the third period, and Atte Tolvanen finished the night with 38 saves, to lift the Wildcats to victory.

The Huskies grabbed the lead just 1:05 into the game. In transition, Alex Gillies fired a shot on net from a sharp angle. Tolvanen made the initial save but left a big rebound, which Joel L'Esperance promptly directed into the net.

Michigan Tech controlled large swaths of the opening stanza, outshooting Northern Michigan by a 14-5 margin. With just over 10 minutes on the clock, Tolvanen came up with a diving stick save to keep the Wildcats within one. After a defensive miscue gave the Huskies a quick developing 2-on-1 rush, Tolvanen got across the crease fast enough to get his stick on Jake Jackson's bid and send the puck to the boards.

Northern Michigan immediately rushed back the other way with numbers, and Angus Redmond had to deny both Dominik Shine and Sooth to maintain the Michigan Tech advantage.

But the Huskies would not carry that lead into the intermission thanks to a late power play goal by Troy Loggins. Just 49.6 seconds remained in the frame when Loggins took a feed from Philip Beaulieu, pulled a spin move and flipped the puck past Redmond.

Darien Craighead gave the Wildcats their first lead at the 4:14 mark of the middle stanza. On a man advantage, he took a pass at the point, skated in a few strides and then beat Redmond with a seeing-eye shot.

A little over a minute later, Robbie Payne nearly made it a two-goal game, beating two Huskies to a loose puck. While sliding to the ice, he got a backhanded shot off, but Redmond managed to turn it aside.

Michigan Tech evened the score at 9:34 when two quick passes sprung Jackson ahead. He beat his defender to skate in alone on Tolvanen and then sent a shot through his five hole. 

Exactly a minute remained the clock when Shine picked Jake Lucchini's pocket on the right wing just inside the Husky blue line. He rushed in alone on net, faked a shot and then threaded the puck through Redmond's five hole to put Northern Michigan up by a 3-2 margin.

Fifteen seconds later, Michigan Tech took advantage of a Sooth minor called right off of the face-off to make it a 3-3 game headed into the final intermission.

Sooth re-gained the Wildcats' advantage 4:05 into the third period, tipping a Beaulieu point shot past Redmond.

After Sooth's go-ahead goal, Tolvanen made 10 saves. Near the middle of that frame, Northern Michigan had to kill off an extended 4-on-3 Husky power play. Tolvanen, Jordan Klimek, Brock Maschmeyer and Connor Frantti held fast to keep the Wildcats ahead on the scoreboard.

Michigan Tech pulled their goalie for the extra skater with 1:13 remaining in regulation. Klimek blocked the Huskies' lone shot, and Yaremko chased down the loose puck and sent Shine ahead into the neutral zone. Shine dished the puck to Gerard Hanson to seal the game with the empty-net goal.

With the win, the Wildcats wrap up the regular season with a 12-20-4 (10-15-3 WCHA) record. They will be seeded eighth in the WCHA Tournament and travel to Bemidji State on March 3-5.

NOTES: Northern Michigan leads the all-time series, 70-60-14 ... The Wildcats are 8-4-2 (8-4-2 WCHA) in 2017 ... With the win, they snapped a six-game losing skid to the Huskies ... Northern Michigan last defeated Michigan Tech on Oct. 23, 2015 at the Berry Events Center (4-1); the Wildcats last skated to a win over the Huskies in Houghton on Jan. 10, 2015 (5-4 OT) ... This was the first game Northern Michigan won when it did not score the first goal; the Wildcats were 0-16-3 when their opponent opened the scoring entering this tilt ... With a goal and an assist, Craighead extended his point streak, the best by a Wildcat newcomer this season, to six games; he has eight points (2g-6a) over that span ... Loggins's goal was his third in Northern Michigan's past three games; all three came on the man advantage ... With three assists, Beaulieu matched his career high in points, last achieved on Jan. 20 against Alaska-Anchorage, and set a new career high in helpers ... Shine now leads the WCHA with 18 goals.