Wildcat Hockey Forces Game Three With 4-2 Win at Bemidji State

Wildcat Hockey Forces Game Three With 4-2 Win at Bemidji State

BEMIDJI, Minn. — The Northern Michigan hockey team downed Bemidji State, 4-2, to force a decisive third game in their WCHA quarterfinal series Saturday night at the Sanford Center.

Atte Tolvanen made 46 saves, and Gerard Hanson and Dominik Shine factored into all four goals, to lift the Wildcats past the WCHA regular-season champion Beavers.

During Bemidji State's first power play, Tolvanen went post to post to turn aside Gerry Fitzgerald's one-timer from the middle of the left circle. Later, he denied Gerry Fitzgerald again, smothering his bullet from the slot through heavy traffic.

With just over seven minutes on the clock, Charlie O'Connor picked off a pass on the blueline during a Northern Michigan power play and raced in alone on Tolvanen. Tolvanen calmly steered his shot aside to keep the game scoreless.

Shane Sooth gave the Wildcats their first lead of the weekend at 17:25 of the first. After Hanson worked the puck free from a scrum behind the net, he sent it out in front. It skipped off of Kyle Bauman, and Sooth corralled it on his backhand. Instead of shifting it to his forehand, Sooth immediately got off a low shot, and it made it past Michael Bitzer and into the right corner of the net.

Northern Michigan carried 1:26 of power-play time into the second and, 42 seconds in, Bemidji State's Tommy Muck was called for hooking. The Wildcats capitalized on their 5-on-3 man advantage, with Hanson potting a booming Shine rebound at the 1:04 mark.

Twenty eight seconds later, Nate Arentz pulled the Beavers back within one by netting a shorthanded goal. From the center of the left circle, he fired a shot that glanced off of Tolvanen's glove and skittered into the net.

Bemidji State was awarded a power play at 7:27 and nearly capitalized to draw even. Tolvanen was forced to make six saves, and Rylan Yaremko cleared a loose puck out of the crease before it could trickle over the line. At the end, Bauman found a shooting lane, but he rang the puck off the crossbar and out.

Exactly three minutes later, Mike Soucier took a five-minute major. Northern Michigan netted one goal during that extended man advantage to take a 3-1 lead into the second intermission. Two minutes in, at 12:57, Shine took a feed from Hanson in the left circle and beat Bitzer stick side with a rising shot.

Near the end of that power play, Tolvanen had to come up with a big save on Bauman after he forced a turnover behind the Wildcat net. Bauman darted out in front and tried to stuff the puck home, but Tolvanen smothered it, leaving no rebound.

Tolvanen stopped 16 shots during the third period, allowing only a goal to Dan Billet at the 13:37 mark. In the first minute during a carryover Beaver power play, he came up with a big kick save on Jay Dickman after he muscled his way through the Northern Michigan defense.

With 5:37 remaining in regulation, Shine was whistled for interference. Without one of their top penalty killers, the Wildcats held fast, with Tolvanen making four saves.

The Beavers pulled Bitzer for the extra skater at the 18:53 mark. Shine iced the game 26 seconds later, sending the puck into the empty net from the neutral zone.

Northern Michigan and Bemidji State will play for a spot in the WCHA semifinals tomorrow at 6:07 p.m. (5:07 CT).

NOTES: Northern Michigan last won a playoff game on March 2, 2012, a 4-2 victory over Bowling Green in the first round of the CCHA tournament at the Berry Events Center ... Bemidji State leads the all-time series, 10-5-3 ... Entering this game, Northern Michigan had scored just three goals against Bemidji State in their past five games, all Beaver victories in 2016-17 ... Shine (2g-2a) and Hanson (1g-3a) finished with four points, both setting new career highs ... Tolvanen's 46 saves were two short of his career high, set on Feb. 11 against Alaska ... Shine's goals were his 19th and 20th of the season; he is the first Wildcat since 2007-08 (Mark Olver, 21 goals) to reach the 20-goal plateau ... Shine is also the first WCHA skater to reach the 20-goal plateau this season and one of only 15 in the Division I ranks ... Shine and Hanson are the first Wildcats since Feb. 15. 2013 (Matt Thurber (2g-2a) and Reed Seckel (2g-2a) at Michigan State) to record four points in one game; Robbie Payne (2g-3a) had a five-point night against Wisconsin earlier this season on Oct. 8.