Wildcat Hockey Battles Bemidji State for Spot in WCHA Semifinals

Wildcat Hockey Battles Bemidji State for Spot in WCHA Semifinals

BEMIDJI, Minn. — The Northern Michigan hockey team and Bemidji State battle for a place in the WCHA semifinals tonight at 6:07 p.m. (5:07 CT).

For fans who want to follow the Wildcats in Minnesota, the games will be streamed live on WCHA.tv and broadcast on 100.3 The Point.

The full media notes can be viewed here.

Game Two in Review

Atte Tolvanen made 46 saves, and Dominik Shine (2g-2a) and Gerard Hanson (1g-3a) factored into every goal, to lift the Wildcats to a 4-2 victory over the Beavers, forcing tonight's decisive third game.

After Shane Sooth opened the scoring at 17:25 of the first frame by beating Michael Bitzer with a low backhanded shot, Northern Michigan netted two power-play goals during the second to carry a 3-1 lead into the final intermission. While Dan Billett drew Bemidji State back within one at 13:37 of the third, the Wildcats killed off a late power play and iced the game with an empty-net goal 26 seconds after Bitzer was pulled for the extra attacker.

Entering this game, Bitzer owned a career 0.81 goals against average against Northern Michigan, a number bolstered by five shutouts. He has only allowed three or more goals in a single game nine times during the 2016-17 campaign; a Hobey Baker candidate, he is in the national top five in GAA (1st, 1.67), save percentage (4th, .933) and shutouts (1st, 6).

Game One in Review

The Beavers used a three-goal second period to down the Wildcats, who could not solve Bitzer. Bitzer finished with 30 saves, 16 of which came during the decisive middle stanza.

Bemidji State first struck 1:22 into the middle stanza, netting a goal in transition. The Beavers added a power-play tally at 8:20 and a second even-strength score at 12:36. Gerry Fitzgerald and Phillip Marinaccio had multi-point nights, each registering two helpers.
Northern Michigan held the advantage in shots (30-27) and face-off wins (31-30) and took two fewer penalties than Bemidji State.
Wildcats at a Glance

The Wildcats used a second-half surge to secure the eighth seed in the WCHA tournament. At Christmas, they were last in the league with seven points (2-11-1), nine back of the final playoff spot. In 2017, they went 8-4-2 in regular-season play, tied with Minnesota State for the best record in the WCHA, to compile 27 points and move into playoff position.

Northern Michigan went unbeaten in nine games from Jan. 7 to Feb. 11, going 7-0-2. During that streak, Tolvanen blanked five-straight opponents from Jan. 21 to Feb. 11, breaking the WCHA men's record and tying the NCAA men's record.

To date, six Wildcats have recorded at least 20 points: Shine (20g-9a), Robbie Payne (13g-15a), Hanson (7g-19a), Darien Craighead (7g-18a), Zach Diamantoni (6g-14a) and Brock Maschmeyer (4g-16a).

Ice Chips

Shine became the first WCHA skater to reach the 20-goal plateau in 2016-17. He one of just 15 Division I skaters with at least 20 goals, a group that includes five from the Hockey East, four from the Big Ten, three from the ECAC and two from the NCHC.

Shine is also the first Wildcat since Mark Olver netted 21 during the 2007-08 campaign to reach the 20-goal plateau in a single season.

Shine and Hanson became the first Wildcats since Feb. 15, 2013 to have a four-point night. In that 5-3 win at Michigan State, Reed Seckel and Matt Thurber each registered two goals and two helpers. While Shine and Hanson each set a new career high in points, their total was not the most posted by a Wildcat this season; on Oct. 8 against Wisconsin, Payne had a five-point (2g-3a) outing, Northern Michigan's first since Oct. 21, 2006.

With his 46 saves last night, Tolvanen finished two stops shy of his career high, set on Feb. 11 against Alaska. He has made at least 30 saves in eight of the Wildcats' past 10 games.

Tolvanen is the NCAA leader in goalie games played (37) and saves (1,023). He is also tied for first with New Hampshire's Daniel Tirone for first in shots faced (1,114). Tolvanen and Tironeare are two of only five goaltenders in the Division I ranks who have faced at least 1,000 shots this season.

Last night was Northern Michigan's first playoff win since March 2, 2012, a 4-2 victory over Bowling Green at the Berry Events Center in the first round of the CCHA tournament. The Wildcats ultimately dropped the next two games by 5-3 and 4-1 margins to be eliminated.

Northern Michigan last won a playoff game on the road on March 15, 2009 during the second round of the CCHA tournament. After falling to Miami in the first game, 3-2, the Wildcats scored a 3-2 overtime victory the next night on a goal by Hanson's older brother Greger. In the decisive third game, they found the back of the net each period to down the RedHawks, 3-1, and advance to the CCHA semifinals in Detroit.

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

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. Maschmeyer's full profile can be found here.