MARQUETTE, Mich.—Northern Michigan University Men's Ice Hockey (23-13-3, 19-7-2-2 WCHA) advanced to the semifinal round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Playoffs with a 5-2 victory over the University of Alabama-Huntsville (12-23-2, 10-16-2-1 WCHA) Sunday evening in the Berry Events Center. It is the first postseason series victory since the Wildcats the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Central Collegiate Hockey Association Tournament.
The Wildcats scored in the opening minutes of action for the second time in the series with junior forward Denver Pierce (Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan) scoring his 12th goal of the season and third of the series. Junior forward Troy Loggins (Huntington Beach, California) and sophomore defenseman Philip Beaulieu (Duluth, Minnesota) earned assists on the score which came at the 2:45 mark.
Midway through the period, the Chargers managed to even the game at one goal with a score. Neither team was able to score the rest of the first period, while both team managed nine shots.
Huntsville scored a power play goal less than a minute into the period, but their lead was short lived. Freshman forward Mitchel Slattery (Lino Lakes, Minnesota) scored his second goal in as many nights nearly seven minutes into the second period to give the Wildcats a 302 lead. Fellow freshman forward Joseph Nardi (Edmonton, Alberta) earned his 11th assist on the goal while junior forward Ryan Black (Stillwater, Minnesota) picked up his 17th of the season.
NMU would take the lead, scoring a pair of power play goals after a five-minute major penalty was assessed to the Chargers midway through the second period. Loggins scored his first goal of the game with help from Beaulieu and junior forward Adam Rockwood (Coquitlam, British Columbia) at the 13:11 mark.
Less than two minutes later, Pierce scored his second goal of the game and fourth of the series to put the Wildcats up 4-1 over UAH. Loggins picked up his second assist of the game on the play, while Beaulieu earned his third. With the points in the game, Beaulieu now leads all NCAA defensemen in assists and points this season, while he is tied for seventh among all players with 29 assists.
Late in the final period, UAH decided to pull their goaltender looking to extend their season. Despite being down six skaters to four, Loggins managed score his fifth shorthanded goal and 21st overall goal of the season with less than 30 second to play. The score put the game out of reach, 5-2, with Rockwood earning his second assist of the game.
For the season, Rockwood now has 37 assists which is the most in the country. Rockwood's 45 points are also fifth best in the NCAA this season.
Getting the win between the pipes, junior goaltender Atte Tolvanen (Vihti, Finland) improved his season record to 21-8-7. His win total currently ranks sixth best in NMU history for a single season, while he is tied for sixth in career wins with 39.
NMU will now turn their attention to Bowling Green State University for the WCHA Playoff semifinals, set for next weekend in the Berry Events Center. As the two-seed, the Wildcats will host the tournament's three-seed in a best-of-three-game series. The series will take place Friday and Saturday in the Berry with both contests scheduled for a 7 p.m. start. A third game will be held Sunday at 7 p.m., if necessary.
Tickets for the series are currently on sale at all NMU ticket outlets. Fans can visit tickets.nmu.edu or call the Berry events Center Ticket Office at 906-227-1032 for more information. The Berry Events Center Ticket Office hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-game time on Friday, and 4 p.m.-game time on Saturday