MARQUETTE, Mich.—No 19 Northern Michigan University Men's Ice Hockey (24-14-3, 19-7-2-2 WCHA) will compete for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Championship after defeating No. 17 Bowling Green State University (23-12-6, 17-6-5-2 WCHA) Sunday evening, 3-2, in overtime. It will be the first time the Wildcats have appeared in the conference championships since 2010.
Playing in their seventh overtime contest of the season, both teams were trading shots in the extra period. At the 15-minute mark, each team had attempted six shots, but it was the seventh for the Wildcats that proved to be the difference maker. Junior forward Troy Loggins (Huntington Beach, California) sending it into the back of the net for the game winning goal. Junior defenseman Ryan Black (Stillwater, Minnesota) earned his second assist of the night, while junior defenseman James Vermeulen (Stony Plain, Alberta) also earned an assist on the goal.
With the victory, the Wildcats advance to play Michigan Technological University Saturday in the Berry Events Center. The Huskies defeated Minnesota State University on overtime on Sunday to advance. As the highest remaining seed, NMU will host MTU Saturday at 7 p.m.
It was scoreless for much of the opening period for the second night in a row, until senior forward Zach Diamantoni (Montgomery, New Jersey) broke the tie with his sixth goal of the year. Senior forward Robbie Payne (Gaylord, Michigan) earned his 10th assist of the year on the goal which came late in the period with just 1:05 remaining.
The Wildcats more than doubled the Falcons shot total in the first period, 14-6. It also marked the first time this series that either team held a lead after the opening period of play.
A penalty with under a minute to play in the first period put BGSU on the power play to begin the second, which they took advantage of. The Falcons knotted the game up at one goal each just 52 seconds into the period. Neither team would score the rest of the period, sending into the third period tied at one goal.
NMU continued to outshoot their opponent to begin the third period until freshman forward Joseph Nardi (Edmonton, Alberta) put the Wildcats ahead at the exact midway point. His ninth of the season came on assists from junior defenseman Ryan Black (Stillwater, Minnesota) and Diamantoni. It was the 18th assist of the season for both, while Diamantoni earned his second point of the contest.
With the 2-1 advantage, NMU was forced to play a man down when BGSU pulled their goaltender with 1:30 remaining to utilize a sixth skater. The choice paid off as the Falcons tied the game with eight second remaining to force overtime tied at two goals each.
With the Loggins goal in overtime, junior goaltender Atte Tolvanen (Vihti, Finland) improved to 23-8-1 on the season, which is tied for the fifth most wins for a season in program history. His save percentage increased to .906, while his goals against average improved to 2.25.
Saturday's WCHA Championships will be a 7 p.m. puck drop in the Berry Events Center. It will be a one game championship with the winner earning an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The contest will also mark the first post season game between the two programs since the 1994 WCHA quarterfinals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which the Wildcats lost, 5-1.
Tickets for Saturday's WCHA Championship will go on sale Monday morning at 8 a.m. in the Berry Events Center Ticket office. Tickets will only be sold in-person at the Berry Events Center ticket office. Season ticket holders will have their tickets held until 5 p.m. on Wednesday before they are released to the public. The breakdown for ticket pricing can be found below.
Season Ticket Holder-$16
College Student (With I.D.)-$10