SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich.—Northern Michigan University Men's Ice Hockey (0-1, 0-0 WCHA) dropped their season opener to Lake Superior State University (1-0, 0-0 WCHA), 5-3, Friday evening to begin their 2017-18 campaign.
Power-play goals were the story of the night with six of the eight combined scores coming in the power-play. The Wildcats found themselves a man down twice in the opening period with the Lakers taking advantage of both opportunities. LSSU went up a pair of goals just over eight minutes into the contest.
It was NMU's chance to score in the power-play late in the first period. Senior forward Robbie Payne (Gaylord, Michigan) scored his first goal of the season on a drop from sophomore forward Darien Craighead (Surrey, British Columbia) to the top of the goal crease. Junior forward Troy Loggins (Huntington Beach, California) was also credited with an assist on the play.
After the Lakers earned a third power-play goal at the 5:49 mark of the second period, freshman forward Caleb Schroer (Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin) recorded his first collegiate score from nearly the blue line. Junior defender Ryan Black (Stillwater, Minnesota) and freshman forward Mitchel Slattery (Lino Lakes, Minnesota) recorded assists on the play which cut the NMU deficit to one.
A quick goal at the 3:18 mark of the third period put LSSU back up a pair, while their lead pushed to three with just over seven minutes to play in the contest. Trailing 5-2 with a power-play advantage, Payne picked up his second goal of the game at 16:01 of the third. Junior forward Adam Rockwood (Coquitlam, British Columbia) earned an assist, as did Loggins for his second of the night. The goal would decrease the Wildcats' deficit to a pair with four minutes remaining, proving not enough time for NMU to complete the comeback.
When at full-strength, NMU controlled the pace of the game, outshooting the Lakers 36-26 on the evening, including a 15-6 advantage in the final period. In the end, it was the four power-play goals allowed on six chances to LSSU that proved to be the difference.
Preseason second team All-WCHA honoree, junior goaltender Atte Tolvanen (Vihti, Finalnd) recorded more than 56 minutes of action in the contest. Of the 26 shots Tolvanen faced, the junior was able to make 21 saves.
Both teams square off again tomorrow evening, this time in Marquette, Michigan. Saturday's contest in the Berry Events Center is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. with a special ceremony prior to the puck drop dedicating the rink to former head coach Rick Comley. After starting the Wildcat Hockey program, Comley assembled a 538-429-68 record at NMU, including a national title in 1991.