Road Victory and Three Points Put Wildcats Atop WCHA Rankings

Road Victory and Three Points Put Wildcats Atop WCHA Rankings

ANCHORAGE, Alas.—Northern Michigan University Men's Ice Hockey (16-10-3, 14-5-3-3 WCHA) earned their fifth-consecutive victory Friday evening, defeating the University of Alaska-Anchorage (2-19-4, 2-14-3-3 WCHA) on the road. The three points earned in the victory moved the Wildcats into the top spot in the WCHA rakings with 46 total points, one more than Minnesota State University who currently have a game in-hand.

The Wildcats dominated the puck in the opening minutes of the contest, attempting the first five shots of the game. One of those five shots gave NMU an early lead with sophomore forward Luke Voltin (Blaine, Minnesota) picking up his first goal of the season. Sophomore forward Darien Craighead (Surrey, British Columbia) and junior defenseman Ryan Black (Stillwater, Minnesota) recorded their 10th and 12th assists of the season on the play.

NMU again controlled the puck for much of the second period, outshooting the Seawolves, 13-6 in the frame. It took nearly the first 15 minutes of the period for the Wildcats to find their second goal of the game courtesy of senior forward Zach Diamantoni's (Montgomery, Michigan) fourth goal of the season. The senior co-captain sent the puck to freshman defenseman Robert Fosdick (Brookfield, Wisconsin) who sent it back to Diamantoni in front of the net for the score.

It was a quite third period for leading into the final minutes of action. A power play opportunity for UAA began a scoring frenzy over the final five minutes of action. The Seawolves cut their deficit to one with their power play goal at 15:48.

Leading 2-1, senior forward Troy Loggins (Huntington Beach, California) had a shot rejected at the net on a breakaway. It was junior forward Adam Rockwood (Coquitlam, British Columbia) who tracked down the puck after the shot, sending it back to Loggins for the score. The score was Loggins 13th of the season, while Rockwood earned his 24th assist which leads the nation outright.

After pulling their goalie, electing to go with the extra skater, UAA again cut the deficit to one with 11 seconds remaining on the clock. Still with the extra skater, the Seawolves tried to get a shot at the net in the final seconds, but Rockwood was able to come up with the puck near the boards after a deflection. Rockwood shot the puck nearly the length of the ice, scoring an empty net goal with just over a second remaining.

The score put the Wildcats back up a pair, 4-2, securing the series opening victory. For the contest, the Wildcats outshot their opponent by double digits, 30-20. NMU also held UAA to 1-of-5 in the power play over the course of the game.

It was junior goaltender Atte Tolvanen (Vihti, Finland) between the pipes again for the Wildcats. Tolvanen stopped 18 shots Friday night en route to his fifth-consecutive victory. Tolvanen is now 14-5-1 on the season with a .907 save percentage and 2.49 goals against average. Over the past 11 contests, Tolvanen has earned an 8-1-1 record.

With seven games to play and a spot in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Playoffs clinched, NMU now has their eyes set on hosting a first-round series for the conference tournament. Three points on Saturday would ensure a finish in the top five of the league for the Wildcats with the top-four hosting an opening round WCHA series.

Saturday's series finally is set for an 11:07 p.m. (EDT) puck drop in Anchorage, Alaska. The Wildcats will look for their sixth-straight victory and fifth conference sweep of the season.