HUNTSVILLE, Ala.—Northern Michigan University Men's Ice Hockey (18-10-3, 16-5-2-2 WCHA) sealed home-ice for the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Playoffs with a 4-3 victory over the University of Alabama-Huntsville (9-18-2, 8-13-2-1 WCHA) Saturday afternoon. The victory extends the Wildcats win streak to seven-consecutive games, while the unbeaten streak extends to eight contests.
The Wildcats controlled the puck from the start of the game getting the first four shots of the game. NMU scored the first goal of the contest nearly 16 minutes in despite being shorthanded. Down a skater, senior forward Robbie Payne (Gaylord, Michigan) got a stick on the puck in the Wildcats defensive zone. Payne tipped it to senior forward Zach Diamantoni (Montgomery, New Jersey) who took the puck to the net for his fifth score of the season. Payne earned his eighth assist on the play.
Freshman forward Joseph Nardi (Edmonton, Alberta) extended the NMU lead in the second period with another special teams goal. Nardi scored a power play goal 8:47 into the period for his seventh of the season. Freshman Mitchell Slattery (Lino Lakes, Minnesota) picked up his fifth assist on the play.
UAH managed to get on the board late in the second period to trim the lead back down to one. Slattery quickly pushed the lead back to a pair with his first collegiate goal in the power play and second point of the game, a career-high. The third NMU special teams goal of the game came at the 18:34 mark with sophomore forward Darien Craighead (Surrey, British Columbia) and junior defenseman Ryan Black (Stillwater, Minnesota) picking up the assists on the play.
Just before the end of the period, the Chargers made it a 3-2 contest with an even strength goal with 22 seconds to play. Despite UAH scoring a pair of goals, the Wildcats outshot their opponents 15-10 in the period, giving them a 27-13 advantage heading into the third period.
Neither team was able to find a shot in the first nine minutes of action to begin the third period. The first shot for either team resulted in a score for UAH to tie the game at three. Junior forward Troy Loggins (Huntington Beach, California) regained the lead for NMU on just the second shot of the period for the Wildcats. Loggins' 16th score of the season made it a 4-3 NMU lead with about seven minutes to play.
Junior forward Adam Rockwood (Coquitlam, British Columbia) picked up his NCAA-leading 26th assist of the season on the play, while Diamantoni earned his 13th assist and second point of the contest.
The Wildcats held the Chargers without a shot on-goal the rest of the game, securing the 4-3 victory on the road. NMU outshot their opponents, 35-15, in the contest while going 2-for-4 in the power play. UAH was held to just 1-of-6 in power play chances.
Junior goaltender Atte Tolvanen (Vihti, Finland) recorded 12 saves en route to his seventh consecutive victory in goal for the Wildcats. The win increased his season record to 16-5-1, while his save percentage moved to .903 and his goals against average sits at 2.54.
The Wildcats will finish their four-game road trip Sunday with another afternoon matchup at 3:07 p.m. (EDT).
Tickets for the first round WCHA Playoff series will go on sale Monday through the NMU Ticket Office. Games during the first-round series will be played on Friday and Saturday, as well as Friday, if necessary. All game times will be 7 p.m.