MARQUETTE, Mich.—No. 20 Northern Michigan University Men's Ice Hockey (20-11-3, 18-6-2-2 WCHA) earned a sweep over the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (11-18-2, 9-14-1-1 WCHA) with a 4-1 victory Friday evening in the Berry Events Center. The win extended the Wildcats home-ice win streak to eight games.
It took nearly the entire first period, but NMU scored the first goal of the game with less than 30 seconds remaining in the period. After UAF turnover, junior forwards Denver Pierce (Sault Ste. Marie) and Adam Rockwood (Coquitlam, British Columbia) sent the puck back and forth to each other before Pierce buried it into the net at 19:36. His eighth goal of the season and second in as many nights gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead headed into the second period.
With the assist, Rockwood extended his current point scoring streak to 11 games, a team-high this season. He also had a steak of nine games snapped earlier this season. During the 11-game span, Rockwood now has four goals and 13 assists.
After getting his NCAA leading 29th assist on the Pierce goal, Rockwood scored one of his own sixteen minutes into the second period. His eighth goal of the season was assisted by Pierce and junior forward Troy Loggins (Huntington Beach, California) for their fifth and 19th of the season. For Pierce, the assisted marked the fourth multi-point game of his career.
Taking the 2-0 lead into the final period, the Nanooks threatened with a goal at the 2:36 mark to cut the lead to one, 2-1. UAF outshot the Wildcats in the period, 8-7, trying to mount a comeback and avoid the sweep.
NMU pushed the lead back up to a pair courtesy of a sophomore forward Darien Craighead (Surrey, British Columbia) goal with less than two minutes to play. His 16th of the season put the Wildcats up, 3-1, at the 18:26 mark. Freshman forward Joseph Nardi (Edmonton, Alberta) earned his 10th assist of the season on the play, while sophomore defenseman Philip Beaulieu (Duluth, Minnesota) earned his 18th.
The Nanooks opted to pull their goalie after the Craighead score to take a 6-5 skater advantage. The move would backfire as senior forward Robbie Payne (Gaylord, Michigan) fired in his 19th goal of the season from the blue line for an empty net goal with 18 seconds to play. The goal tied Payne for the fifth-most in the NCAA this season. Senior forward Zach Diamantoni (Montgomery, New Jersey) earned his 14th assist of the season on the play, while Beaulieu earned his 19th and second of the game.
Payne's goal seal the victory with the Wildcats picking up their 20th win of the season. It is the first time NMU has won 20 games in a season since the 2009-10 campaign when the Wildcats finished 20-13-8.
Junior forward Atte Tolvanen (Vihti, Finland) made 19 saves en route to his 18th win of the season. He has the fourth most wins in the NCAA while his win percentage ranks fifth with an 18-6-1 record.
The Wildcats will get next weekend off before their final series of the regular season. Michigan Technological University will come to the Berry on Friday, February 23 for a 7 p.m. start. NMU will head to Houghton, Michigan the following night for a road contest against the Huskies to end the regular season.
NMU will also host a first round WCHA Playoff series in the Berry Events Center. Tickets for the first-round series are on sale now through all NMU Ticket Outlets. Games during the first-round series will be played on Friday and Saturday, as well as Sunday, if necessary. All game times will be 7 p.m.