HOUGHTON, Mich.—No. 16 Northern Michigan University Men's Ice Hockey (21-12-3, 19-7-2-2 WCHA) settled for a split in the final series of the regular season after falling, 3-2, to Michigan Technological University (16-15-5, 11-11-5-2 WCHA) to end the 2017-18 regular season.
Special teams were the story of the contest with all five combined goals of the contest being scored in the power play. The Wildcats jumped out to the early lead scoring twice in the opening period. Junior forward Troy Loggins (Huntington Beach, California) got the scoring started with his 17th of the season at 11:41 of the period. Sophomore defenseman Philip Beaulieu (Duluth, Minnesota) and junior forward Adam Rockwood (Coquitlam, British Columbia) earned their 21st and 30th assists on the play, respectively.
In the final minutes of the first period, Beaulieu fired a shot from the blue line that was redirected at the net by junior forward Denver Pierce (Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan). Pierce deflected the puck into the net at the 17:28 mark for his ninth goal of the season with Beaulieu picking up his second assist of the game. Loggins was also credited with an assist for his 20th of the season and second point of the contest.
The Huskies took over in the second period, scoring three power play goals to take a 3-2 lead. NMU was outshot in the period with MTU owning a 31-15 advantage through two periods. Junior goaltender Atte Tolvanen (Vihti, Finland) recorded double digits saves in both of the first two periods, making 13 in the first and 15 in the second.
NMU saw a number of opportunities in the final period, outshooting the Huskies 14-5 in the period while also having a five-minute advantage. The Wildcats were not able to extend the game, though, falling by a score of 3-2.
Despite the loss, NMU ends the regular season with one of the best records in recent program history. It is the first time since the 2009-10 season that the Wildcats have won 20 contests, while they still have a chance to earn 25 victories this season for the first time since 2001-02. The 19 conference wins are the most league wins for NMU since the 1990-91 NMU National Championship team that went 25-4-3 to win the Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular season championship.
NMU will now turn its attention to the first round of the WCHA Playoffs in the Berry Events Center. A late-night contest for the University of Alaska-Fairbanks leaves the Wildcats unsure of who their first-round opponent will be. A win by UAF would bring the Nanooks to the Berry Events Center for the opening round of the WCHA Playoffs. Anything less than two points by the Nanooks would mean that the University of Alabama-Huntsville will be the Wildcats opponents next weekend.
All three games for next weekend's opening round of the WCHA Playoffs are scheduled for a 7 p.m. start in the Berry Events Center and will be a "White Out". Friday and Saturday's games are sponsored by Veridea Group and Advanced Center for Orthopedics and Plastic Surgery with the first 1,000 fans both nights receiving a white Wildcat tee-shirt. Sunday's game will be played, if necessary, in the best-of-three series.
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.