Wildcats Open WHCA Playoffs with 7-1 Victory

Wildcats Open WHCA Playoffs with 7-1 Victory

MARQUETTE, Mich.—Northern Michigan University Men's Ice Hockey (22-12-3, 19-7-2-2 WCHA) opened up the quarterfinal round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Playoffs with a 7-1 victory over the University of Alabama-Huntsville (11-12-2, 10-16-2-1 WCHA) Friday evening in the Berry Events Center. The seven goals are the most the Wildcats have scored in a game since January 1, 2012 against the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

Junior forward Adam Rockwood (Coquitlam, British Columbia) fueled the NMU offense with four assists in the contest. He is the first wildcat to record four assists in a game since Scott Macaulay on February 25, 2012. Rockwood assisted on the first goal of the game to junior forward Troy Loggins (Huntington Beach, California) with sophomore defenseman Philip Beaulieu (Duluth, Minnesota) also picking up an assist.

At the 4:47 mark of the opening period, sophomore forward Demico Hannoun (Norht Delta, British Columbia) scored his second goal to the season to put the Wildcats up 2-0. Sophomore forward Brett Heikkila (Marquette, Michigan) and junior forward Anthony Paskaruk (Spring Airdrie, Alberta) earned assists.

Senior forward Robbie Payne (Gaylord, Michigan) and junior forward Denver Pierce (Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan) each scored their first of two goals before the end of the period to put NMU up 4-0 at the first intermission. Rockwood assisted on both goals to pick up three in the first period. Senior forward Zach Diamantoni (Montgomery, New Jersey) and Beaulieu also earned assists on the two goals.

Pierce scored his second goal of the contest on a power play late in the second period. The goal came 17:19 into the period to put the Wildcats up 5-0. Rockwood earned his fourth assist on the goal with Loggins also picking up an assist.

A goal at the 6:51 mark of the third period gave Beaulieu his third point of the game. The three points are a career-high for the sophomore who has now reached the plateau twice this season. Senior defenseman Jordan Klimek (Langley, British Columbia) and sophomore forward Darien Craighead (Surrey, British Columbia) were credited with assists on the Beaulieu score.

Payne finished the scoring for NMU with his second of the game and 22nd of the season. The goal came less than 30 seconds after the Beaulieu score with Diamantoni earning the lone assist. Despite UAH ending the shutout with less than two minutes play, the Wildcats breezed through the final period to secure their first win in the best-of-three series.

Junior goaltender Atte Tolvanen (Vihti, Finland) played all 60 minutes in goal for NMU but only saw 14 shots in the contest, making 13 saves. The victory improves Tolvanen's season record to 20-7-1, sixth-most in a single season in Wildcat history. 

In the national rankings, Payne jumped back into the top 10 in goals with his two Friday night. His season total now sits at 22, tied for fifth-most in the NCAA. Rockwood's 34 assists this season give him the outright NCAA lead, while his 42 points are tied for eighth-best. Beaulieu is now tied for the national lead in goals among defenseman with 10 and is second in points among defenseman with 32.

NMU will have a chance to sweep the best-of-three series Saturday in game-two at the Berry Events Center. The contest is scheduled for a 7 p.m. puck-drop. A victory would send the Wildcats to the semifinals of the WCHA Playoffs, which would also be held in the Berry next weekend, March 9-11.