MARQUETTE, Mich.—No. 19 Northern Michigan University Men's Ice Hockey (14-13-3, 19-7-2-2 WCHA) opened another postseason series with a bang, outscoring No. 17 Bowling Green State University (22-11-6, 16-6-5-2 WCHA) by a score of 6-1. The Wildcats are now just one win away from reaching the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Championship.
Despite the Falcons jumping out to the early lead with a goal less than two minutes into the opening period, junior forward Troy Loggins (Huntington Beach, California) knotted the game at one goal each at the 14:30-mark. The power play goal was his 22nd of the season with junior forwards Adam Rockwood (Coquitlam, British Columbia) and Denver Pierce (Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan) being credited with assists.
It was all Wildcats in the second period with a trio of score. Senior forward Robbie Payne (Gaylord, Michigan) broke the tie early in the period with the third power play goal of the game. His 23td of the season was assisted by Rockwood for his second of the game and sophomore defenseman Philip Beaulieu (Duluth, Minnesota).
Beaulieu and junior forward Anthony Paskaruk (Spring Airdrie, Alberta) scored back-to-back goals less than 30 seconds apart midway through the second period to put NMU up 4-1. Beaulieu netted his 11th goal of the season at the 9:17 mark of the period. Loggins and senior Rockwood earned assists on the goal.
Paskaruk's goal was his first of the season, giving NMU consecutive even strength goals. Sophomore forward Demico Hannoun (North Delta, British Columbua) stole possession of the puck before sending it to Hannoun for the goal. Beaulieu was also credited with an assist on the play.
Adding a fifth NMU goal in the third period, freshman forward Mitchel Slattery (Lino Lakes, Minnesota) scored his third goal in as many games and his fourth of the season at the 10:28 mark. Sophomore forward Darien Craighead (Surrey, British Columbia) intercepted a pass leading to a break away before getting credit for the assist.
Payne added his second goal of the game at 16:55 on another BGSU turnover. Senior forward Zach Diamantoni (Montgomery, New Jersey) recovered the puck at center ice before dumping it to Payne in front of the net for his 24th goal of the season. The goal was the sixth of the game for the Wildcats, securing the 6-1 victory to open the WCHA Playoffs semifinal series.
The win puts NMU ahead in the best-of-three series, one win away from advancing to the conference championships game. The Wildcats have not appeared in the conference championship game since the 2009-10 season when the team fell to the University of Michigan.
Junior goaltender Atte Tolvanen (Vihti, Finland) continues his rise up the NMU record book recording his 22nd win of the season, sixth-most in program history. The 22 victories are currently tied for the second most in the NCAA.
Separating himself from the rest of the country, Rockwood's three assist game now puts him at 40 for the season. That number leads the NCAA by four and brings his average up to one per game. Beaulieu also recorded three points in the contest to bring his season total to 42. He is the only NCAA defenseman to surpass the 40-point plateau and leads the country's defenseman in both goals and assists with 11 and 31.
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 championship of the WCHA Playoffs at a site to be determined.