MARQUETTE, Mich. - The #18/RV Wildcats of Northern Michigan University (7-2-2, 5-0-0-0 WCHA) jumped into the top spot in the Western Collegiate Hockey Conference Friday night following their 2-1 win over Alaska Fairbanks (6-7-0, 4-3-0-0 WCHA). NMU is now tied for first place with Minnesota State (15 pts.) with the chance to claim sole possession tomorrow night with the Mavericks sitting idle this weekend.
Entering the weekend with the seventh-best power play unit in the country, the Wildcats went 2/4 with the man advantage, with junior forward Joseph Nardi capitalizing on the team's first two opportunities.
Nardi opened the Wildcat scoring at 5:19 of the first period with a feed from Griffin Loughran to give NMU the 1-0 lead. the teams would skate to the first intermission with a 1-0 score while the Wildcats led in shots, 10-6.
The second period seemed to replicate the first, with Nardi extending the Wildcat lead to two (2-0) at 2:56, also on the power play, and the team adding another 11 shots on goal to the Nanooks' six more.
The rookie goaltender, John Hawthorne stood tall in net stopping 12 shots through the first 40 minutes of action, including a fast break by Alaska's Filip Fornaa Svennson to head to the final intermission with the 2-0 lead.
The Nanooks would find the scoreboard at 7:09 of the final frame but were unable to post another for the 2-1 final.
Hawthorne made 16 total saves on Friday night to improve his season save percentage to .910 with a 2.38 goals against average.
A series of tic-tac-toe put the Wildcats on the scoreboard at 5:19 of the opening frame when Joseph Nardi found the back of the net. His shot found a virtually wide open net after a series of passes psyched out Alaska's Martinsson in net, drawing him to the left where Loughran stood. Ty Readman picked up the second assist on the play.
Nardi's second of the game, tying his career-high, gave the Wildcats the 2-0 lead at 2:56 of the second period. Drawing up nearly the same play as the goal in the first, Nardi beat Martinsson, this time glove side off a pass from Loughran. Darien Craighead fed the puck to Loughran in line with the net who centered it to Nardi for the game winner.
Freshman Michael Van Unen boasted the most blocked shots, jumping in front of two of the team's eight blocked shots.
The Wildcats led in shots through each period of play, totaling 27 shots on goal to the Nanooks' 17 through 60 minutes of play.
With two points on the night, Loughran now has 17 points on the season, a team-best, and leads the team in both goals (nine) and assists (eight). He also leads all three categories among all WCHA members.
Nationally, Loughran's 17 points ranks him third overall while his eight assists are good for 19th overall.
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The two teams face off again Saturday evening (November 16) at 6:07 p.m. NMU is looking to stand alone in first place in the conference while the Nanooks will be battling for three points to knot the conference standings once more.
Before the game, the first 100 students to check in at the entertianment booth at the top of the student section will receive a concession voucher for a free popcorn.
The team will also be hosting a post game autograph session on the north side of the concourse following the final horn Saturday night.