HOUGHTON - Prior to this season, Northern Michigan University seniors Justin Florek, Tyler Gron and Andrew Cherniwchan had never swept their top rival in Michigan Tech.
The trio had never picked up back-to-back wins in a season, let alone two wins in a year against the Huskies.
In fact, Cherniwchan, Florek and Gron had a losing record against the Huskies of 3-4-2 from 2008-2011.
That all changed Saturday night in Houghton.
The Wildcats finished off their first season sweep of Michigan Tech since the 2005-06 season with a 5-2 nonconference victory in front of 3,708 fans on Saturday at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
"That was huge, absolutely huge," Gron said about the win. "All week we've been working on the little things and everything was directed one way or anther to winning this game."
Northern Michigan University sophomore goaltender Jared Coreau makes a save during the second period against Michigan Tech University on Saturday at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton. (Daily Mining Gazette photo by David Archambeau)
Florek, a Marquette native who has a younger brother enrolled at MTU, posted a pair of goals while Gron was credited with a goal and three assists.
It was the first time Northern's third-straight victory over its Upper Peninsula rivals and the first time it finished undefeated against the Huskies since going 2-0-1 during the 2007-08 campaign.
"Its a great feeling," Florek said. "I've never had this opportunity my whole career here to beat them twice. It's just great, especially in their building. The fans were great tonight. Just a great atmosphere and great game overall."
Florek gave NMU a 1-0 lead four minutes into the game with assists from freshman Jake Baker and sophomore Stephan Vigier.
Gron - who was the first Wildcat to have four points in a game since Gregor Hanson did it on Jan. 15, 2010 - helped give NMU a 2-0 lead 42 seconds later with a blast that was tipped in by junior defenseman Kyle Follmer. Redshirt freshman Reed Seckel also had an assist on the play.
"Northern got off to a good start and put us behind the eight ball right off the get-go," MTU head coach Mel Pearson said. "We battled back and I'm proud of our kids for that.
"We made some mistakes and couldn't dig out of that hole."
Following a pair of power-play goals by Tech freshman David Johnstone less than two minutes apart midway through the second period, Florek put NMU back on top with 7:13 to play before the second intermission.
On the power play, Florek buried the puck past Husky goaltender Kevin Genoe from dead center with assists from Gron and Follmer.
Junior forward Matt Thurber put the Wildcats back up by two goals 42 seconds into the third period with an assist by Gron, who would clinch the win with an empty netter in the final minute.
"Justin did a great job. He was very opportunistic," NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. "I thought Tyler Gron, while he didn't get the minutes due to special teams, I thought he was really opportunistic and did a good job.
"We were really solid. Five-on-five, they didn't get a lot of looks. All the things they had came on the power play. We had a few fumbles where we turned the puck over, but overall, I was happy with the effort."
Genoe, who made 19 saves, relieved MTU senior netminder Josh Robinson 5:31 into the game after the starter gave up a pair of goals on four shots. Robinson was yanked from the Husky net the last time MTU and NMU met on Dec. 16 in Houghton after giving up a pair of goals on 12 shots in the first period of a 4-1 Wildcat victory.
NMU senior netminder Jared Coreau finished with 29 saves to improve to 7-3-2 on the year.
"It was very disappointing," Pearson said. "Any time you play the game you want to win. Any time you play your rival you want to win. We had a big crowd here tonight and they were anxious for a good game, but we didn't deliver. That's the bottom line, and they did."
Northern, which improved to 11-8-5 overall on the season, returns to CCHA play on Friday and Saturday at Miami University. Tech, which fell to 11-12-1 overall, is at No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth.
The Wildcats sit ninth in the CCHA and after being off from conference play this weekend, fell four points back of eighth-place Michigan State and seven points back of fourth-place Michigan.
"We needed to get some momentum," Kyle said. "Now we have an exceptionally difficult weekend against Miami followed by an exceptionally difficult weekend against Ferris and it doesn't get any easier for us. We need to get wins when we can and we need to get some momentum."
Notes: NMU and MTU combined for 15 penalties for 30 minutes with eight calls and 16 minutes going to the Wildcats. The WCHA crew called nine of those penalties in the second period alone. ... Both teams were forced to kill off 5-on-3 penalties. NMU killed Tech's 1:46 two-man advantage early in the second period while Florek scored 20 seconds into the Wildcats two-man advantage. Tech killed off the other 1:40 of the man advantage. ... Follmer finished with three points in the game with a goal and three assists. ... Cherniwchan played Saturday's game less than 24 hours after learning about the passing of his father due to cancer. He will be leaving to be with his family on Sunday and his return for the Miami series is questionable.