MARQUETTE - The Northern Michigan University hockey team wrapped up a home playoff berth in the first round of the CCHA playoffs next weekend as well as the Father Cappo Cup by topping the Lake Superior State Lakers, 5-3, on Saturday at the Berry Events Center.
The weekend sweep and 3-1 series victory moved the Wildcats from ninth place into sixth at the conclusion of the regular season, bringing No. 11 Bowling Green State for a best-of-three series in Marquette on Friday, Saturday and if necessary, Sunday.
The Wildcats swept the Falcons two weeks ago in Ohio, but lost a CCHA three-game first-round series to BGSU in Marquette last season.
"Our league has been so tight," NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. "There is a group at the top, but everything else is up for grabs. Wins have been at a premium. We've been real fortunate to be good in this building (the Berry Events Center)."
The Wildcats picked up goals from six different skaters in Friday's 6-2 victory over LSSU and on Saturday, five different Wildcats found the back of the net.
Freshman defenseman Mitch Jones, junior forward Matt Thurber and junior defenseman Kyle Follmer contributed goals to a second-period explosion for the second night in a row to put NMU up 5-1.
Playoff tickets on sale:
Tickets for NMU's first-round CCHA playoff series against Bowling Green State on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, if necessary, go on sale Monday online and at NMU ticket offices. Adult tickets cost $16. NMU students and children 18 and under can purchase tickets for $5.
Northern Michigan 5, Lake Superior State 3
Lake Superior State. 1 0 2 - 3
Northern Michigan... 2 3 0 - 5
First period - 1, NMU, Tyler Gron/16 (Scott Macaulay/11) 10:22. 2, LSSU, Stephen Perfetto/3 16:39 (sh). 3, NMU, Ryan Daugherty/2 (Scott Macaulay/12, Kyle Follmer/21) 17:42.
Second period - 4, NMU, Mitch Jones/5 (Reed Seckel/9, Matt Thurber/18) 4:58. 5, NMU, Matt Thurber/10 (Scott Macaulay/13, Ryan Daugherty/2) 6:58 (pp). 6, NMU, Kyle Follmer/4 (Scott Macaulay/14, Reed Seckel/10) 19:18 (pp).
Third period - 7, LSSU, Colin Campbell/7 (Zach Trotman/11, Fred Cassiani/14) 3:26. 8, LSSU, Fred Cassiani/7 (Stephen Perfetto/6) 4:57 (sh).
Shots on goal - LSSU 12-12-12 36; NMU 11-12-11 34.
Power plays - LSSU 0 of 3; NMU 2 of 5.
Penalties - LSSU 6 (12 min); NMU 4 (8 min).
Goalies - LSSU, Kevin Murdock (18:44 minutes, 11 shots-11 saves) , Kevin Kapalka 15-12-5-4 (40:00, 23-18); NMU, Reid Ellingson 5-6-4 (59:53, 36-33) , Devan Hartigan (00:07, 0-0).
Senior forward Tyler Gron and freshman forward Ryan Daugherty put Northern up 2-1 after the first period.
"When we made a mistake, we paid for it and it was in the back of our net," LSSU coach Jim Roque said.
"I thought we didn't get a lot of puck luck around the net. They played good too and worked hard for their bounces and breaks."
NMU senior Reid Ellingson made 33 saves while LSSU sophomore Kevin Kapalka made 18 saves in two periods, allowing all five goals. Sophomore Kevin Murdock stopped 11 shots in the third period for LSSU in relief.
The Lakers began the weekend in sixth place and despite being swept by their Upper Peninsula rivals, finish the regular season in seventh place. LSSU will host 10th-place Alaksa next weekend in Sault Ste. Maire.
In other CCHA first-round action, No. 8 Notre Dame hosts No. 9 Ohio State. No. 1 Ferris State, No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Western Michigan, No. 4 Miami and No. 5 Michigan State get a first-round bye.