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NMU icers to open with Arizona State at Ice Vegas Invite

Northern Michigan University's Atte Tolvanen, center, makes a save on Michigan Tech’s Reid Sturos, left, as the Wildcats' Connor Frantti comes to his goalie's aid during their game on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by David Archambeau)

MARQUETTE –This fall, the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights will begin their inaugural season, but Sin City will also be getting a taste of college hockey in January and two Upper Peninsula squads will take part in the festivities.

Both Northern Michigan University and Michigan Tech will compete in the four-team Ice Vegas Invitational Jan. 5-6 at T-Mobile Arena. Tech will open the tournament with a game against national powerhouse and five-time national champion Boston College at 5 p.m. PST (8 p.m. EST) Friday with the Wildcats taking on Arizona State later that night at 8:30 p.m. PST (11:30 p.m. EST). The consolation game and championship will be played at those respective times on Saturday. There is also a chance that the games could be televised, which could change the times for the games.

NMU is coming off of a 13-22-4 season (10-15-3 WCHA) where a second half surge helped propel it into the final spot in the WCHA playoffs. Despite forcing top-seeded Bemidji State to a deciding third game, the Wildcats eventually fell to the Beavers and shortly after the season ended, head coach Walt Kyle was relieved of his duties. He was later replaced by former Minnesota assistant coach Grant Potulny. The season’s main highlight was goaltender Atte Tolvanen’s five-game shutout streak, which tied the men’s national record. However, he came just short of setting the record for consecutive scoreless minutes. Tolvanen is currently participating in an NHL development camp with the Nashville Predators. His brother Eeli was recently drafted in the first round by the team.

The Wildcats open against a Sun Devils squad that finished 10-19-3 last year and remains independent as it searches for a conference. ASU fell to BC last year, but defeated New Hampshire in overtime on the road and took down nationally-ranked Quinnipiac, so it has made some nice progress during its short time as a Division I program.

On the other side the bracket, the rival Huskies (23-15-7, 15-7-6) are the defending WCHA Playoff champs after a thrilling double-overtime win over Bowling Green State. Thanks to that win, Tech earned an NCAA Tournament berth where it got blown out by eventual national champion Denver.

Boston College (21-15-4) on the other hand, missed the NCAA tournament after seven-straight bids and a Frozen Four appearance the previous season. However, the Eagles have six NHL-drafted players returning, so they should be a fun team to watch.

Tickets for the tournament are on sale and can be purchased at the T-Mobile Arena box office, T-MobileArena.com, AXS.com or by calling 888-9AXSTIX. More information can also be found at www.IceVegasInvitational.com.  

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.