Northern Michigan University Wildcats unable to complete hockey sweep in Fairbanks, Alaska

Denver Pierce

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — The Northern Michigan University hockey team was unable to pull off its second series sweep of the season when Alaska-Fairbanks defeated the Wildcats 4-1 on Saturday night.

The Wildcats (7-5, 5-3 WCHA) were being shut out until the final 2:03 when junior forward Denver Pierce scored a 6-on-5 goal to get Northern within 2-1. First-year NMU coach Grant Potulny had pulled junior goalie Atte Tolvanen to create the man advantage.

Potulny kept Tolvanen off the ice to try to tie the game, but instead, the Nanooks (4-8-2, 2-5-2) pocketed two empty-net goals over the next minute and a half.

NMU came up empty on five power-play opportunities but also limited Fairbanks to just one goal in six of the Nanooks’ chances.

Northern killed off two shorthanded situations in the first period, extending its scoreless streak to 20 opponents’ power plays going back to Nov. 4.

Atte Tolvanen

But the penalty-killing string ended less than three minutes into the second period, when UAF’s Tristan Thompson knocked in the game’s first goal on a power play.

The Nanooks made it 2-0 with 2:47 left in the period on an even-strength tally by Max Newton, who had assisted on Thompson’s score.

Despite 10 shots on goal taken by NMU in the second period, the Wildcats didn’t bag their goal until late in regulation when Pierce scored his fourth of the season. Junior forward Troy Loggins and junior forward Adam Rockwood each got assists, Loggins’ ninth and Rockwood’s seventh of the season.

Tolvanen finished with 23 saves, putting his goals-against average at 2.43 and saves percentage at .916.

The Wildcats remain on the road for one more weekend before returning home to start December. Northern travels for a nonconference series against NCHC member Nebraska-Omaha at 8:07 p.m. EST on Friday and Saturday.

The following weekend, NMU hosts WCHA foe Alabama-Huntsville on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 1-2, at 7 p.m. each night.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is