Shut down at home
MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University hockey team knew that it had a tough task on its hands this weekend facing an aggressive and offensively sound Minnesota State squad.
However, the Wildcats couldn’t match the No. 9-ranked Mavericks’ intensity for three periods Friday night and fell to MSU 3-0 at the Berry Events Center. NMU goalie Atte Tolvanen made 24 saves in the loss.
“I don’t know if our top guys’ execution tonight was where it has been,” NMU head coach Grant Potulny said. “We had the right guys with some opportunities and we just didn’t capitalize. At the important point of the game, we hit a post and that could’ve changed the direction of the game.
“I just think we struggled when we had opportunities to make a play, but they’re a good team and when you have your chances against them, you have to capitalize.”
The stat of the night was NMU’s struggles with the man advantage as it went 0 for 6 on the power play and couldn’t get anything going when it had the extra skater.
“Again, I think our top guys’ execution wasn’t very good,” Potulny said. “It was on 5-on-5 and on the power play. Those are areas that we have to improve on. I thought the penalty kill did a good job, giving up just the one (goal).
“You’re gonna have to give up some shots and that shot was just one that you have to give up. But for the last probably six periods, the execution from our top guys just wasn’t what it was the first games before that.”
The first period was controlled mostly by the Mavericks (6-2, 4-1). They were aggressive from the puck drop and forced Tolvanen to do the splits in the opening minute to keep the puck out. The MSU defense also held NMU (4-3, 2-1 WCHA) without a shot for the first five minutes and locked down quickly on its top line.
The Wildcats’ best scoring chances in the period came on the power play. Forward Denver Pierce, who scored twice against Wisconsin including the game-winner the first night, got two good shots on net in a span of 15 seconds, but NMU make good on rebounds.
While Northern didn’t take advantage of its opportunities, the Mavericks did. At the 10:16 mark on a nice rush, MSU defenseman Ian Scheid got a cross-ice pass from Marc Michaelis and fired a wrister under Tolvanen’s glove.
Mankato almost scored twice on its only power play in the period, but Tolvanen stood tall and kept NMU’s deficit at 1-0 heading to the second.
Northern generated a little more offense in the middle period, but the Mavericks still had the better scoring opportunities. A little more than three minutes into the frame, Tolvanen tried to cover a puck in front of the net, but it was deflected free, leaving a wide-open net. Mankato couldn’t put in the rebound, though. Midway through the period, Mankato’s Charlie Gerard got a feed across the crease, but couldn’t lift the puck over Tolvanen.
The Wildcats got their best scoring chance on a power play seconds after the Gerard shot. Winger Troy Loggins had a good look at the far post and the puck appeared to get past MSU goalie Jason Pawloski, but the junior netminder just got a piece of it with the back of his skate.
The highlight of the period came with seven minutes remaining. A loose puck at the NMU blue line made its way to MSU center and Winnipeg Jets prospect C.J. Suess. The senior skated up the ice on a short breakaway, but was stuffed by Tolvanen, sending up cheers.
“He made some critical saves at some important points of the game,” Potulny said. “He made some really good saves and I think a couple times we hung him out to dry, but he bailed us out.”
Tolvanen continued to shine in the third. First, he made two nice saves to kill a penalty and then made his second breakaway save of the night. With Northern on the power play, a Wildcats defenseman misplayed the puck and MSU center Josh French streaked down the ice. However, Tolvanen didn’t bite on French’s fake and stopped it.
NMU had its last good chance to tie the score later on that same power play. Wildcats forward Darien Craighead rang a shot off the pipe that went right to Troy Loggins, but he couldn’t flip put it past Pawloski. Shortly after killing the penalty, MSU went up 2-0 when Max Coatta beat Tolvanen to the far post.
The Mavericks clinched it with a little more than three minutes remaining when Brad McClure tucked a shot just under Tolvanen’s elbow on a power play.
The two teams tangle again at 7 p.m. today in the Berry Events Center.
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is email@example.com.