Captaining the ship

NMU’s Payne, Klimek net 2 goals each in 6-1 blowout of Ferris?State

NMU’s Robbie Payne and FSU’s Corey Mackin in action Friday evening December 15, 2017 at the Berry Event Center in Marquette. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

MARQUETTE — College hockey coaches tend to look for captains to lead their teams every night on the ice and the Northern Michigan University “skippers” did their jobs Friday night against Ferris State.

Senior captains Robbie Payne and Jordan Klimek each netted two goals as the Wildcats blew out the Bulldogs 6-1 at the Berry Events Center.

Fellow captain Zach Diamantoni also picked up two assists for the Wildcats, both on Klimek’s tallies.

NMU head coach Grant Potulny liked how his captains took charge and was particularly happy with how they looked on the penalty kill, finishing off a five-minute shorthanded situation in the second period.

“Not only did they take charge, but they’re important guys on the penalty kill,” he said. “We took that five-minute one and that was kind of the turning point in the game. The game was in peril at that point and they did a nice job blocking pucks.

“I thought Zach had a really good game tonight, too. You need your best players to be your best players. As of late, Klimmy has been playing really well and he’s getting rewarded on the scoresheet.

“It’s nice to see Payner score in the last couple of games. Hopefully, if he can get going and Zach can keep chipping in, we can have a nice finish to our first half (today).”

Northern junior goalie Atte Tolvanen also returned to the lineup for the first time in a month and had a relatively easy night with 14 saves. Potulny was happy with how his netminder played and said he chose to start him based on his performance in practice and his previous success against the Bulldogs.

“I think last week, he was starting to get healthy and we talked how he was kind of day to day,” Potulny said. “Going into Tuesday, we just kind of had a development camp day in practice and it was hard to evaluate him.

“But on Tuesday, he looked really sharp. Part of it was the success he had previously against Ferris. It’s funny how sometimes you kind of have a team’s number. I was hoping that he might’ve had their number.”

NMU got off to a solid start as center Joseph Nardi almost scored in the game’s first minute, but his backhand shot was barely snagged by Ferris goalie Justin Kapelmaster.

The puck spent the first few minutes primarily in the Bulldogs defensive zone, but FSU eventually got its first scoring chance with 15 minutes remaining. With the puck along the near boards, a Bulldog defenseman sent a cross-ice pass to Mitch Maloney at the far post, but Tolvanen stuffed his one-timer attempt.

After some good scoring chances early, the Wildcats got on the scoreboard at the 5:41 mark of the first period. Following a Bulldog penalty for interference, Payne collected a loose puck in the slot and backhanded a shot over Kapelmaster’s glove to put Northern up 1-0.

NMU had another good chance to pad its lead late in the period, but Troy Loggins’ one-timer to the near post was bobbled and then covered by Kapelmaster.

“The last couple of weeks, I haven’t played that well,” Payne said. “It’d be tough to go into break without having a good weekend. Things are just going well. I think our team is playing a lot better than we were at this time last year and I think that helps a lot with us individually.”

The Wildcats started the second period on the power play due to a bench minor and they took advantage quickly as Adam Rockwood beat Kapelmaster blocker-side less than one minute in.

However, Ferris answered back a few minutes later with a power-play goal of its own. With the puck in the slot, Drew Dorantes faked out an NMU defender and beat Tolvanen top shelf.

The Bulldogs also had a great opportunity to tie the game when NMU forward Luke Voltin was called for a major cross-checking penalty. However, FSU couldn’t do anything with the five-minute power play and almost got burned on separate shorthanded attempts by Loggins and Nardi.

Midway through the period with the Wildcats again with the man advantage, Klimek fired a shot that Kapelmaster saved, but the puck trickled through his legs and into the net. That goal ended Kapelmaster’s night as he was replaced by Darren Smith.

In the closing minutes of the frame, Klimek struck again as he flung the puck at the net from the blue line that found its way under the crossbar to put the Wildcats up 4-1.

Northern wasn’t done. Less than a minute into the third, Payne got his second tally of the night. The senior got a cross-ice pass from Rockwood, faked out Smith and beat him glove-side. The Wildcats later capped off their scoring when defenseman Phil Beaulieu wove around two Bulldog defenders and wristed a shot in.

The Wildcats know that getting a sweep tonight won’t be easy as the Bulldogs were visibly upset leaving the ice and will probably come out hot to start.

“It’s going to be a tight game and they’re going to come out a lot harder,” Payne said. “They’re obviously not going to like losing to us and they’re a good team. We had two great games against them earlier in the season and I think they’re going to come out ready to play.

“It’s going to be a lot different game (today). Hopefully, we can continue what we did tonight, but we know that they’re going to come out really well.”

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