Keeping the cup

NMU?sweeps Lakers, clinches ?playoff berth

Northern Michigan University’s Troy Loggins, left, goes after the puck as Lake Superior State’s Lukas Kaelble blocks him on Saturday evening at Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

By RYAN STIEG

Journal Sports Writer

MARQUETTE — The Cappo Cup will stay in Marquette.

It wasn’t easy, though. It took two goals from defenseman Phil Beaulieu and a strong penalty kill late in Saturday’s game to do it, but the Northern Michigan University hockey team will keep its traveling trophy thanks to a 3-2 win over Lake Superior State.

Not only that, but the Wildcats also clinched a WCHA playoff berth with the victory at home in the Berry Events Center. NMU is just two points behind first-place Minnesota State in the conference standings.

Northern head coach Grant Potulny said that the penalty kill played the biggest role in the sweep of the rival Lakers.

“I thought our opponent played very well both games,” he said. “Looking at the video last night, I said we had played 30 minutes (of hockey) and I think we might’ve played 15.

“But tonight, I thought we played really well and tonight it was all about execution on the penalty kill. That was the biggest thing.

“The top guys played a ton of minutes. You know you’re dialed in when you get a 5-on-3 (power play) against you, and it’s like a no-big-deal moment on the bench. I knew that the guys felt good about it.

“They did a great job closing the game out at the end, down a guy, 6-on-4. We really didn’t give up many scoring opportunities, so that was kind of the story of the game for me.”

Just like Friday night, NMU (15-10-3, 13-5-2-2 WCHA) got off to a bad start. Bad defensive coverage led to a goal by the Lakers (6-18-4, 4-13-3) a little more than a minute into the game. A turnover by the near post went right to LSSU winger Max Humitz, who snapped a shot past NMU goalie Atte Tolvanen.

However, unlike the previous game, it didn’t take long for the Wildcats to answer back. With Northern on the power play, Beaulieu beat Lakers goalie Nick Kossoff five-hole to tie it 1-1.

The main story of the opening frame was again, Northern’s penalty kill. After Wildcats defensemen Adam Roeder was called for interference, fellow defender James Vermeulen was whistled for checking from behind and also received a game misconduct.

The penalties gave LSSU almost six minutes of power play, but the Lakers didn’t do much with it. The only good opportunity came on a shot by Gage Torrel, but Tolvanen deflected it out to keep the game tied.

The second period reversed the previous period as it was the Wildcats who struck first. Just 26 seconds in, NMU forward Troy Loggins skated in from center ice and fired a wrister over Kossoff’s blocker.

“I walked in and I was actually going to pass to (Adam) Rockwood because he was on the left side of me,” Loggins said. “Then the ‘D’ kind of slid over to him and I thought ‘Hey I’m right in the middle of the rink so I may as well put it top shelf.'”

A couple of minutes later, though, the Lakers retied it. Defenseman Tyler Anderson snapped a shot from the blue line that deflected off Brayden Gelsinger and past Tolvanen. There was a review of the goal as Gelsinger hit Tolvanen as the shot went by, but not enough to wave it off. Gelsinger was then credited with the goal to tie it 2-2.

Both teams had more scoring chances, too, but the main highlight after that came with less than five minutes to go when a fight broke out.

Lakers forward Jacob Hand ran into Tolvanen and then got into a scrum with Joseph Nardi. Meanwhile, Beaulieu started pummeling LSSU’s Ian Johnston near the Zamboni entrance. In the end, there were four roughing calls and NMU went on the power play on Hand’s penalty. However, the Lakers killed it off with the help of three blocked shots.

The hit on Tolvanen really bothered Potulny and he was glad that both Beaulieu and Nardi stood up for their goalie after the hard hit. He also said losing a power play to something like that didn’t bother him much.

“We’ve got an issue with protection of goalies,” he said. “It’s concerning to me. Our goalies get hit way too often and I don’t like it. You have to stand up for your teammates and that’s what teams do. Did it hurt not having that power play? Sure it did. But at that moment and that time, you’ve got to stand up and be a good teammate and I thought Phil and Joe both did.

“We can get by a power play. We haven’t had a problem with discipline all year. Sometimes you’ve got to stand up for your team and I thought at that moment, it was time to stand up for our team. I’m glad they were there.”

The third period was nearly even with each team making good defensive plays. Then at the 8:19 mark, Beaulieu scored the game-winner with his second tally of the night, sneaking a shot over Kossoff’s glove. Lake State had a great opportunity in the closing minutes on a power play and with the extra skater as Kossoff skated to the bench. However, the Wildcats locked down on the Laker shooters on the PK.

Northern travels to Alaska-Anchorage next weekend with 11:07 p.m. EST faceoff times Friday and Saturday.

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