No. 15 Northern Michigan University hockey team swept at No. 3 Minnesota State-Mankato

Nolan Kent

MANKATO, Minn. — Saturday night turned into the opposite of Friday night for the Northern Michigan University hockey team, but the result was the same — a loss at the WCHA-leading Mavericks.

Friday night was a decent night offensively for the No. 15 Wildcats, but an awful one at the other end of the ice as they lost 7-3 to No. 3 Minnesota State-Mankato.

Then on Saturday, NMU held the potent Mavericks’ offense to only one goal but couldn’t get on the scoreboard in a 1-0 loss to complete the home team’s sweep.

Northern goaltender Nolan Kent bounced back, making 20 saves Saturday after getting pulled in the second period the night before.

If there was a positive on Saturday, the Wildcats (16-10-4, 14-7-1 WCHA) remained in third place in the league. However, the gap between Northern and second-place Bemidji State stayed put at seven points with Northern no longer having two games in hand.

Griffin Loughran

So the ‘Cats will need a sweep of the Beavers at home this weekend if they have any real hopes of moving up in the standings.

Back to Saturday, Kent faced his first test less than three minutes into the game on a shot from the slot by Jared Spooner, but he made the save.

With 14:44 remaining, the Wildcats had their best scoring chance of the period as forward Grant Loven found a loose puck in front of the Mavericks’ net and tried to tap it in, but MSU goalie Dryden McKay just got his toe on it to keep the game scoreless.

As the period went on, Kent was tested further as he was forced to make tough saves on MSU’s Nathan Smith with 14:21 remaining and Charlie Gerard with 9:02 left.

Eventually though, the Mavs (26-4-2, 20-3-1) broke through as Walker Duehr sent a shot on net during an offensive rush that was saved by Kent, but Spooner was right there to knock the rebound home and put MSU up 1-0.

Joe Nardi

The Mavericks had a great chance to pad their lead early in the second period as NMU’s Michael Van Unen was handed a five-minute major penalty for checking from behind along with a game misconduct. However, the Wildcats stifled MSU’s powerful power play and kept it a one-goal game.

Not long after the penalty expired, NMU got its first scoring chance of the period while on its own power play. A Phil Beaulieu shot was saved by McKay, but he left a rebound in front. However, Northern forward Griffin Loughran couldn’t put it past the goalie and the puck was cleared down ice.

Later in the period, with the Wildcats in the box for interference, Kent shut down the Mavericks again, making saves on Jake Jaremko, Reggie Lutz and Dallas Gerads to keep the score the same.

NMU had one last chance in the period to tie it up as Loughran sent a pass over to Joe Nardi in the slot, but the forward mishandled it. Nardi immediately collected the puck, but his shot went over the crossbar.

The Wildcats tried valiantly to get on the board in the third period, but couldn’t any puck luck as Mitch Slattery’s shot went off the post with 14:40 remaining and Nardi couldn’t tap the puck past McKay with 5:20 left after receiving a pass from behind the Mavericks’ net on a power play.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Writer Ryan Stieg. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.