Clinch the Cappo Cup: Northern Michigan University earns Cappo Cup but gains little ground in CCHA race with split vs. Lake Superior State

The entire Northern Michigan University team that dressed for Saturday's game against Lake Superior State poses for a photo with the Cappo Cup after the Wildcats successfully won it back from the Lakers following their 3-1 victory in the concluding game of the series. (Photo courtesy NMU)

MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University hockey team was able to ease back into sixth place and pick up a few points on the team in front of them residing in the final home playoff position after a home split against Lake Superior State over the weekend.

The Wildcats lost the opener 4-2 on Friday and were in danger of losing the Cappo Cup until they sealed the season challenge with the Lakers by winning 3-1 on Saturday night.

NMU is now 13-15 overall and 9-11 in the CCHA, winning three of the four games this season against LSSU to clinch the Cappo Cup. Northern swept Lake State 4-1 and 5-3 in Sault Ste. Marie the first weekend of November, which was also the last time the Wildcats swept a weekend series.

With the teams tied for sixth with 21 points entering the weekend, Northern moved one point ahead of St. Thomas after the Tommies also split over the weekend with Minnesota State-Mankato. But because St. Thomas’ win was in overtime, it was only worth two points compared to NMU’s regulation win that was worth three.

Northern has 24 points compared to St. Thomas’ 23 as both have played 20 league games. Also with 20 games in are fourth-place Bemidji State with 31 and fifth-place Ferris State with 30.

Northern Michigan University's five skaters huddle during a break in the action during the game played Friday against Lake Superior State at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. The group includes, front side from left, Josh Zinger, Alex Frye and team captain AJ Vanderbeck. (Photo courtesy NMU)

NMU pulled three points closer to Bemidji as the Beavers were swept at home by Michigan Tech, 2-0 and 3-2. But Ferris moved two points further ahead of Northern as the Bulldogs swept Bowling Green, 3-1 in the opener and tying 4-4 in Game 2 but winning a shootout vs. the Falcons to pick up five of a possible six points.

This weekend is a critical series for the Wildcats as they play their only series of the season against St. Thomas.

Here is a roundup of the games against LSSU:


Lake Superior State 4, Northern Michigan University 2

On Friday, the Lakers erased Northern’s 2-1 third-period lead with three goals in the final 8 1/2 minutes.

Despite the comeback, NMU held a 32-26 shots on goal edge and won 36 of 60 faceoffs.

The first period was scoreless, but not because NMU didn’t have any chances. Early on, a slick passing play from Northern’s David Keefer and Andre Ghantous resulted in Michael Colella getting the puck open in the slot, but he was unable to capitalize.

Just a few minutes later, NMU’s Artem Shlaine had a look from between the hash marks that went for naught due to the efforts of LSSU goalie Seth Eisele.

Later in the opening period, Northern was unable to cash in on a 5-on-3 power play, too. By the end of the first 20 minutes, the Wildcats had 33 total shots to just six for the Lakers and a 14-1 shots-on-goal advantage.

The second period started tilting toward Lake State, which outshot NMU 7-0 in the first five minutes as LSSU got the first goal 4:08 in from Harrison Roy.

The Lakers’ shot advantage reached 15-0 in the first 11 minutes of the second.

LSSU almost made it 2-0 before Northern goalie Beni Halasz made an initial save and Kristof Papp got back defensively to swat a trickling puck just before it crossed the goal line, according to an account of the game from NMU Sports Information.

The score remained 1-0 Lakers after two, but not for long after the third period started.

Barely two minutes into the third, a Northern power play saw Colella make a great play to enter the offensive zone and pass the puck to Joey Larson, who was speeding down the right wing and fired a shot under the bar and over Eisele’s glove to tie it 1-1, according to NMU SI.

It marked Larson’s seventh goal of the season and second in two games.

A hair over seven minutes later, Shlaine, who had the second assist on Larson’s goal, stripped the puck from an LSSU skater behind Eisele and gave it to Larson, who then found Papp all alone in the slot to give NMU a 2-1 advantage.

Papp got his ninth goal this season and second point in two games.

But the lead was gone less than 2 1/2 minutes later. Another breakaway went Lake State’s way on an odd-man rush for a goal by Jake Willets, then about five minutes after that, LSSU scored the game winner by Artyom Borshyov. Roy added insurance with 1:17 left.


Northern Michigan University

3, Lake Superior State 1

On Saturday, Northern clinched the Cappo Cup three games to one while outscoring the Lakers 14-9 in the four games.

LSSU (6-22-2, 5-16-1) managed just 14 shots on goal with Halasz stopping 13 of them.

The game remained scoreless for 15 minutes, a lot less time than Friday night, plus it was Northern getting the opening goal as Keefer wove his way through the Lake State defense to pull Eisele out of position for a save. Teammate Andre Ghantous took advantage, sliding the puck through the vacated crease for the goal, according to NMU SI.

The Lakers didn’t have a shot on goal in the first seven minutes, though Halasz’s first save was on a dangerous opportunity, a defensive turnover to an LSSU player wide open high in the slot.

With just 15 seconds remaining in the opening period, LSSU tied the score when a shot went through a mass of bodies in front of Halasz and went in.

Northern had some excellent opportunities in the second period, just like they did in the first, but the score remained 1-1 after two.

Then quickly in the third with NMU working on a five-minute power play, Larson shot the puck past Eisele for a 2-1 lead. They couldn’t add to it immediately, even after another penalty gave the Wildcats two full minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage.

Despite the Lakers getting some pressure on Halasz, NMU maintained its one-goal lead until Shlaine potted the insurance marker into an empty net with 26 seconds remaining.

Keefer, Papp and Simon Kjellberg had assists on NMU’s goals this night.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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